Now, I am not going to lie; I was a little bit shocked! Because, well, during a global pandemic wasting your time is the least of your worries, but mostly it was because people believe this military wife stereotype to be true. People believe that military wives, husbands, spouses, partners – whichever you pick – waste their days following the flag and being invisible behind the camouflage. I know from my years as a member of this community that this could not be further from the truth. So why do people still believe it? Why does society believe it? Why have they have been allowed to believe it for such a long time? Because dear Milspo, I am sad to say that the biggest culprit, the people who have let them believe this is the community itself.
I have fought against the label of military spouse for such a long time. I have hidden it in job interviews, lied about it to new friends, and never bought it up in conversation. By doing this, it’s given other people the ability to define the label ‘Military Spouse’. I have taken away one of the few chances I have to define myself.
And I don’t want that any more. I want to claim that term and define it my way. I want to show the world that you can be a business leader, an entrepreneur, a fantastic parent, etc. etc. or none of those things AS WELL as being a military spouse, not DESPITE of it. The two options aren’t mutually exclusive. I want to be proud of being a military spouse, not embarrassed by it. Because after all, if I don’t own it and fight against the stereotypes that other people are ALLOWED to make, that stereotype is never going to change. They will always be allowed to write the narrative and assume what they have seen before is fact.
But when I go into those interviews and those conversations, and I own the label of military spouse and I show people a different truth – the REAL truth – then actually things CAN change. By changing the conversation around military spouses, it paves the way for those that follow.
For example, I used to work in children’s publishing. During our first posting, I spent three months working as a designer covering someone’s maternity. The employer knew I was a military spouse when I applied for a full-time role in the same company, which is why they didn’t offer me the job, even saying in the interview that they couldn’t employ me because I would be moving in a few years. By the end of the three months, they were right; it was time for me to move on. However, during those three months, their opinion towards how military spouses were and how they worked had changed massively. I like to think that the next time they encountered a military spouse, they would change their unconscious bias and employ them.
Wait! I know what you are thinking: it does seem a bit absurd for anyone to define themselves by the occupation of their partner – I can only think of those married to heads of state who might fall into this – US First Ladies perhaps, or Prince Philip at a push, and maybe the odd footballer’s wife…? But genuinely, I can’t think of anyone this side of the 1950s who would want to do that. Somehow, yet again, we don’t get that choice. Society has decided that we are ‘Military Wives’ or ‘Military Husbands’ – or ‘Military Spouses’ if you find someone particularly open-minded. Society has defined that we have this label and has made us feel embarrassed. So we’ve got that label, how about we claim it back for ourselves?
Because after all, we live in a world that revolves around the military. No matter where we live, or how we work, our lives at some point will be affected by our partner’s choice of work more than any industry I can think of.
So let’s not be ashamed or embarrassed by our military spouse tag. Just because the rest of society buys into a stereotype doesn’t mean that we have to buy into it too.
We don’t have to be what society is telling us to be. WE can change the conversation, and actually, we have a responsibility to do just that. So please own your label as a military spouse, partner and other-half. Embrace it! Show the world how amazing we are because you never know one day you might end up being the next Milspo applying for that job, right after someone has paved the way and it’s going to make your life a damn lot easier if that employer knows precisely how epic we are! (and it also stops that nonsense on Twitter!)
Jess Sands is the founder of The Milspo Business Network, and owner of design agency Design Jessica.
The Milspo Business Network™ is a global network that supports all UK military spouses, partners and other halves to build the business of their dreams. Focused on digital solutions to provide valid and functional training, networking and access to an inspiring community not limited by location. A network to help inspire this often isolated but inspirational community living the ‘magnolia walled life’ and running their own business.
Open to all, the network of over 600 business owners regularly runs events, networking and provides free business support each month. Join the community here – https://milspo.co.uk/community/