Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Makings of a Military Wife

The Makings of a Military Wife

What does it take to be a military spouse? The answer is much more complex than the superficial “attractive” card or the absurd “gold digger” judgement. It takes a lot to be one of the few, the proud, the military wives…

Perhaps one of the most crucial characteristics in a military wife is her strength. She has to hold down the home front when her better half is deployed, often taking care of a house, children, pets, school, and a career. As a Army wife, I am accustomed to hearing that I have “the toughest job in the Army”. I don’t know if it’s any harder than being in a war zone, but being a military spouse certainly isn’t an easy title to bear. You have to be emotionally, mentally, and even physically strong (to help carry all that gear to and from the family car)!

Financial savvy
When the family unit is together, the military spouse is often responsible of the budget. She pays the bills, puts money into savings, buys the groceries, buys what the children need, allots money to her spouse, and-if by some chance there’s money left in the bank- she may buy something on sale for herself. When her husband is deployed, it’s even more important for a military wife to have financial savvy. With all the special duty pay coming in, she needs to be able to keep it straight and put her husband’s hard-earned money to good use (i.e. savings, paying off debt, buying necessities).

Shopping smarts
A military spouse can often be found cutting coupons, comparison shopping, and searching for sales. This is because she has shopping smarts. Being on a budget, like many military families are, requires one to research and scout out the best bargains for food, clothes, household goods, entertainment items, etc. The smart shopping military wife may also be spotted buying groceries at the Commissary or things for her family at the Exchange, because she knows how to use these savings-centric stores to her advantage.

Another important quality for a military spouse is to be independent. It’s almost a necessity, really. Being clingy is futile, because sooner or later, her husband must go fulfill his call of duty in a country far, far away. But it’s not just in times of deployment where a military wife must be independent. She has to find her own interests, instead of becoming so wrapped up in her husband’s career that she loses her own identity. She also can’t rely on friends and family as easily as civilian wives, because family is often far away and friends PCS often.

Organization is a key trait to being a true military spouse. When her husband calls frantically explaining how much trouble he will get in for losing his weapons cards, she must be on QRF (Quick Reaction Force). Bounding into action, the military wife will find exactly where his beloved weapons cards are -due to exceptional organizational skills- and drive like mad to deliver the goods before SSgt. Anonymous finds out.

A military spouse must also be flexible, because almost everything in the military is “tentative”. She might have a romantic Friday night planned, babysitter in-place, and find out her husband must work late again. This requires flexibility, and a healthy dose of patience, not to get upset at her hubby, the government, or “The Man”. It is important for her to keep in mind that plans change, and there’s nothing that can be done.

A Personable Demeanor
It’s beneficial to the military wife if she is personable, because she will more easily make friends. She can talk to anyone about anything, is friendly and welcoming, and is eager to help. All of these traits are important in a world where every two to four years, an entirely new circle of people comes into her life. In order to gain and maintain a support system, a military spouse makes new friends easily and quickly. She finds other moms and arranges play-dates, chats up the newly married neighbors for a double date night, and bonds with her husband’s co-workers so when planning a party, she knows exactly who he’d like to invite.

The ability to be creative is another survival skill in the life of a military wife. It arises in many situations from whipping up a quick dinner recipe from scratch to planning a special birthday for her child with homemade decorations and cute, creative invitations. Because of her need to be thrifty, quick-thinking, and flexible, the military spouse’s ability to be creative is almost instinctual. I know plenty of spouses that find creative ways to work from home, redecorate for little money, and plan the sweetest things for their husbands during special times (like Valentine’s Day and homecoming).

Military wives come from all walks of life and pursue many different interests; but they certainly have these traits (and trust me, many more) in common!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Military Spouse & Journaling

According to some experts, journaling is a great way to relieve stress. Military spouses are always taking care of others – the children, the husband or wife, the family, the chores – the list can be extensive. And we, like our soldiers, Marines, and seamen,and airmen are serving our country by managing the home front. When do the spouses have time to slow down and reflect on what happens in our lives?

This question has evaded many of us, as we deal with our deployed and injured soldiers. We continue to give and to provide for others in our lives, but we do not provide for ourselves. “When a spouse is deployed, we often see all the responsibilities - bills, meal planning, yard work, laundry, house cleaning, child care needs - and we fall into inaction because it seems overwhelming. We take care of only basic needs such as feeding the children (and we eat what’s left on their plates), we do only enough laundry to get a clean top (forget folding and putting things away) and maybe do enough minor cleaning to keep bugs away - and then we still end up pooped at the end of the day. That inaction drains us more, leaving us feeling exhausted.”

Therefore, the military spouse becomes depleted, despondent, and stressed. Many of us stay cooped up and isolated in our homes when our spouses deploy because we feel that no one will understand our plight, and we become depressed and lonely. One of the best ways to relieve this stress is to put the negative, stressful things down on paper. Or, create a gratitude journal writing about things to be grateful for. As stated in the Army Times: “When you spend so much time meeting the needs of others, you lose touch with your important relationships - with yourself. Start by writing a list of things you are grateful for. That list can change how you see and approach life. Journaling creates a dialogue with yourself. You can work through many issues by keeping a journal. It’s much healthier than keeping things bottled up inside, running through your head over and over again.

So give it a try. What do you have to lose besides the stress?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's that time again

So it is that time again. My hubby is gone on yet another mission. That's another 6 weeks of calls few and far between. I always try to keep myself very busy. At night though it seems that even that is not enough when it is time to go to bed. You know I have been a military wife now for 15 years and around the military for 20. You would think one would get used to it. I never have. In fact I believe it gets harder as we grow more and more together over the years. We are getting close to when he can retire but I don't think he will. We already have our new assignment. We will be moving to Arizona in the fall. That won't be to bad. At least that way I won't have to fly thousands of miles to see family or friends. The cost to fly now days seems astronomical. It can be done but you really have to plan ahead. I guess I am venting a little. It does get so frustrating sometimes and yet I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love my life! :) Til next time, be abundantly blessed.