Saturday, April 4, 2009
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)!
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).
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!