We all have a picture of the perfect military spouse, probably created by watching too many war films and hearing stories from older military wives. In modern America do we still have to live up to that picture perfect role? First of all, the military spouse is no longer just the military wife. Military husbands are increasing. Secondly, times are changing, and while we may be expected to help keep a home and build a family there is much more to the life of a military spouse than cooking and cleaning. Here are some habits of successful military spouses.
- Take time for yourself. Whether it is taking a class at the local community college or pursuing your career you need to find a way to keep yourself refreshed. It will give you more energy for dealing with family issues and help you remain strong when times are difficult, such as when your service member is deployed. Make sure to get out of the house, give the kids to a sitter, and really work on improving yourself at least once a week.
- Diversify your friends. The easiest way to make friends after a PCS is to mingle with the other military spouses. They understand what you are going through and they are likely to accept you for who you are. While these are great friends to have, surrounding yourself with only military spouses can lead to a state of competitiveness and closed, gossipy circles. Instead, try to diversify your friends by getting to know both military spouses and seeking out civilian friends. This can be particularly difficult if you are living on an isolated military base but make sure to make an effort.
- Educate Yourself Financially. With the high demands of a military career budgeting and financial decisions about the home usually fall on the spouses. In order to protect your sanity and get your family off to a good start it is important to increase your awareness of your finances. Every military spouse should know how to make a budget, and how to stick to that budget. Proper budgeting will make military pay stretch in ways you never imagined. You should also begin educating yourself about various savings and investing programs to make sure you have plenty of money to send your children to college. While you are at it, do some research about the various scholarship programs for military spouses and children. Finances can intimidate some people, but either take the time to read a few financial articles online every week or consider enrolling in a basic finance class at your college or community center.
- Learn to cook. True, the days of military spouses staying in the kitchen and baking pies all day are gone, but that doesn’t mean you should not know how to cook and keep a house. The truth is that even if you have a successful career and you intend to keep working while your spouse is in the military, there will usually be a few months after every PCS when you are looking for a new job. To save money during that time you should make yourself useful around the house. Watch a few cooking shows and look up plenty of recipes online. Once you get back to work you can go back to ordering takeout, but cooking tasty, healthy meals is an important skill for anyone to have.
- Know what’s going on in the world. As a military spouse you should understand at least the basics of how the military works and where the U.S. military is currently engaged around the world. To be able to support your spouse you should understand how promotions and trainings work, and also be able to engage in a bit of, “military speak.” However, this doesn’t mean that you should get so wrapped up in military life that you forget what it is like to be a civilian. Understand it, use it to your benefit, but don’t become it.
- Take advantage of cultural opportunities. Every PCS is an opportunity to explore a new culture, whether it be a new area of the U.S. or an entirely different country. If you have children you should definitely get out and take advantage of this opportunity, but even if it is just yourself you should try a bit of immersion. Learn to cook and eat new foods, learn a new language, or just enjoy the different type of art every city has. If you don’t take advantage of these little things, the constant moving can prove to be depressing at times.
The military spouse wears many different faces these days. Meeting all of the military spouses from your service member’s post should be exciting and full of surprises, not cookie-cutter copies of the same perfect woman. Follow a few basic tips for success, and make the rest up as you go.