Building Confidence as a Military Spouse
I have to admit, some of the first military spouses I met as a newlywed Navy wife exuded confidence. I secretly wished for the day that I might also feel like I knew enough about the military lifestyle and sub-culture that I’d have some knowledge to pass on to a younger spouse.
The years went on, we experienced all sorts of things as a military family, but it wasn’t until my husband hit the 20-year mark that I woke up to the fact that just maybe I’d learned a thing or two.
Like a thirty or forty-year-old still waiting to feel like a grown-up. Inside you might feel unsure or inadequate, but the mirror and the calendar tell an entirely different story.
The truth is that everyone’s military journey is unique. We don’t all experience overseas moves, have a baby during a deployment, and know the proper etiquette to a military ball. But you know something. You know how to get your ID card, the meaning of a few acronyms, and possibly the best place to eat on your base. Reflecting on the unique journey you’ve navigated can help build confidence that just maybe, you do have something to pass on to the next one in line. And you don’t have to wait until the tail-end of your spouse’s career to share what you’ve learned and save someone else the trouble of navigating Tricare or the base housing office alone.
Officially, there are numerous organizations where you can connect with other spouses and share your knowledge and experience with others:
- Military Spouse Advocacy Network: This incredible network facilitates mentor/mentee relationships to educate, empower and support brand-new military spouses. Partnerships are branch specific, so a Navy mentor will be paired with a new Navy spouse and so on.
- USO: There are over 200 USO locations worldwide that provide programs, entertainment and services. Find one near you and volunteer at a special event, homecoming, or assist with center activities. Your perspective as a military spouse is truly valuable in this capacity while interacting with active duty personnel.
- Blue Star Families: Volunteer with this amazing organization that connects military families with their neighbors in the community. Blue Star Families helps military families overcome challenges of frequent moves and deployments. If you’re looking to connect with local businesses and increase community engagement, this is the place for you.
- Command FRG/Spouse group: Not all commands lend themselves to a formal “group” to join and connect with, but if yours does, it’s a great place to start. It’s likely that you have some knowledge to pass on and perhaps you’ll meet someone who can give you the lowdown on area schools. Hey, we’re all still learning something!
Unofficially, building confidence as a military spouse can happen one conversation at a time:
- Speak Up: Have you ever overheard a conversation at the base pool perhaps, where two young spouses were discussing their upcoming move and agonizing over how they were going to keep all the details straight? You sensed the overwhelm in their voices, but you kept quiet, all your years of knowledge kept smugly inside? This is the time to casually butt-in! How else are they going to hear about My Ultimate PCS app or learn to take pictures of their stuff before the movers haul it away? It’s a lesson you learned the hard way and it’s time to pass on your knowledge.
- Online Forums: Social media has made connecting with military spouses across the globe possible and easier than ever. It doesn’t need to suck all of your time, but joining a Facebook group like MilSpouse Tribe, which is positive and uplifting, can provide a way to trade knowledge and experience with others.
- Humility: Of course you’ve learned a thing or two in your military journey. You know when new movies are released at the base theater and you’ve got your power of attorney at the ready. But, you may still get stumped on a new acronym or need a recommendation for a medical specialist in the area and there’s no shame in asking for help or admitting you don’t know everything.
All military spouses have something to bring to the table, and when we connect, share and support in a positive manner, there’s no stopping us.
We truly are #bettertogether.
So, make a list if you have to, and remind yourself of all you’ve been through and learned and then find a way to pay it forward, either officially or unofficially. You’ve got something to offer and another military spouse is just waiting to learn from you!