My husband I were married for about 5 years before I really started to think of myself as a Military Spouse. I know that sounds weird because, of course, I was a Military Spouse – he was/is in the Military and I was/am his Spouse but I really didn’t identify with that label until we moved overseas. To be honest, I didn’t really have any idea what it took to be a Military Spouse.
When I think back to our wedding day I know that I was proud to become his wife and I was and am very proud of the job that he does in the Royal Navy but I still felt like the label of Military Spouse was one that didn’t quite belong to me yet. When we lived in Scotland, we were very fortunate to never have to face a move as a family until the move to America in 2018. My husband had several different postings but they were all in Rosyth or Helensburgh, both just about driveable from our family home. We never experienced life ‘inside the wire’ on a base and I only really knew one or two other spouses so it just felt like another world I didn’t need to be a part of.
Even when he was due to be posted to a ship we got incredibly lucky and he was posted to one of the aircraft carriers being built in Rosyth so he didn’t actually sail with her and he got to come home to us every night. I’m sure there is still a part of him that would have liked to get his first choice and sail around the Antarctic but I think family time helped ease the pain of missing out on penguins!
The other reason that I didn’t particularly feel like a military spouse was that we didn’t really get involved in many of the Navy functions. We only really attended one dinner in the Mess – a Burns Supper. That was also our first night away after our first child was born and my first proper hangover in almost two years! Certainly one to remember…
When we moved to Pennsylvania I felt like I grew into being a Military Spouse. The first real network of friends I made were an awesome group of International Military Spouses (see Finding Our Village) and suddenly we all had shared experiences and an understanding of what it takes to move your whole family thousands of miles away from home. I finally felt like I had something in common with other Military Spouses.
Since then I have also become part of another Military Spouse group and I have connected with so many Military Spouses on Instagram that I kind of feel part of the gang at last. I know many Spouses feel irritated by the term ‘dependents’, which is how we (and any kids) are often referred to, particularly when it comes to visas, etc. I can see why, because Military Spouses are a strong breed and have to deal with a lot very much INdependently of their spouse.
Most Military Spouses will have to deal with a deployment at some stage and whether that means suddenly living alone or suddenly being a single parent, it is a tough adjustment. Add into that worry about what your spouse is experiencing and any danger they might be in and it can be very challenging to navigate your way through a deployment. I know many people who have been pregnant or even given birth without their partner by their side and I can’t imagine what it takes to get through something like that. These people are clearly not ‘dependent’ on their spouse, they have amazing strength and can manage just about anything that is thrown at them.
Personally, I don’t mind the ‘dependent’ label quite so much. I know that in our family, my husband and I are a team and are dependent on each other in various different ways. For a start, I am dependent on him for the money to keep our family in clothes and water because I am not doing any paid work while we are in the USA. At the same time, he is dependent on me to keep on top of the ‘household admin’ and organise the kids’ busy social calendars! I guess we are also both dependent on the Navy deciding where and when we will go next. My kids and I wouldn’t be in the USA right now if it weren’t for my husband and his job in the Navy so it doesn’t bother me too much to be labelled his ‘dependent’.
We are dependents in some ways but most certainly not in all!
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