Monday, August 23, 2010

Who Am I to Advise Anyone? I'm Just an Army Wife.

Today's guest blogger is Army wife Jennifer Morrison.  Jennifer records her military life at her blog, "Also Known As ... The Wife."  In this blog post, she reflects on the advice she wishes she had been given as a new spouse ... and shares some tips on how to best jump right in to the Army life!

What advice would I give to someone whose spouse is joining the military? This was a question I inadvertently posed to myself when I saw a friend’s Facebook status wishing her husband luck on his ASVAB test tomorrow. I saw many people wishing him luck, some of those who are military spouses themselves, but no one really gave my friend any type of advice or a brief heads up about what she could expect through the enlistment process, Basic Training and Advance Individual Training, and then life as a service member’s wife.

It seems that the spouse is always an after thought, if a thought at all, for most people. What could I say to her that could convey the huge lifestyle change that her young family was about to embark upon? What advice did I receive when I decided that my life would be intermingled with the military? The more I thought about it the more I realized that no one gave me advice on what to expect until after I was head-first down the rabbit hole.

I’ve developed my own mantra which I live and die by with all things military-related: “Nothing is ever definite in the military until after it’s done … and even then it’s negotiable.” This has proven itself true over and over again in the course of the six years Tim and I have been together. I’ve been told that he’s going to a school needed for promotion more times than I count only to have it fail to come to fruition. I’ve seen my husband go up to a promotion board, pass, and be told that it didn’t count because it wasn’t the correct board. Tim was activated for deployment three times since September 2001 and has only deployed twice. Amazingly, his deployable status seems to be more favorable since we’ve been together. I could go on and on with examples but my point is to prepare for anything and everything, the worst case and the best case and somewhere between as well.

I’m big believer that you’ll enjoy the military lifestyle more if you become an active member of the military community. There is no one else in this world that can truly empathize with what it’s like being married to a service member more than another military spouse. Sure, your friends can tell you how much they missed their husband when he was gone for two weeks for work training but it just isn’t the same because your friend’s husband isn’t training for combat operations and, last time I checked, San Diego wasn’t a war zone with a different language, culture, and a population who gave you the most evil of eyes every time they walked past you.

A military spouse can listen to your deepest concerns and worries and in the next breath make you forget all about them. When I found out Tim was heading for another deployment, I quickly became more involved with the unit and then with the Family Readiness Group. I wanted to be ‘in the know’ and the only way to do that was to get involved. I went to family meetings hosted by the unit and I did all the reading I possibly could. I also joined a military spouse message board and it became of a wealth of information and support when I needed it the most.

Knowing I wasn’t alone in dealing with all the crazy things the military can throw at you allowed me to throw away that “woe is me” attitude and realize it’s not just me and I could certainly have a worse situation. There’s also something to be said for the military rumor mill; you can sometimes get some good information from it and other times you can get an incredible belly laugh.

The best piece of advice that put it all together for me came from a friend who was then a Captain in the Air Force. He said to me, “You need to realize you’ll never be number one, hell, you may not even been number two at times. It’s always duty first and the Soldier decides to prioritize the rest.” I sat with my mouth open for a good thirty seconds because I couldn’t think of a reply to debate his point. He was absolutely right. No one can prepare you for not being your spouse’s first priority; it’s completely against the tenets of most marriage vows (“forsaking all others” ring a bell?).

The military will become your husband’s wife and you’ll be the mistress sometimes. It’s especially frustrating being a second priority when your spouse is still your first, but you know the old saying about life not being fair. Once you realize this, you’ll become a more empowered person; you’ll be handling situations you never dreamed you’d be handling without your spouse. I’ve learned to change my car battery, beat the hell out of my car starter to get the engine to turn over, and that I can drive from New Jersey to Florida in 12 hours.

If you’re shy, you’ll come out of your shell in the blink of an eye and wonder what took you so long and what really was holding you back. If you embrace and accept reality, you’ll actually enjoy the role you play in this crazy lifestyle.

So again, what would I advise a new military spouse? Be skeptical, be well prepared, get active, and get with reality. It also helps if you can cook or bake; there is no better way to fall into good favor with the Soldiers then by bringing up some chili or cookies. I would know; I’ve earned the nickname of “The Cookie Lady.”

For more information on Army life, visit Army Well-Being: Personal Life.


Army Well-Being said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing this great advice! Jumping right in, keeping expectations realistic, and getting involved are great ways to ensure that you enjoy your Army life. We appreciate your willingness to share with us!

JLem. said...

Awesome blog! I too, am known for my cookies within my husband's unit! Again, great story!

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