"The male military spouse? What is that? There is no such thing!"
Au contraire, but there is.
Believe it or not there is a fairly large population of male military spouses, or MANspouses as I like to refer to "US" as. Between the five branches of active duty service there are approximately 100,000 of us men married to female service members. Sure some of those numbers include dual military couples, but that population comprises only about 35-45 percent of the marriages of female service members. Here at Fort Riley, Kan. we have over 500 civilian men married to female service members. I am sure such a large population at one specific installation is rare, but never the less, there is a larger population of us than many would think. But where are they all?
When I became a military spouse I decided to do like many MILspouses do and become active in our military community. I figured that would be the best way for me to meet other stay at home dads and men married to female service members because I knew I wasn't the only one doing this. That was great in theory, but the truth of the matter is the guys just don't participate as much in our community as the ladies do. Why is that?
Let's face it, the MANspouse is an EXTREME minority. Female service members who are married make up right around 10 percent of the marriages in the military. So there just isn't that many of us in comparison. But the simple truth is that at an installation like here at Fort Riley where you have over 500 civilian men married to female service members, you would think there would be more of a presence by us guys. Unfortunately that is not the case. And in many ways I don't blame the guys for avoiding many of the social events our military community hosts. Especially the events geared towards the MILspouse.
There are very few instances where a MILspouse gathering is promoted as being for females ONLY. These days with political correctness and the need to be socially accepting of all, there are very few gatherings that will advertise to ladies only. But that doesn't mean they are offering ANYTHING that appeals to us guys. I mean really, what guy wants to participate in an FRG "girls night" out at a spa(although I will admit a pedicure is AWESOME!)? And even if it's at a more neutral venue like a MILspouse night out for drinks, common courtesy would keep most of us men from going out for a drink with someone else's wife. And if that isn't an issue for a man, the simple fact it was really a girls night out would keep most of us from going unless it was with a group we knew.
The MILspouse clubs for officers spouses and enlisted spouses are no longer "Wives Clubs", but that doesn't necessarily mean they are enticing the MANspouse to come hang out. Let's move past the fact most of these events have themes like "tea party", "wacky hat", "craft night" and "wine and chocolate night"(beer and wings maybe). If we put those themes out of our mind let's think about how fun it is for the average guy to go hang out with 30 women or more. That would be like asking a woman to join 30 guys she doesn't know at the local sports bar for a game she knows nothing about. Sure some of us are willing to step out of our comfort zones, but to what extent?
I personally get involved in as much as I possibly can within the MILspouse community(and have been extremely welcomed by ALL). While there are many great social benefits for me becoming involved, it is mainly for networking purposes. But I won't lie, a lot of the stuff I do is a drag. Most of it is awesome and very beneficial, but there are times when I am wondering what in the heck I am doing there.
So do I think that every MILspouse social gathering needs to work on being less gender biased? Do I think all these MILspouse events need to change what they do to serve us MANspouses? Let me answer this as best I can, and I hope SpouseBuzz doesn't get mad at me for saying it like this, but HELL NOOOOO!
The women who have created an incredible network for MILspouses do not need to change a thing. At least not at this point. Until guys actually start making a presence in our community I would not ask them to change a thing. I don't want you to change your "Women's Conference" to a "MILspouse Conference" just so three others guys and I have the option to attend. At an event where 200+ women are served well with the way things are, I wouldn't want that to change just to be politically correct. At least not until more MANspouses emerge from the sidelines and take an active role in our community.
I would like to see the MANspouse recognized more. I do want to see us guys have some gatherings catered to us. But whose job is it to do that? It's ours, the MANspouse.
Being a MANspouse I am gathering as much information as I possibly can about us. I am doing my best to track down every article written about us, and most of them are written by us. One thing I commonly hear in all these articles is the trouble it is for men to fit in within the MILspouse community. The MANspouse will gripe and complain how nothing at the gatherings is "for them," but they won't show up to assist in a change. The MANspouse will say he wants to feel part of our community rather than neglected and overlooked, but he won't leave the comfort of his home. The MANspouse will say he wants something he can call his own, but he won't start anything.
I believe us MANspouses NEED something all to our own. We need guys at each installation who are getting together on a regular basis. I would say to "support" one another, but we know guys don't want "support." We just want to get together, grill some brats, drink some beers(or if you are like me sweet tea) and catch a game or play a game. But we want to do those things with guys who get us.
If I call a guy up and use the word "potty," I don't want him to laugh at me because I speak toddler talk as my first language. Some may say us guys need to just get over it all and get involved in the MILspouse community as a whole, but there is something to be said about being around people who are like minded and share similar interests (btw -- by definition that is a clique). For example PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel), MCCW (Military Council of Catholic Women), EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) families, ethnic groups, etc.
I do believe it is vital for the MANspouse to form his own sense of community, but even more so I believe he needs to become active in the MILspouse and military community that is already there. We need to step out of our comfort zones and take part in the plethora of classes that the military offers us to help us become more resilient. We must be willing to step up to the challenge of being the first guy at our installation to get involved in some of the philanthropist groups out there that the female spouses have more or less perfected (like official installation spouse groups).
I am always amazed when I hear guys who have been living the life as a MANspouse for a decade or so that will say they only met a handful of other MANspouses. Me, I have been doing this for two years and I would say I have been put in contact with over 100 MANspouses in that time. Maybe it is because I am looking. Maybe it is because I am willing to step up and step out. Whatever the case, it's "game on" from here on out for me. I am going to stand up for the MANspouse until someone else does. I mean really, someone has to.
Wayne Perry and his wife reside in Fort Riley, Kansas where his wife serves as a combat medic in the US Army. His wife enlisted in 2010 and they were married in 2006. They have two children, ages 2 and 11. Wayne is currently a stay at home dad. He blogs under the name TheArmyWife(DUDE) and you can find it here. Wayne is honored to be part of the core team for the Army Wife Network. He also is one of the founders of the group MANning the Homefront that works to connect MANspouses. The group at Fort Riley meets once a month for dinner just for the guys and at least once a month for either a family or MANly event. They hope to see similiar groups start across the globe at all military installations. You can find the facebook page for MANning the Homefront here.