Dear Mrs. Obama,
Congratulations on the win. I hope sometime between parties and obligations they give you a chance to throw yourself on your bed, kick off your heels and think about what comes next for you.
And I hope you aren’t thinking about dumping military spouses.
I hope you aren’t telling yourself that you have done all you could for them and that you are ready for a group of fresher, newer, more grateful people for your second tour as first lady.
Instead, I hope you are looking at the $500 billion in post-war defense spending cuts and realizing we military families need you more than ever.
But not the old you. Not the you that thought up the kindly Joining Forces program. Not the you who supports the toothless Military Spouse Employment Partnership. Not the nice, well-meaning, sincere first lady you.
Instead, we military spouses actually want an older version of you. We want the Michelle Robinson Obama version of you who used to earn the lion’s share of your family’s income. We want the you whose husband was away for weeks at a time as a mere state senator toiling away on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. We want the you who worked full-time when you were pregnant, carried the household, juggled day care providers, and never had time for long walks or midnight talks or real romance with your own husband.
We military spouses want the version of you that was annoyed as hell.
That’s the you who can help military spouses most. That’s the version of you who is most like us. That’s the you who came to the understanding that the guy you loved best in the world was doing more than a job. That he was doing what he was meant to do. And that was worth some sacrifice to you and your kids.
Hold on to that old version of you. Because that’s who we military spouses are, too. We are just like you.
I think no one bothered to tell you that during your first tour with military spouses. I think you got the idea that we are all a bunch of 18-year-old high school grads who never had any options in life. I think you thought we were so financially destitute that we would be beyond grateful for jobs in a call center. We weren’t.
No wonder you lost that lovin’ feeling for military spouses. Because the programs designed for that kind of person are not the programs we actually need. You are much more on track with getting the Military Spouse License Portability Act passed in half the states of the union. That’s the kind of program that the old you would have appreciated.
So please stay with us in your second tour as first lady. We don’t need much. We need you to bring the bright gaze of the media on people who are already doing a good job with military spouse employment. Reach out to West Point grad Haley Uthlaut and her InGear Career organization. Reach out to Sue Hoppin at the National Military Spouse Network, who finds jobs for spouses in government. Reach out to Melissa King at Jobs Plus in Florida, who is practically Yenta the Matchmaker between military spouses and employers in small-town Florida.
These women are right on track when it comes to military spouse employment. Do what you do best and spread the word, spread the program, spread best practices. Bring back that lovin’ feeling, Mrs. Obama. We need it now more than ever.
|Family and Spouse First Lady Michelle Obama|
Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs at Military.com and a military sociologist. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??
Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.