It hit me when I was pinning gold leaves on my husband’s collar one unusually hot February afternoon: I’m not the “new spouse” anymore. But, I didn’t feel ready to be a spouse with answers; I still had a whole mess of unanswered questions. I still use names like, the Jack Nicolson and the wedding one to describe my husband’s uniforms. I know they have real names. I know I should probably know what they are after nearly eight years, but I can only fit so many penguins on my iceberg — I have to leave room for school pick-up and drop-off times, my own phone number and, of course, my sponsor’s social.
We are all learning as we go. We all went through that “stupid question” phase. If we’re being honest, we’re all still going through that phase because the minute we have something figured out, someone changes it.
My purpose in showing my military spouse age is not to invite comments about how I don’t look a day older than my first deployment brief or how I am wise beyond my military spouse years. Although, if you feel compelled, who am I to stop you? Really, my point is to spike participation in…well…everything.
Lack of volunteerism among military spouses is an ongoing issue — go figure, it’s the one thing that never changes from installation to installation. Don’t misunderstand — there are always, always a handful of ladies and gentlemen who do the work of many with just a few of their own hours to work with. I know, for myself at least, I’ve always put off getting involved until my kids were older and I had a better handle on this whole military spouse thing. Realizing I’m no longer new at this made that new-spouse expiration date hard to ignore.
We are all busy; we are all perpetually the new kid after each move. We all have our kids, fur babies, jobs or school that vie for our time, and we couldn’t possibly add anything else into the mix. But there’s a cyclical stigma with volunteering: People avoid it because they don’t want it to take over their agendas, but because most people are hesitant to get involved, five people do the work of 500. The cycle continues with that, “If I don’t make eye contact, you won’t call on me,” mindset — because we don’t want to have another thing to do at the end of an exhausting day. But volunteering doesn’t have to swallow up our time, and it shouldn’t. If everyone in the military community found something to do once a month there wouldn’t be so much work to pile on the regular volunteers.
Volunteering somehow, somewhere in the military community is worth our time because we can:
- Support military-community programs that support us and incoming military families
- Learn on the job
- Make new friends
- Network with other spouses
- Add some community involvement skills to our resumes
- Be a part of decisions that shape the military community
You don’t have to do it all, but we all just have to do something. So, the next time you get an invitation in your inbox or your service member comes home with spotty details about something you could do (you know, if you want), get the details before you number off the reasons you can’t do it (believe me, no one is guiltier of this than I am). Chances are all we’ll have to do is give two or three hours of our day — that’s pretty harmless. And carving out a little time now will ensure that popular programs and services are around for the next round of incoming military spouses and service members.