I had a big league career. Watching my daughter switch to softball this year made me realize that I’d been traded into the minor leagues. How does that happen to military spouses like us?
I have always had a love affair with competitive sports. The past two years, I have enjoyed watching my daughter, who is now six, play baseball in a little league with other same-aged boys. Everyone learned how to hit, field, and run the bases. They all had equal confidence and basically the same abilities.
After two years playing ball, we decided it might be time to put Ally in an all-girls league so she could start learning the nuances of softball versus baseball. Much to my chagrin, the caliber of expectations was significantly lower in the softball league.
Watching opening ceremonies and the first game, I saw that the emphasis was more on the hair bows and a team cheer than it was on learning the fundamentals or increasing skills.
Traded from Career Woman To Military SpouseAs I sat and watched the season, I could only grumble knowing that I too had experienced this same sort of decline in expectations when my label went from “career woman” to “military spouse.”
With the new title came a quick erasure of all previous standards and a drastic lowering of the bar in terms of what people required of me. No longer did people ask about my job or my ability to lead. Instead the expectations were reduced to just having to possess a basic knowledge of social calendars and my husband’s work environment.
My old identities, and even my titles of mother and entrepreneur, were now eclipsed by the words “military spouse” and the unwritten guidelines that accompanied them.
How is this OK?Inside my head I remember screaming, “How is this OK?” Shouldn’t I, even as a military spouse, still be inspired by my community to continue to strive for excellence?
Why does society grant military spouses a proverbial pass to take a “timeout” on their journey to big dreams and goals? Ultimately, why am I relegated to t-ball when I know I can hang in the big leagues?
There’s no question marrying a military service member comes with sacrifices. We’ve given up college degrees, specific careers and put other plans on hold. According to a recent study by the Military Officers Associate of America (MOAA) and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Families (IVMF) revealed that 90 percent of female spouses felt that they were underemployed based on their education and/or experience.
We give up on our careers.In my opinion, this statistic is pretty accurate. Over my 14 years as a spouse, what I witnessed is that most spouses try for their first few assignments to keep a career going. Then, after several failed attempts and the addition of kids, they often give up on trying to maintain their career path, resorting to the conclusion that the majority of their efforts to find meaningful work are futile.
My point in writing this is not to say that all military spouses feel the way I do. Nor should they have to. I know plenty of stay-at-home-moms who are also military spouses who love their role as such and would never change a thing.
However, some of us know we have given up something that was important to us. I challenge you to reinvigorate your big goals and dreams. You are strong, resilient and smart individuals who can achieve more than you’ve been lead to think! It is time military spouses’ step up to the plate.
I think we have skills and talents that we’ve been ashamed to let shine. We have gifts that have been allowed to languish and we have important lessons to teach the younger generation.
Whether it is leading the PTA, taking a class to keep former career skills current, running a marathon to remain healthy or starting a business to share your skills with the world, it’s time military spouses start taking some swings. It is time we elevate our game and it’s time we show the world our caliber of play.
Jen is an Air Force Academy grad, veteran, AF reservist, mommy, and military spouse with a passion for inspiring entrepreneurism amongst the military spouse ranks. She currently lives with her 2 children and AF pilot husband near McGuire AFB, NJ. After leaving active duty to raise kids, Jen found the flexibility she needed to keep a career by starting businesses. She currently works with a team of fabulous women (many military spouses) to help them find their flexible career aspirations through building their own businesses.
U.S. Army photo.