For most guys, this isn't something that comes naturally. We have this innate drive in us to provide for our families, to be the one with the hard driving career that defines us. So, to give it all up and accept a 7 day/week job that doesn't pay a penny but has LONG hours can be a tough swallow for many men. Yes, I know... there are plenty of ladies who have been doing this for years and don't want to hear our complaints. Honestly, I'm not complaining, I'm just giving you, my gentle reader, a glimpse into the mind of a guy (scary place that it might be!).
What is more revealing, though, is the fact that in our military, there are more and more women who are stepping up to serve. And many of their spouses are leaving behind careers to support their wives as they serve. What used to be uncommon has become less so. Attending an FRG meeting and seeing dudes there who aren't in uniform isn't so surprising any more. Take my wife's unit, for example. There are currently 5 of us. And all of us are active in the unit, not just hiding out, hoping not to be seen. And the more that come and get involved, the easier it is for more to feel comfortable doing it as well.
There are those, however, who simply can't get away from the stereotypes that have defined military spouses for generations. I'll give you two examples, both of which come from the LTC/SGM Pre-Command Course that I attended with my wife. This course was intended to prepare spouses for the roles that we would play as either the Commander or SGM spouse in our units.
The first example was the welcome letter I received three weeks prior to the arriving at the course. It was the standard letter welcoming me and assuring me that this course would be beneficial to my experience as a commander's spouse. That was all well and good except for who they made the letter out to. That's right, it started off by saying, "Dear Mrs. Blake." All I could do was shake my head when
The second example was even more grievous than the first. On the first day of the course, we were separated from our active duty spouses and taken to a large conference room for panel discussions with "senior spouses". The first included the CG's wife, and the second included two spouses (both wives) of the Army's most senior leadership. The CG's wife continually told us about how we could best support our "husbands". One of the other wives addressed our group by saying "well, good morning ladies!" What made this completely inexcusable in BOTH cases was that there were no less than 5 of us guys in the room, ALL OF US SITTING IN THE FRONT ROW. At the end of the second session with the two "senior wives", the afore mentioned spouse uttered this: "Thank you so much ladies!" As you can imagine, I'd had enough. I stood up and said, "and gentlemen!" She fell all over herself apologizing for her mistake, but the damage had been done.
You see, this is exactly why more men don't get involved in spouses groups and the like. And this will continue as long as this current generation of military spouses clings to these same generalizations and stereotype. The thing is, soldiers aren't just men any more, and it's not just military wives who are military spouses any more either. It is up to us to start changing the culture and making spouses of BOTH sexes feel welcomed and included.
The challenge used to be the officer spouses against the enlisted spouses (and maybe in some places it still is, but it hasn't been in any of the places I've been in the last 6 years). Now, the challenge is realizing that more and more men are military spouses. I don't consider myself an "Army Husband". I'm an Army Spouse. And so are all of us who are married to members of the military. It's not just Army Wives any more!
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