To My MilSpouse Friends: Politics Aside, I’m Still Me

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Dear milspouse friends,

While I have conservative and progressive friends both in and outside the military, I am speaking directly to you. Why? Because you are my community. Whether you live right next door or halfway around the world, we share this wonderfully unpredictable life; and it’s quite likely that the military will one day plop us in the same place at the same time once again. More than anyone else, we understand that distance can be overcome. We know that by experience, by months measured in tears and worry. And, perhaps, because we share this hard-fought knowledge, we can extend it to other types of distance—like distances in personality, interests, and even that dreaded word: politics.

Don’t stop reading.

I am not going to assail you with my personal beliefs. As a little blue dot in a vast sea of red, I am well aware that they sometimes come across as intrusive. After all, my kind are few and far between in our world. What I want you to know is this: I am still me.

I am still the same person I have always been. I am the friend who dropped off an unexpected bottle of wine at your front door after a particularly stressful day. I am the girl who sat at your kitchen table, laughing and conversing with ease. I am the FRG leader who gave every moment of free time to care for your family—who made meals in times of trouble, happily babysat your children, shared in your struggles and triumphs. I am still the person you cried with as your your husband boarded a plane, unsure of when or if you would see him again. I attended your baby showers—planned them even; or perhaps listened over a cup of coffee as you confided in me the pain of infertility. I am the mother who hosted playdates, attended birthday parties, and celebrated milestones with you. I am who I have always been.

I am still me.

For a long time, I was not forthcoming about my political opinions. Can you blame me? When people find out, it’s as if I can see the gears kicking into overdrive. 

But she seems so nice. 

I don’t understand—wasn’t she in my bible study class? 

Doesn’t she love America?

For the record, I try to be nice to everyone I meet. I identify as Catholic, even if that typically lends itself to different political leanings. And, let’s be clear, no party has a monopoly on patriotism.

But none of that should matter because I am still the same person I have been since the day you met me. You, most likely, are still the same person you were the day I met you, as well. But you know what? I know that and have already accepted it.

Here’s the thing: the fact that you are most likely a deep shade of red, will never make a difference for me. I will never unfriend you on social media. I will never avoid you in public. I will never look at you any differently.

Why?

It was already baked into the cake for me.

When I met you, I already assumed we would disagree on politics. And yet, I loved you anyway. Our similarities far outweigh our differences, and that’s more than enough to bind us together. Don’t undo that binding—please.

I know it bothers you that I have decided to be vocal about matters of state on social media. I know this because some of you have taken a passive aggressive stance, bemoaning the need of anyone to have their voice heard. I know this because, since I have started writing about politics, I have become an “untouchable.” While my left-leaning pieces are understandably ignored, everything outside of my writing has been ignored as well. Some of you have turned your back on me entirely, deciding that my progressive stance is grossly unacceptable—irredeemable even, and therefore unworthy of your friendship.

But I need to get something off my chest. Friends, your voices are always heard—perhaps more than you know. Because your worldview is consistent with most military spouses, your opinions and concerns are understood. They are acknowledged.

Mine are not.

And while it may be frustrating to have this tiny speck of blue dull your red portrait, please understand that it is not painted out of malice. Indeed, I am simply speaking my truth just as you are speaking yours. And—can I be blunt now?—even though you think you have been quiet for the past eight years, you haven’t.

No matter your opinion on politics in social media, I can assure you, your political leanings have been made painfully clear in public. It may feel like an impossibility. It may seem like an impropriety of unconscionable affect. But, nearly to a tee, it is true. In real life, far away from keyboards and Facebook notifications, your beliefs are made evident.

With offhanded comments you could not recall for any amount of money, with eye rolls and physical shudders as involuntary as the day is long, your views are consistently expressed and validated within a deeply conservative echo chamber.

I say this not with contempt, but with the perspective of an outsider.

And as your resident outsider, I can tell you this: I am not offended. While I regularly find myself smiling politely and ignoring inflammatory comments, I try not to let resentment grow. Because I know it is neither purposeful nor personal. I recognize that you are not using me as a punching bag, but rather assuming that I ascribe to your belief system. And who can blame you? The numbers are on your side.

The truth is, in our world at least, you are in the majority. You can assume everyone else agrees with you and ignore the reality that, at least sometimes, they don’t.

But can I ask something of you?

Can you give me the benefit of the doubt, too? Can you try not to be so offended by my differing opinions and pull away as soon as they are made clear? Can you, sometimes, let down your guard enough to let me in? The real me, I mean. Because I am who I have always been. I love you the way I always have. And I am a military spouse, too.

Give me a measure of patience. If willing, lend me your ear. But, more than anything, offer me your unconditional support and I will do the same. Because we are in this together, always.

 

  • C

 

 

 

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How To Support A Friend Post-Deployment

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When we lived overseas, my husband and I loved watching AFN commercials. They served as mini public service announcements for everything from looking both ways before crossing the street to recognizing signs of emotional and verbal abuse. Sometimes serious, sometimes silly, their well-intentioned and often low-budget productions became a staple of our time there. Years later, we still laugh about our favorites, like the one depicting abandoned shopping carts around post set against Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel” and this fun little ditty that always had me dancing around the house.

But there’s another commercial that has also stuck with me. It featured a woman crying at the kitchen table while her husband slams down a stack of papers in exasperation. Then it cuts to each one separately venting their frustrations to the camera: She feels that he has been distant and mean since returning home from deployment while he expresses annoyance that she didn’t keep records of household expenses while he was away.

At the time, the whole thing seemed very overdramatic, very extreme. I couldn’t understand how welcoming home a spouse from deployment could possibly be so difficult. After all, my husband and I had yet to endure deployment ourselves. It was an experience neither of us could prepare for outside of our own preconceived notions — assumptions, it turns out, that were more heavily influenced by popular culture than reality.

We’ve all seen the homecomings. In recent years, they have graduated from viral home videos to Super Bowl ads. Their popularity persists for the public at large, not just our relatively small military subset; and it’s easy to see why. They appeal to our patriotic natures and are deeply emotional in an intensely gratifying way.

If the success of Disney films have taught us anything, it’s that happily-ever-afters sell. We prefer to imagine our troops coming home to loving embraces and joyful tears. That’s all well and good but, in doing so, we forget that behind every pair of combat boots is a real person with real loved ones and that life goes on after the banners and ticker tape fade away.

The truth is, it can be hard… really hard.

Establishing a routine with a newly returned spouse is often just as difficult, if not more so, than the immediate aftermath of actual deployment. Each person has adapted to life apart only to be thrust into more transition. And while cultural norms allow for despondency – and even anger – when a soldier leaves, the expectation is entirely reversed for his or her return.

But change is always hard. It’s hard to adjust to another person’s needs after such a long absence. It’s hard to compromise on seemingly insignificant decisions like where to eat and what movie to watch after months of consulting no one but yourself. That’s to say nothing of the more significant hurdles like holidays, PCS’s, and parenting decisions, that can strain even the most solid of relationships.

If you’re lucky enough to have supportive friends or family close by, you may get offers for free babysitting or home cooked meals. Take them up on it. It’s so important to spend quality time together to readjust and reestablish intimacy, things which can suffer under the stress of children and chores. Enjoy a date night or two – hell, get out of town altogether if your finances and circumstances allow it.

All these things are wonderful and the people who go out of their way to help ease the transition can’t be disregarded. Perhaps you have even been that support for someone in their time of need. Go you! You rock!

I want to let you in on a little secret though…

…the most important thing you can do for the spouse of a newly returned soldier is far easier than cooking, cleaning, or babysitting. Really.

Are you ready?

Ask her how things are going. Really ask her.

Chances are, she’ll give you a run-of-the-mill answer that isn’t entirely honest — even if she’s your best friend. She’s not intentionally shutting you out. In fact, she may not have  processed her emotions enough to even know where to begin. But if you are careful to ask in a quiet moment when she has your undivided attention, she’ll know you are genuinely interested and not simply looking for the expected proclamations of boundless joy. She’ll know you see her.

Be sure to ask again a few days or weeks later. And then again.

It’s not about being nosy or obnoxious; it’s about showing real concern. Don’t hesitate to be direct and ask specifically what it’s been like having her partner home. If you can relate with a similar experience, share the ways in which the transition was difficult for you. Simply hearing another person acknowledge the challenges of post-deployment life can make all the difference for a military spouse. It relieves an uncomfortable pressure and allows for a measure of perspective.

Military life demands an almost supernatural toughness. It sees us through career changes, frequent relocations, and a multitude of other unforeseen difficulties. But sometimes we’re so busy maintaining that tough exterior that we forget to stop fighting and just be human again. After all, it isn’t acknowledging the difficulties of this life that make us weak, it’s insisting they don’t exist at all.

So the next time you’re in the position to help a friend post-deployment, remember that the high-flying euphoria of a military homecoming doesn’t last forever and she’ll need a friend to help heal the bumps and bruises in the fall.

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

For the MilSpouse: Making Your House Feel Like A Home

The military lifestyle can certainly be chaotic. With PCS’s often happening every couple years, and sometimes sooner, the idea of putting time and energy into personalizing your home can be overwhelming. What’s the point when the next set of orders is always around the corner, right?

With the vast majority of housing opportunities relegated to rentals and on-post living, there are often strict rules regarding tenancy, meaning painting and other major changes are often off limits. Even if you are fortunate enough to own your own home, chances are someone else will be renting it until your time in the military has ended. It’s no wonder I so often hear spouses resign themselves to feeling like they are living in someone else’s home.

It’s a struggle we all face in the military community; but after 7 years and 5 moves, I have come to embrace the idea that home is not a place, but a feeling. It’s crucial to this ever-changing life of ours and has helped me focus on the little ways in which I can cultivate that feeling in each and every place we live. Here are a few of the tricks I have learned along the way:

1.) Decorate for Every Holiday

Most of our PCS’s have occurred in late fall, meaning Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have sometimes been blurred over. I mean, who has time to decorate when you don’t even have cable yet?!

The thing is though, even a couple simple decorations go a long way toward making a cold, new space feel warm and inviting. No need to go bananas. A little goes a long way! Ask the movers to pull a box into the living room instead of shoving it into a corner of the garage. Better yet, take an extra moment to pull a box of decor aside before you move and then ask that it be loaded last onto the truck. That way it can be easily found on the other end.

This is something that has become increasingly important to me as our kids get older. It’s easy to forget that their world is thrown into chaos during a PCS, too. Making sure that simple traditions continue helps them feel safe and calm – in other words, like they are home.

And if you’ve never experienced the simple elegance of a little Christmas tree lighting up an empty room of boxes, well, you’re missing out on some magic.

2.) Use Wall Decals in Place of Paint

One of the biggest bummers about renting or living on post is that you are often stuck with boring walls. It can definitely be frustrating to see pictures of family and friends decking out nurseries and other living spaces in colorful hues while you stare at your Eggshell Beige blahness.

Life doesn’t have to be so bland. I have found wall decals to be a super easy and inexpensive way to liven up a new house. We have used both Fatheads and Room Mates brand, and had great success with both. The latter tends to be a bit more budget friendly but they both score high marks for staying power and ease of use. Neither seems to have issues with stripping paint upon removal. The good news is that the market for wall decals continues to grow so there are plenty of options for every budget!

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Storage closet turned colorful reading nook – thanks decals!

 

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Dr. Seuss also thinks you should keep reading Loud Is Ladylike!
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Some Curious George for curious little minds!

3.) Collect at Least One Distinctive Item in Each Location

One of the most exciting things about moving so often is getting to discover new cultures and environments. Always make it a point to explore your surroundings and make the best of each duty station. Along the way, pick up something special to display in each future home. Whether it’s a painting, a piece of furniture, or decor, try to find at least one item from each duty station that carries the distinctive flare of the region.

Perhaps your home will never have an integrated style worthy of a spread in Better Homes and Gardens, but it will certainly be filled with warm memories and plenty of conversation starters. And what is a home if not surrounded with reminders of fun, love, and adventure?

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Doesn’t everyone talk about Korean wedding ducks and soju with their dinner guests?

4.) Make Your Bedroom a Priority

As a parent, I know that we often put our own needs behind those of our kids. It’s part of the job description. But when you feel like your sanity is in question (please tell me I’m not the only one…) it’s important to have a sanctuary of your own in which to hide and pray the kids don’t find you for at least 3 minutes.

By virtue of being a military spouse, your life is a topsy-turvy crash course in chaos. You have so little control over everything else, it’s important to invest in a single relaxing space that almost makes up for the 50 half unpacked boxes littered throughout your house.

I advise going all out on this one, folks. Get the bedspread of your dreams with all the matching shams and decorative pillows. Those suckers aren’t cheap so budget your way to your goal. Add coordinating drapes if your finances allow. Remember, this is stuff that will follow you from place to place and isn’t likely to get damaged the way furniture does.

It may take some time to fully assemble all the pieces of your own personal zen den but, when you do, you definitely won’t regret it!

5.) Get a “Home Is Where the (Army, Navy, etc – pick your poison) Sends Us” Sign

I realize some people find these things cheesy and maybe they are. But can’t the same be said for a lot of your mom’s decor that now makes you nostalgic for home? Oh, wherever did you go, rolling pleather kitchen chairs? I almost, sort of miss you! Either way, I love them because they are a beautiful reminder of all the places you have been on this crazy journey. Embrace the cheesiness, friends. It’s worth it!

These can be found in a variety of shops on Etsy but can also often be found locally. Before making a decision, be sure the seller includes his or her information on the back so that future duty stations can be added later!

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I especially love this design by LittlePaintedThings. Check it out here!

6.) Invest in Simple Fixtures

Ditch the plastic curtain rod and install something nicer that isn’t prone to falling off the wall mid-shower. Ok, maybe don’t ditch it entirely – you’ll need it for move out. Ours was about $30 from Home Depot and matches the rest of our bathroom decor, which instantly made things feel more homey – more ours.

The same can be said of other small fixtures like light switch covers, towel rings, and even door handles. Most of these can easily be replaced with the originals upon move out without much fuss, making them ideal for providing a bit of continuity as you move from place to place. Make sure to organize the hardware into separate bags ahead of moving day so that pieces don’t get lost. With just a little bit of work, this is a one-time investment that can make all the difference as you get settled into a new place.

Whether you end up living somewhere for 6 months or 6 years, your house is an integral part of your experience at each duty station. Make it a priority. Make it yours. Make it a home.

 

  • C

 

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

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Don’t Just Survive Deployments, Embrace Them

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As military spouses, it’s something we all face sooner or later – as inevitable as the constant moves and unpredictable hours. Its presence is always on the horizon, shadowing every decision, every moment in between. It’s the inescapable reality of this life: deployment.

We all know it’s hard- damn hard. It’s not something any of us want. And it always requires great sacrifice from both the soldier and those back home. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s without value. In fact, it’s often those truly difficult seasons of life that help us to grow the most. So I say, let’s embrace its advantages – yes, advantages.

Ok, ok, let’s just get the elephant out of the room here and acknowledge the one definite, tangible, advantage that deployment affords our families: money. Situations vary widely but when both tax-free benefits and hazardous duty pay are added to monthly income, you may be looking at a good chunk of change. If you absolutely must endure a separation, this perk can definitely ease a difficult situation. Use the opportunity to get your finances in order or work toward a specific financial goal.

But, really, if you are a military spouse, you already know that; and it’s not the kind of advantage I’m getting after…

What I mean is this: Military life is going to be one tragedy after another if you don’t look for the positives and genuinely embrace them. Real tragedy, the kind the exacts a toll on human life is a reality in our world. We owe it to those who have given everything to give as much as we can, too. That doesn’t mean throwing in the towel every time the Army disrupts our plans or constantly complaining that this life is too hard. We all need a boost sometimes – I get it! But if you aren’t ready to face the realities of this lifestyle with the kind of optimism that it requires, you simply aren’t ready for it at all.

Those of you who endured the long, arduous, and recurring deployments of the Iraq and Afghanistan surges are welcome to throw a quick sucker punch  my way and take me down a notch. My comparatively blissful military life over the last seven years is 100% worthy of your derision. To you strong ladies, I tip my hat.

But, to clarify, the deployment schedules of today are significantly more relaxed and soldiers are generally not subject to the type of quick succession deployments that were the norm during the height of the wars.

So when we look at today’s military and its omnipresent realities, I think it’s important to remember the following:

Deployments can afford us a unique perspective on a whole host of important issues. 

It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20 and, usually, the insight that comes from such reflection ends up being too little, too late. But in the case of deployment, when the long months have finally come to an end it is possible to apply those insights in order to positively change one’s daily actions and outlook on life.

Unlike your civilian counterparts, you are forced to contemplate what life would look like without your spouse. The fear, the stress, the uncertainty – they are your constant companions for the duration of a deployment, along with the knowledge that your entire world could change in an instant. You jump when the doorbell unexpectedly rings, fearing the sight of uniformed soldiers bearing unimaginable news. You panic when a Skype conversation abruptly ends or when blackouts prevent you from contacting your spouse altogether.

When you finally wrap your arms around him upon his return, relief exhaled in every deep breath, you suddenly understand with an uncomfortable degree of clarity that not every spouse will get that opportunity. It’s a stark realization in a beautiful moment – but an important one.

The profound sense of appreciation for every facet of one’s life is undoubtedly a benefit to us and our families; but it’s up to us to recognize and cultivate it in a positive manner.

Deployments dig up wellsprings of strength.

Suddenly you find yourself alone, reliant on no one. No matter how independent you consider yourself, it can be quite unsettling to feel the weight of responsibility that settles in at the start of a deployment. But you roll up those sleeves and get to work changing tires, taking care of sick children, assembling furniture, and mowing the lawn because you must. And it’s not long before you do each of those things simply because you can.

Each chore may seem trivial in isolation but, taken together, they constitute a kind of general life competency that can sometimes get lost in marriage; and that’s essential because, as we know all too well, nothing is guaranteed in this military life. Should the unthinkable happen, it is important to carry the knowledge that you are tough, capable, and prepared – that you will be ok.

Deployments can bring you closer together as a couple.

Now we all know stories of couples who collapsed under the pressure of a deployment and spiraled rapidly toward divorce. It happens. But deployment certainly doesn’t have to ring the death knell for your relationship; and, in fact, can oftentimes solidify your bond if you resolve to work toward that goal.

The key is being prepared for the difficulties and acknowledging your shortcomings ahead of time. Do you hate small talk and spending hours on the phone? Do you tend to lash out at your partner when your stress level rises? Do you need time to decompress at the end of the day before engaging in real conversation? Hash all this out with your partner before he leaves and then keep one another accountable when issues arise.

It’s inevitable; you will argue at some point but there’s an interesting twist to fights during deployment as opposed to fights at home: there is always that sudden realization that a chunk of your heart is physically absent. When the reality of life without your partner stares you in the face, petty arguments tend to fizzle out a bit faster. It’s one of the great double edged swords that come with this lifestyle.

Of course, there’s also the deep appreciation you acquire for your spouse when his absence suddenly highlights all the ways in which he really makes your life easier. It’s hard to see in the muddle of everyday life, so much so that spouses inevitably find themselves bickering over who works the hardest and who isn’t pulling their weight. It can be so easy to find fault with our partner when he’s around to be taken for granted. But as soon as his every day contributions to your home life are taken out of the equation, it quickly becomes clear that perhaps your partnership isn’t quite as one sided as you once thought.

It’s the simple realizations, really; those quick, almost imperceptible recognitions we make each day of a deployment that sharpen our character and strengthen our marriages. It doesn’t make the separation any easier but it certainly can make the separation worthwhile if only we resolve to peek through the lens of positivity. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Surely you ladies know that better than anyone else. And, in that truth, we have a unique advantage over our civilian counterparts. So use it. Make it work for  your marriage and your family. Make deployments work for you.

 

  • C

 

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

10 Things your FRG Leader Wishes you Knew

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Almost every Army spouse has some working knowledge of what an FRG (Family Readiness Group) does or has had personal experience with it. At its core, the FRG is a command-sponsored organization that provides communication and support for families at both the Unit and Company levels. Some groups are extremely active while others exist primarily as a means of disseminating important information. And, if you are not totally new to Army life, it’s likely that your own FRG experiences have varied widely, as well.

Perhaps I am lucky in that our first duty station was overseas so our FRG had the added benefit of spouses actively searching for community and friendship, whereas those things tend to be of less importance when you’re stateside and have more access to non military friends and family. Our company’s FRG was led by a woman who exuded kindness, enthusiasm, and genuine concern: everything a good leader should embody. She quickly made me feel at home in my scary new Army life and is someone whom I still consider to be a very dear friend.

Since that time, I have twice been in her shoes. And while I have always tried to emulate her example, each of those experiences were vastly different. One was what I would consider a success while the other was… well… not. For months I agonized over what I could do differently and felt like a total failure. With time and perspective though, I have come to realize that there’s only so much one person can do. If I could go back and explain myself to the spouses from that failed FRG today, this is what I would tell them:

1.) We can’t do it alone

No matter how well intentioned your leader may be, your FRG cannot be successful without consistent participation. If you’re frustrated because your leader doesn’t seem interested in planning fundraisers or events, it may be because getting help in the past has been extremely difficult. Step up and offer your support. Convince your friends to chip in, as well. A small donation or a half hour of your time can make all the difference between failure and success.

2.) We are human too

Our kids get sick. Our marriages need attention. We get busy planning birthdays and holidays. We struggle through deployments. And sometimes, we just need a little break. All of this is normal. But spouses sometimes forget that you are an actual person with responsibilities and commitments outside of the FRG. An email or text may accidentally get overlooked because, well, we’re human. But any FRG leader worth her weight will never purposely ignore you. Give her the benefit of the doubt and try again.

Noticing a pattern of dismissive behavior is one thing but some spouses actually believe the FRG leader should be at their beck and call. I once had a spouse’s husband blast me on our Facebook page because I had missed his wife’s phone call several minutes prior. What he didn’t know? My phone wasn’t right next to me because I was at my own baby shower. And her urgent issue was that she didn’t have directions to a unit event despite the fact that they had been emailed out multiple times. Yell “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” enough and your FRG leader will have nothing left to give. Be kind. Be understanding. Be forgiving. And keep your expectations realistic.

3.) What you know is what we know

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It’s a never-ending game of Telephone

Unless your FRG leader is actually in the Army, chances are she doesn’t have any sort of security clearance. She will never be given sensitive data about troop movements or locations and any information she does receive is provided for the sole purpose of disseminating to fellow spouses. Rumors spread in a hurry, especially during deployments, but your FRG leader will never deliberately withhold important information from you. She has literally zero incentive to do that. So the next time so-and-so hears a unit related rumor from her husband’s buddy’s sister-in-law’s babysitter, take it with a grain of salt. If you are truly concerned, bring it up privately and listen for answers instead of confirmation of what you want to hear.

4.) We invest a great deal of time & money 

This is a big one. Even a “simple” meeting requires organizing a time and location that works for everyone, multiple e-mails, setting up childcare (if applicable), creating an agenda, and providing official documentation of activity. This is to say nothing of the food sometimes purchased for more formal meetings or the amount of money spent on fundraisers with so little participation from other members that it would inevitably be easier on everyone if the leader privately donated a large chuck of change and called the whole thing off. You may be wondering why we don’t just use money the FRG has previously raised but 1.) There are very strict rules regarding how those funds may be spent and 2.) That assumes your FRG has been active enough in the past to have any funds available.

Beyond that, memos are written, phone calls are made, meetings are attended, emails are answered, data is collected and organized, meals are provided, and a hundred other small but essential acts. We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t genuinely concerned about the well being of our families. All we ask is a little understanding and maybe to recognize our hard work with a simple, “thank you.”

5.) It’s oftentimes a “voluntold” position

Of course, you can’t be forced into being an FRG leader; and, obviously, that would have negative implications for everyone involved. But there is often a sense of duty surrounding the decision to be an FRG leader, irrespective of any other time restraints. We take on the position because we want to make a difference, not because we are power hungry, cliquey, or flaunting our husband’s rank. It is no exaggeration that each of those explanations have been offered to me as a reason why some spouses refuse to participate. And while I obviously can’t vouch for every person who has ever been an FRG leader, most of us actively reject those notions and try very hard to create a friendly, inclusive atmosphere.

The truth is, there is nothing glamorous about the job. There is nothing exciting about working your tail off, spending your own money, and getting yelled at by spouses, soldiers, or anyone else who crosses your path. If you have an FRG leader who never lets on that she deals with this stuff on a consistent basis, consider yourself lucky – you have a keeper!

6.) We want to be your friend

For real! We’re not kidding! Don’t forget, we are military spouses just like you. We miss our friends when we PCS and long to make new connections. There’s nothing fun about sitting in a meeting with a bunch of people you know nothing about. We want to goof around and plan our next wine night once the important business is out of the way! We’re not some untouchable faceless blob bombarding your email with updates and requests. If you swing by my house unannounced, I promise we can split a bottle of Pinot Grigio, make inappropriate jokes, and become BFFs!

7.) Miscommunications happen all the time

I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve spoken with somebody who refuses to participate in an FRG because they weren’t contacted by their leader. They feel as if they were purposely snubbed in some way and, while I sympathize, I have never heard of a situation where this wasn’t completely accidental.

In order to end up on an FRG roster, there needs to be seamless communication between a spouse’s soldier, a liaison officer, the commander, and the FRG leader. You can imagine how often things fall between the cracks before reaching that last person…  Again, we are all human and mistakes happen. If you haven’t been contacted, it is almost certainly because your FRG leader has not been given the information or the contact information she was given was incorrect or poorly written – I’m looking at you, grown adults with sloppy handwriting!

Before assuming the worst, seek out the information you are looking for from your spouse, a friend, or even a local Facebook group. Trust us, we want to meet you!

8.) Communication is key

Just as we can’t be held responsible when we don’t know you exist, we also can’t be expected to know about every problem if you don’t communicate. I have watched a lot of Long Island Medium but I’m sad to say that I still have no mind reading abilities. Big news, like hospitalizations, pregnancies, births, etc. usually reach us by word of mouth but it’s always a good idea to connect with your leader if you require assistance of some sort. If we send out an email requesting feedback, please take a short commercial break to shoot us an email or text. It can often feel like pulling teeth figuring out what’s important to our spouses and then wind up organizing events that no one is interested in.

Whether you are happy with the way things are going or frustrated with our performance in some way, we really value your input. All too often, I have found out through word of mouth about issues a spouse has that could have easily been resolved with a simple conversation. Understand that our entire purpose is to support YOU. Just, whatever you do, please be polite. The verbal smackdowns we endure are well above our (non) pay grade.

9.) We are not the commander

We may be married to the commander… or we may not. Either way, we are our own person. Whatever decisions he makes on the clock have nothing to do with us. It’s normal for a spouse to come home and vent about workplace frustrations. And it’s normal to feel frustrated for your spouse in those situations. But we may be entirely unaware of whatever situation has you upset. And we almost certainly had nothing to do with it because, say it with me now – we are not the commander. Contempt and hostility can shatter group morale and breed negativity. Just commit to being positive and remember that soldier interactions are irrelevant to FRG business.

10.) It’s worth your time

It really is. Even if your FRG isn’t monetarily successful or doesn’t have enough support to function at a grand scale, you will never regret giving it an honest chance. The women who comprise your FRG are a ready-made font of information when you have recently PCS’d. Take advantage of the resources they can provide. Recognize that they have your best interests at heart. And, eventually, you may realize that you have a lot in common.

At the end of the day, we are all in this crazy, fast-paced, unpredictable military life together. It’s a life many in the civilian world can’t fully comprehend. So embrace the ones who do! The shared struggles alone can usually bridge the gap between any personality differences that may exist. So just give it a shot. I have never regretted it and I’m willing to bet you won’t either.

 

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

 

 

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