Diary of a not-so-angry, but kind of annoyed Army Wife.
Army wife. A phrase, a position, and for some an identity. I’m sure you’ve seen memes on the internet depicting us, rude words and catch phrases like “dependa-potamus”. Someone thought they were clever combining the words ‘dependent’ and ‘hippopotamus’. I guess the only fat women in America are Army wives, huh?
‘Dependent’, our government issued catch-all word. Literally meaning we are dependent on our spouses, but not because we want to be. I don’t want to be forced into being a stay-at-home mom because my husband has to move every two-years. I don’t want to be passed over for promotion because why promote someone who is leaving? Sure, I’m young now, but when I’m forty and have worked at 20 different companies and an employer very obviously knows (looking at my resume) that, at best, they’ll have me for two years, it will be clear that I’m not worth it. Not worth the investment. They’re not going to invest their time, knowledge, or skill set into someone who is leaving. So, maybe they’ll give me a mediocre temp job, or (and this is my experience) they won’t hire me at all. No matter how many degrees or certifications I get (and I do have them), it doesn’t matter. To them I will always be a free spirit, roaming the Earth never quite caring where I land. Did you know it’s illegal to ask me if I’m an army wife in an interview? Do you think they care? Apparently, it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against military spouses but not against religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference.
I have four friends with Ph.D.’s condemned to be a housewife because they can’t find jobs in their fields. Being a housewife is a noble job, that’s not my point, but it’s different when you didn’t choose it. I don’t want to watch the dreams I’ve had since I was a little girl pass me by because I fell in love. I have a million other friends in similar situations. I can’t tell you how many young, childless Army wives I know with undergraduate degrees who are nannies or dog walkers.
Every time we move, I try less and less to make friends. I’ve made the greatest friendships in this organization because they are the only people who truly understand what you’re going through. But it’s too hard to say goodbye, to be the one left behind or to leave someone else. Maybe I’m weak, I pray my children don’t feel the same way.
The day we found out we were pregnant with our first child; they told my husband he was deploying. I’ve never felt so many emotions before. Am I naïve to think we would always be together? No, I’m fully aware of what I signed up for. But did I ever think he would miss the birth of his first child? No. People kept telling me to move in with family because I’m “going to need the support”. The only support I want is from the person I married. My ‘senior spouse’ friend said “my husband has missed a total of 7 years of our kid’s lives. You just learn to deal with it”. What an awful status quo we have accepted. I understand the importance of deployments and truly believe they are necessary, but let’s not pretend they don’t have crippling side effects. Not to mention those who pay the ultimate price. I pray I never get handed a folded-up American flag and if you’ve never seen it happen to someone, let me tell you, it’s Earth shattering.
You may think I’m writing this to complain. On the contrary, I’m writing to inform. We are an underrepresented group with serious problems. There has been some progress, a few companies have committed to hiring us, Congress proposed a bill requiring the reimbursements for re-certifications at the state level when the Army makes us move, and movies like We Were Soldiers have done an alright job at depicting us. All good stuff, but what we really need is exposure and empathy. So, the next time you see a military wife, be kind. Because honey, we are struggling. Our kids are struggling, Hell even our pets are struggling. Empathize with your neighbors and please for the love of God, stop comparing your spouse’s work trip to mine being in the field or deployed. I know you mean well, but it’s rude.
Editor’s note: Want to join the 2019 Commemoration in honoring our armed forces? Mark your calendar for the Fanfare to the Military & Democracy.