Yesterday, I was sitting at my computer in my home office, working furiously on time sensitive tasks for two of my four jobs, when a seemingly mundane email popped up in my inbox. It was the monthly Key Spouse Newsletter. I usually skim these over, looking for important dates to take note of, or trainings I need to attend. However, this month, a headline caught my eye, so I began to read. The headline said THANK YOU!!!!!
Under the headline, the author wanted to thank the Key Spouses on our base for attending the Key Spouse Social the Airman and Family Readiness Center held in December. I thought, that’s very nice of them! And then I read this:
“We understand you have many obligations (picking kids up from school, preparing dinner, attending to laundry, etc.) so we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.”
I proceeded to re-read the sentence. Probably five times before I read it out loud to my husband who was sitting in the other room. To be honest, I pretty much screamed it at him. I was not only offended, I was shocked.
Picking up kids from school, preparing dinner, attending to laundry? What am I, a house servant? I had to call a time out. So, I did what all normal people do when they need to know if they are crazy for feeling a certain way- I posted on Facebook.
I posted a screenshot of the newsletter with the offending sentence circled in red and I asked my fellow military spouses this- Am I crazy for being offended by this? I thought we were passed this stereotype. They should have left it at “we understand you have many obligations”. Sheesh.
The response was overwhelming. I had over 100 comments by the next morning. Every single one of them from someone confirming my feelings and commenting with a barrage of sarcastic comebacks and angry rants. There were several constructive comments as well, and they really got me thinking…
Did I receive this response because I happen to be friends with like-minded military spouses who share my feelings and background? Or, is the stereotype of the 1950s military housewife so far gone that EVERYONE is offended by that statement. I’d like to think it’s the latter.
My friends come from ALL walks of life. Plenty of my military spouse friends are stay-at-home moms. Most of them stay at home because circumstances surrounding their spouse’s military career have forced them to put their own careers on hold- but that is a story for another day. My stay-at-home mom friends were offended.
Some of my military spouse friends work multiple jobs, have advanced degrees, go to school full time, or care for elderly parents. Some of them are in the military themselves, or travel a lot for work, and some of them are even (gasp) MEN! And they all had the same reaction as me. I am not alone!
One of the repeated comments I received from fellow military spouses was that statements like these are why they avoid any involvement with base or squadron groups or functions. And I thought to myself- what a shame! Statements like these are EXACTLY why I involved myself. If the majority of us want to change the stereotype, then we need to step up and make it happen. If we aren’t represented, the stereotype will perpetuate.
I like to think I walk a fine line between “good military wife” and “don’t bring her to the squadron Christmas party”. I LIKE supporting my husband. I like supporting the Air Force. I’d also consider myself a Liberal Feminist who believes in equality for all. I’m not what you’d think of as the “typical” military spouse- but after all of those Facebook comments on my post, I’m beginning to think I AM the typical military spouse, because there is no TYPE anymore.
After I calmed down (AKA complained, drank wine, slept for 8 hours), I sat down at the computer and I replied to the four WOMEN who were on the email that contained the newsletter. I do not know who authored the offensive sentence, but I typed out my thoughts and offered to have a longer discussion about it, if they are interested. I’m hoping they are.
Military spouses are not “one size fits all”. Do we pick up kids from school, prepare dinner, and do our laundry? Sure! But that’s called “adulting” and we are not defined by it. I highly doubt any of those three things are the reason some of us could not attend the social.
To my military spouses who are feeling like outsiders- you’re not! You are the majority. The more we get involved, the faster things will change. Want to have a voice in how things are run? Then make your voice heard. Don’t stand idly by and allow the stereotype to continue. Between the laundry and the dishes, we can find a way to involve everyone!
Article by Georgia Jones