First Lady Michelle Obama recently gave thekeynote addressat The Women's Conference 2010 in Long Beach, CA. After reading her speech, I believe sheis sincerely making an effort to get to knowus as a groupandto give voice to theconcerns and needs of our community.You can readher wordsin their entirety here.
The First Lady spent the vast majority of her speech addressing military spouses. She talked about her encounters with mil-spouses and the stories they had shared with her, saying:
"Many of these women were much younger than I was. They had far less support and far fewer resources than I did. And every day, they were confronting challenges that I could barely even imagine."
I can understand her reaction. As a LINKS mentor and as a Key Volunteer, I often found myself wondering how on earth women much younger and less experienced than I was could cope with the current realities of being married to the military (especially during those times when I wasn't coping particularly well). But they were coping. And many were thriving. I am in awe of so many of our young, strong, and very able mil-spouses.
Later in her speech, Mrs. Obama asked how it was possible that the American public in general seemed to know so little about the sacrifices that military families are making. She answered the question in this way:
"Well, it turns out that one of the primary reasons is that military families simply don't complain. They are strong and resilient and independent... And no matter how tough it gets, because they're so capable, they manage to keep everything together."
While there are always the exceptions to the rule, as a group, we tend to want to project that we are fine. We are Super-Women who can handle everything. Well... sometimes we are, but often we're not. I'm not suggesting that we whine and complain. But perhaps, our very strength is a detriment at times. If we feel that those outside of our military communities, those in the civilian world, don't know anything about us, never mind understand what our lives are like, maybe some of that blame lies with us and our granite facades. I know that I've certainly been guilty of trying to project an image of "everything is fine...I've got this" when in reality nothing was fine and I waslucky to drag my carcass out of bed.
Which brings me to another point in Mrs. Obama's speech:
"...military spouses are some of the most talented, hard-working, public-spirited people I've ever met...In a recent survey, 68 percent of military family members reported volunteering in the past year versus just 27 percent of the general population."
Our volunteerism doesn't surprise me. But it did make me stop and think, particularly in respect to my last point. As a group, we are quick to jump to someone else's aide. We see a need and we meet it. This is one of the many things I love about mil-spouses. But we are less apt to ask for help. We are much less comfortable accepting it. I'll be the first to admit that I often dispensed advice to younger spouses, telling them that they shouldn't have unrealistic expectations of themselves and that they should absolutely accept help when it was offered. That it was NOT a sign of weakness. I had a much harder time following my own advice.
This is just one of the reasons that I think forums like SpouseBuzz are so important. When I first began to read and comment here regularly, my husband was on his longest deployment to date. I was able to come here and see that I wasn't alone. The things I was experiencing and feeling were normal. It's okay tonot be Super-Woman. It's even okay to not pretend to be her. I knew this intellectually but seeing so many other spouses sharing their experiences made it more real for me.
**I feel compelled to include a SpouseBuzz PSA: Let's remember that SpouseBUZZ is a milspouse support destination. We do not dabble in politics here. Milspouses are notuniform in their political views. So if you decide to comment, please refrain from political attacks on a party, person or each other.