The Friday before Mother’s Day brings a special day for military members: It’s Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Being the Friday before Mother’s Day, it is easy to think that all MilSpouses are women and mothers, but with our changing world, the modern military spouse probably does not look the way Ronald Reagan envisionehen he established it.
After all, not every military couple is a male service member and female spouse. Now, we proudly boast male military spouses, same sex couples and dual military families.
Our male MilSpousesThere are more women serving in the military than ever before. This holiday may be on Mother’s Day weekend, but we can't forget the men who support our military members. Whether they're active duty, have their own civilian career or are a stay at home dad, it's imperative we also include them, not just for today's celebrations, but year-round. A great way to incorporate male spouses is to think of more gender neutral hangouts. I have spoken with many of my friends' husbands who feel they are not welcome because it is a “wife” event. Try calling it just a get-together. Using inclusive language promotes having inclusive events.
Our LGBTQ MilSpousesFor decades, military same-sex couples had to hide in the shadows. Now, The Department of Defense recognizes all marriages, regardless of state laws or local rulings. This is a great win for couples who have to move every few years; knowing that their spouse will retain benefits is a huge boost to morale. When you first meet a new-to-your unit service member ask them if they have someone special in their life. When I meet a same-sex couple, I like to talk to the spouse about how their expectations of military life has stacked up against the realities. I just met a same-sex couple and the spouse had no idea about all the resources that are available on a military installation. I told her about simple things, like the gym, the commissary, and the Post Exchange, and we both left the conversation feeling fulfilled. She felt welcomed and I enjoy connecting new spouses with resources.
Our dual-military couplesFinally, dual military couples are also a huge population within the military community. I myself am one half of a dual military couple. But just because my spouse is in the military does not mean we should forget that he is also military spouse (and vice versa!). It is nice to recognize that he picks up the slack in the house when my work schedule is less than ideal. Our units each have a family readiness group and their own “mandatory fun” days. While he is active duty, I work to support his career and when I am on duty, he does the same. Dual military couples play both roles -- member and spouse -- and taking the time to thank them for all they do as a supportive spouse while still maintaining their job is not something to forget. This can be challenging when both spouses also have to juggle deployments and field time.
The majority of female service members are married to other service members, so there is a good chance you already know several dual-military couples. If your unit is having a military spouse appreciation event, be sure to reach out to the dual-military couples and let them know that they are also welcome and wanted. It is easy to let them be seen as solely other service members but I know my husband has always appreciated being included in my unit activities.
So how can we recognize and show our appreciation for our military spouse friends? Sending flowers is nice but sending yourself is even better. If your MilSpouse friend is a parent, offer to babysit for the night so that your friend and his/her spouse can go out to dinner without worrying if the restaurant of choice has a children’s menu. If you do not want to babysit or if your friend does not have kids, you should still stop by for a chat. Every military spouse can relate to the loneliness of our lives. It is not always purposeful but between moving around every few years and not knowing neighbors, sometimes the only adult I speak to in a given day is my husband.
If you have not reached out to one of your friends lately, take the time to send a text message or a phone call. Time is the fastest thing to get away from us and maybe we do not realize how long it has been until we stop and think about it. Military Spouses Appreciation Day is a great day to remember and recommit our friendships to our fellow military spouses.