"So the Family Readiness Group sent me a card asking why I was not attending their meetings...keep in mind that this was the 1970s..."
The kind and fascinating gentleman had not only just given me a parking voucher at the DFW airport, now he was dropping gems about his experience as a male military spouse once upon a time.
"On the card were all sorts of options. Cannot find childcare, have work, not interested. Of course my wife would not let me check off the one I wanted to select:"
Wait for it.
"Have to wear pantyhose to meetings."
Well, times have changed, haven't they. Or have they? Are there expectations or assumptions placed on you (from Command, from FRG leaders, from wherever) that bother you or chafe you?
What is the role of the Military Spouse? What "duties" and "obligations" do we have, if any? Are mandatory meetings really mandatory? If you don't go, will it affect your husband's career? Is your servicemember's job also your job?
DISCLAIMER: I happen to have the time and inclination to be very involved with DH's career. Up until my baby was born and the command changed, I was a company-level FRG Co-leader. I still am a key caller for the company-level FRG, the administrator for the Battalion vFRG, etc. I've been awarded a bunch of pins and framed certificates for this work. I tell you this not to brag, but in the interest of full-disclosure. I am actively involved in my husband's unit and would never say anyone shouldn't be!
HOWEVER, I do not think it right that this sort of volunteer work seems to be expected of spouses, especially those who are married to officers and senior NCOs. Just like we should not "wear our servicemember's rank," we should not be expected to take on duties and responsibilities due to our spouse's service.
It is not 1950. Many of us have jobs and interests apart from our servicemember's career.
I also don't think a spouse owes as a matter of course any more to the soldier's commander than any civilian owes to any servicemember (which is certainly respect and thanks...but not necessarily obedience). I am a volunteer, not a paid employee or a subordinate. I am not going to jump through hoops just because someone on staff decided it would be neat that all spouses do x, y, or z. If it makes sense, or someone asks me nicely as a favor, I'll do it. Otherwise, I have other important things in my life.
I strongly urge all spouses, no matter what their servicemember's rank, to feel free to talk with ANY military personnel. That may be because DH and I had careers prior to his joining the military...or maybe it is just because I am too anti-authoritarian to make a good soldier. DH signed up to obey military orders, I did not.
Now, on to the "mandatory meetings": Nothing is mandatory for spouses. As someone who has organized these meetings, I can tell you that I have never seen a spouse's attendance or lack thereof affect long term career prospects. At most, it just has affected whether or not the soldier had to go to PT on Friday. We want you there, we hope you show up, we really aren't TRYING to bore you (more on this later), but we honestly can't make you come. At most levels, tracking these things and acting on them would be difficult at any rate. Private so-and-so is not going to make Specialist faster than Private what's-her-name because one's spouse showed up at some meeting. I'm sure someone has a story...but that's just my experience from the planning end of things.
As an interesting aside, this is not JUST a military issue. My sister-in-law is working on a Sociology PhD and she has shown me some interesting research about how being married increases a man's salary and promotion opportunities. Yes, just men. Being married actually can HURT a woman's career (at least among civies). Interesting, huh?
Bottom line (IMHO): A supportive spouse is a boost to anyone's career...but it is not right that you should feel obligated to be hyper-involved in your spouse's career beyond personal support.
I don't pretend to be the authority on this, feel free to agree or disagree in your comments--I'm sure you will!
My intent isn't to be quarrelsome. Just to share my thoughts!
*Takes a Deep Breath*