6 Reasons Why Millennial Military Spouses Avoid Mandatory Fun

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by Melinda Jones, Guest Contributor

Trying to get young military spouses to attend a military social event (otherwise known as mandatory fun) can be like trying to get my dog into the bath. It’s not going to be easy; there will be hiding, evasive maneuvering and the possibility of flat out ignoring of repeated calls.

You can try to woo these young military spouses with treats and prizes, but what worked on me seems to not work on the millennial spouses.

6 Reasons Why Millennial Military Spouses Avoid Mandatory Fun

What is it that has this younger generation hiding and shaking in the corner at the mere thought of attending a military function?

In the nearly 20 years that I have been married to the military, there has been an obvious decline in spousal attendance at everything from FRG meetings to Boat BBQs. I don’t have any statistics or studies to back up any of my theories, just my own personal observations:

6 Reasons Why Millennial Military Spouses Are Avoiding Mandatory Fun

6 Reasons Why Military Spouses Avoid Military Mandatory Fun

1. Preconceived Notions of What Military Life Will Be

Stereotypes of military members and their spouses abound in our culture. There are some people that, when they marry into the military, have no idea of what life around the military is actually like and have only these generalizations to go by.

Perhaps these newlyweds assume everything is JUST LIKE it is on Army Wives, complete with non-stop scheming, explosions and all other types of drama. As a result, these newbie military spouses avoid anything military-related.

Then again if that’s all they have to go on, can you blame them?

2. Desire to Have a Life Outside of the Military

At times it feels like your whole life revolves around the military: from where you live, to when your spouse is home, to when you can take vacations, to planning your family…OK, hold on, let me start over; your life revolves around the military.

That being said, a lot of military spouses just want a little slice of military-free life and the only place that they can really attain that is through their own social lives. They need to get away from “all military all the time” and they simply don’t want to use their free social time to attend military events. Not to mention, if you have to go through the trouble of getting and paying for a babysitter, most people would probably prefer to spend a kid-free evening out alone with their spouse and not in a room full of their spouse’s co-workers.

3. The Times They Are a’Changin’

When I was newly engaged, HBO had a special called From the Earth to the Moon. One episode was titled “The Original Wives Club.” Not having grown up around anything military related, I sat down to watch it thinking “oh! This will be helpful.”

Well, it wasn’t…at all.

My fiancé walked in and saw me sitting on the floor, a snotty, teary mess. I pulled myself together just enough to point to the perfectly coiffed ladies on the TV, sitting in their primly pressed dresses, ankles crossed, gloved pinkies delicately pointing as they sipped tea and discussed casseroles.

I told him “I can’t do that! That’s not me! I can’t be perfectly presentable all of the time! I don’t want to have people over to discuss casseroles and Jell-O molds!”

It took him awhile, but he got me calmed down and assured me that that’s not what it’s like anymore. Well, how was I supposed to know?

In the past wives were expected to have an active role in their husband’s career. (We say wives and husbands because we’re talking about the old days… a long, long time ago.) While that may remain true for some spouses in particular situations, for the most part the requirement for spouses to attend every function and the pressure to entertain just isn’t there as much as it used to be. Thank goodness because my gloves wouldn’t last through one tea.

4. An Increase in Military Spouses in the Workforce

Daytime events are becoming harder for military spouses to attend as many of them work outside of the home and are not able to take time off.

5. The Kids’ Insanely Busy Crazy Schedules

I have 2 active kids neither of whom can drive. When my husband is gone, my evenings are spent driving between practices, meets and games. Anything scheduled for the evenings (or on Soccer Saturdays) is pretty much a no-can-do for me.

OK, yes, there’s also the fact that after acting as chauffeur 5 nights a week, an evening in with the family watching a movie, eating popcorn and being able to have a glass of wine before 9 p.m. totally trumps any desire I may have of going through the hassle of making myself presentable and mustering enough energy to be social.

6. Connecting Online Before, After and During the PCS

Before Facebook or Instagram, people thousands of miles away from family and friends usually felt the need to connect with someone when arriving at a new duty station. Back in the day, they most likely did that through the FRG or the spousal group.

Now however, connecting with someone is just a couple of clicks away.

A couple can show up at a new duty station and the spouse may already have joined half a dozen groups that are more in line with her interests and she may not feel the need to get to know the military community.

Skype or FaceTime also make it much easier to stay better connected with people back home…an option that some of us *ahem* may not have had “way back when.”

Are you seeing a decline in attendance at military spouse social events? Why do you think so many military spouses are avoiding socializing with other military spouses? 

Photo by Leslie at www.LavishBoudoir.comMelinda grew up in Oregon where her family has been for over a hundred years. Always the one to “do something different,” she married a sailor and has been moving ever since. Self-proclaimed professional mover and chauffeur of her two kids, Melinda writes wherever, whenever she can (often times while sitting in the car). As a freelance writer she’s had articles and stories published online and published a short story, “My Dad’s Delivery” in They Lied! True Tales of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Breastfeeding!

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. A lot of this is true, for me personally I don’t like going cause it’s like going back to high school. At least the FRG groups I’ve tried getting involved with. Drama and if your not part of the “in” group forget being acknowledged for anything

  2. I am sorry, but I do not think you touched on the most important part of why younger people, or anyone for that matter takes the time of day for the Family Readiness Group. Before I qualify that answer I must first say that I was in the military for 13 years and spent a 2 year deployment (22 months really) in Iraq. The reason people shy away from mandatory fun, is simply because it isn’t. To be more politically correct the military has cut out all drinking or any other activity that might be considered dangerous or unsafe, (I will also say that yes I, and many other people can have fun without alcohol) guess what we made the choice to get in, and to fight for the right to have freedom so why would we constantly agree to being told we can’t exercise our freedom. There are no late night bon fires, no 4-wheelers, motorcycle rides, the list goes on and on…. and these things are done all in the name of keeping us safe? This combine with the fact that when you do go to these barbecues, or whatever function that has been created, gossip about the person is more likely than actually talking to them. Many people believe that what works for them will work for everyone else. Piper is very accurate about the “In-Group”, but that aside, mandatory fun just isn’t because people feel the need to protect the group when in fact they are just asserting their dominance instead of letting people enjoy themselves. I will qualify that last statement that if someone is endangering themselves or others they should be stopped, but most times this isn’t the case.

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