Military spouses have the highest rate of unemployment among all groups.
For the past decade, military spouses have experienced an unwavering unemployment rate of 22%, making it one of the highest unemployed demographics in the United States.US Chamber of Commerce Foundation
First things first, the workplace often becomes the only safe place for spouses who endure domestic abuse. It is often even more difficult for victims involved with the military to discuss and report abuse because of geographical isolation from friends and family and a concern that a report will jeopardize the job of the active duty personnel involved in the relationship. (https://vawnet.org/material/fact-sheet-domestic-violence-military) So getting spouses to work can save their lives.
We press on.
There’s many complexities when it comes to military spouses in the workplace that are mostly related to having to move around and sometimes at short notices. There’s the fact that if they have children, the children will be the non active duty or non military spouses responsibility. Especially when the service member is deployed. (Which has a entire different set of complexities.)
And this also doesn’t include the complexities of being a spouse, parent, and service member. There’s a lot here. For the sake of experience that I can speak on, lets focus on military families where only one spouse is military.
As a veteran spouse who has never served, it very often felt like he held me to a higher standard than those around us. I’m not saying this is military culture but it was clear from the beginning that me(a navy wife) leaving with all his money was an established fear among him and his shipmates before I came around. I’m not, nor have I ever been, a woman who is driven by money. I’m a words and actions type of girl. So I felt like I had to keep proving to him that his money is safe and that I’d never empty his bank account. When I married him, I came with two things, big dreams and a baby girl. I wanted to see both grow and bloom. However, the toll on my body due to several miscarriages made me physically exhausted, sacrificing my dreams to support the household really brought me down. That was never my plan. I even tried to fight the good fight by doing makeup to keep my hope alive. A hope that I could produce something and provide for my family in a substantial way. At the end of it all, I learned I was a writer and that makeup artistry wasn’t my calling. So I placed my dreams on hold and focused on improving as a housewife until it was my turn to chase my dreams. No matter how long I had to wait, I’d return to them. After consistently miscarrying for 5 years, I finally birthed my second baby girl. That’s when our marriage began to fall apart. Even before it fell apart, I was furious. I was furious at God, I was furious at my husband. I felt I had sacrificed EVERYTHING at that point. My dreams, my entire body from head to toe, my free time, And even then, it felt like it still wasn’t enough. Finally, I said enough is enough. It’s my turn! I took some intentional time to myself. Consistently set boundaries. Thankfully the writing community has brought me through all of this and so much more. We now have a sprouting marriage, and we’re BOTH parenting and working toward our dreams in unison.
I learned a lot but here’s two things: That his opinion and support truly impacted me in so many big and small ways. Second: I learned that when I tried to verbalize my feelings and people silenced me, I should have trusted myself more.
Studies show service member spouses tend to experience unemployment and underemployment at a significantly higher rate than their peers. Begin to think differently about the appearance of resume experience gaps, frequent job changes, and other relevant topics.Disney Institute
And then after getting our marriage back on track, I sat in on the Veterans Institute presented by Disney and found out that I wasn’t the only one using entrepreneurship to keep my hope alive! Entrepreneurship among military spouses is the same way many spouses try to keep their hope alive and empower themselves. I was inspired to hear this! I even learned about a community supporting military entrepreneurship called The Rosey Network.
So I share all that to share this, spouse’s dreams are being worn down and whittled away while the family jumps through hoops to ensure their service member’s success. Let’s be clear, their service member’s success benefits more than just themselves, it benefits our entire country. And let me be clear one more time, I’m deeply honored to support it. The complexity is that it makes it hard for us to have space to choose ourselves.
So as a veteran spouse, I can’t speak for all military spouses but I can speak for myself when I ask my Veteran to let me live up to something great and be proud of me. I truly and deeply want to make you proud, not just because my legs look good in a dress or because I improve your chances of advancement. I want to make you proud because I’m good at my very own God given talents that are unique from your own. Support me as your spouse and let me be good at things even if they’re things that make you cringe. Be it loving academia, getting a bomb ass gpa, or wanting to go to school for the rest of my existence. I need your support more than I can often verbalize, no matter how strong and independent I seem.