The power plays. The spotlight grabs. The desperate attempts to be the sole provider of information. The attitude that you are somehow better, more worthy, more intelligent, more seasoned, more deserving or more, well, anything than another spouse. The idea that somehow a group of spouses supporting each other and their servicemembers isn’t worth any of your time.
It’s almost as if you got a big group of very different women together, tossed them in a room, closed the door and told them to get along.
When I reluctantly took my FRG leader spot mid last year it was with eyes wide open. I’ve been around the spouse support world long enough to have heard the horror stories, long enough to know that not everyone I encountered would be a friend. Yet in the end I loved the job for the chance it gave me to make a different, however small, in the lives of some very young spouses.
But during that time I learned one very important thing: the things people – you, reader -- hate most about the FRG are actually the keys to FRG success.
How? By naming what you hate you can figure out how to avoid it or, at least, how to change your attitude about it.
Here are four examples.
I hate the power plays. I hear this one over and over again – that those in charge of the FRG are only there because it makes them feel powerful. They don’t actually do anything. They don’t actually help anyone. They just make themselves look good. And that creates a toxic environment. But the people who act like this are doing so to fill a void in their lives. It isn’t about you or anyone else. So pity them, and step in anyway. You’ll always have to keep in mind that these people will believe that they have to be in control. But it doesn’t mean you can’t assist them, too. Offer to help. Offer to take over whatever thing they seem to hate the most. And see if you can’t make it the thing that is the most loved.
The FRG is a waste of time. Without a doubt that can be true. And if there is one thing in the world that bothers me more than anything else it is people wasting my time. Who wants to spend an hour watching someone click through a PowerPoint only to have no idea in the end what was said? No one. I figure the FRG has one – one! – opportunity with each family and spouse to show that their time is valued. That means meetings are only held if absolutely necessary, and that they start and end exactly when you said they would. That means the information given is worth showing-up for. Everything else can be communicated by email or a phone call. You can make the FRG something people value by making sure it is NOT a waste of time.
One word: drama. People come with drama – it’s part of the great human condition. Some people have more drama than other people. And in my experience those are the people who need the most help or have the biggest problems. They are the people who need those of us who are level headed helper folks to stand there, nodding, smiling and saying “it’s going to be OK.” Have you ever noticed how often our girl Ms. Vicki refers the drama to Military OneSource for help? (Hint: all the time!). Try doing the same and maybe you can get them some help or some counseling in the process.
Volunteering with the FRG is a thankless job. You’re right. Your hard work will probably go largely unnoticed. A measly volunteer recognition certificate isn’t going to do a lot for you in the end. And you start looking at the whole thing as a chore. But what if you went in to the gig with the decision that you aren’t there for the recognition? What if you went in for one purpose and one purpose along: to serve. Saying “I’m just here to serve” means you don’t care if anyone notices you. It means your reward is in the knowledge that, without your help, that spouse would not have been connected to that Tricare information. It’s knowing that your calm assurance may just be what is getting the spouse on your call sheet through her day. Saying “I’m just here to serve” means you don’t care you runs your ego over, because there isn’t much around to smoosh.
Edit: Adding one -- after reading some comments on our Facebook page I can't believe I failed to put this example in here.
No one ever contacted me, so why should I be involved? The FRG leader and the POCs who help her are in a tight spot. She is supposed to reach out to, or at least add to her email list, every new spouse in the unit. But with its constantly moving parts (people leaving the unit, new servicemembers joining the unit and current unit members getting married) it's nearly impossible to keep up with all the changes. And what's worse? That person is 100 percent reliant on the commander giving her updated, correct information as well as the Soldiers giving the correct contact information for their wives. That no one has ever contacted you is not personal. It's not because they hate you. It's because someone -- likely not the FRG leader -- dropped the ball along the way. And bless their hearts, our spouses are not always good at giving our correct information out either. Why my husband decided to give them my junk email address that I rarely check, I'll never know. So what's the solution? Don't wait to be contacted. You contact them. Find out who your FRG leader is and send her a friendly email. "Hi, I'm fairly new to the unit. Here is all my information. Let me know what else you need. Please add me to your information distribution list." See how easy that was?
What things do you hate most about the FRG – and what can you do to turn them into an action plan?