When I was first an Air Force wife, and at that time an active duty officer, I scoffed at being active in the squadron. I thought that many of the spouses were little old hens, that would gossip, spread rumors, and to be frank live vicariously through their husbands and children. For many spouses this was true, but I also have seen the negative results for not participating with unit events. It’s not about wearing rank, making an appearance, or giving your husband a better career. I learned that connecting with other military spouses of all ranks, ages, and branches gives a support structure while your husband is TDY or deployed. It’s hard to ask for help when you need it if you are never showing up for some of the social activities. There are horror stories out there, I have experienced them first hand, but when you get down to it, it has been generally a positive experience.
The group I’m stationed with right now is wonderful. I think a lot of it has to do with similar interests. Most of the spouses in my husband’s unit all have an interest in fitness. We all participate in endurance sports, we enjoy going to the beach, and we even have similar tastes in restaurants, movies, and past times. Having kids helps with the sense of connection. All of our children are within a year or two of each other. There aren’t really any parents with children much older or much younger than 7 or 8. The children are involved in the same activities, so we see each other frequently throughout the week.
The first several deployments I went through, I didn’t have any connection to the spouses. The first deployment, I was still active duty, and felt kind of shunned by the other spouses. Very few of them worked, those that did were active duty, and were not really in the “in” clique. The second deployment, my husband was with the Army. The Army manages deployments much differently than the Air Force, so we would have Airmen deploying for 4-5 months at a time, while the Army deployed for 13-14 months. There were not a lot of other spouses in the Air Force to hang out with, and the Army has a different set of decorum and rank sensitivity that just doesn’t exist in the Air Force. I recall getting yelled at for calling the Colonel’s wife when I was stationed in Germany. The last deployment before this one, my son was recently diagnosed with autism, and one of the older spouses called me out for being overly protective and sensitive. I recall being told to “just get a sitter,” as if that were easy to do for an infant and preschooler with autism. I even was told in front of a group of younger wives that my son didn’t really have autism. I had friends and family questioning my sanity, questioning my parenting when it came getting my son diagnosed. He most assuredly does have autism, and it’s not like the condition I have, his autism is far more obvious. I felt all the questioning was ostracizing, and I didn’t want to be around people who were going to judge my motivations.
This time, I have a different attitude about everything. I’m no longer the young Lieutenant, who thinks I am too good to hang out with a plain old military spouse. My husband is a higher rank, and I realize that it’s not that big of deal, and that many of the spouses I encountered while I was younger were just insecure, or they really were bitchy. I don’t really care why people think of my children. I have also come to realize that I need to surround myself with supportive and accepting people. Every one has warts, every one has issues, and no one is perfect. I accept that with my friends, and they accept that with me. It is important for military spouses to make friends, and surround themselves with supportive friend-base, and these friends are not the friends that you have on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, they are flesh and blood people.