The profile of the military spouse is changing.
In the past, it was commonly accepted that military spouses would stay at home. We’d raise our children, give up our careers and perhaps hold jobs that were blissfully portable. We’d work for a direct sales company, and balance this with attending military events and managing children who struggled with every move to a new city, state or country.
These days, many millennial military spouses don’t have kids. A lot of us are bound and determine to have the very careers we dreamt of and avoid making sacrifices.
There are good and bad things about this, but either way, we’re a new generation of military spouses.
Here’s my little disclaimer: these are, of course, generalizations.
Within each generation of military spouses, there are inevitably people who defy other people’s conceptions and those who meet them perfectly. With that said, a lot of millennial military spouses bring new values and ideas to the table. This is the result, in part, of being raised by baby boomers who taught us that we could truly do whatever we want and achieve any goal we set with hard work.
We’re optimists who feel like the world is at our fingertips because, thanks to technology, it pretty much is. We’re young men and women who prefer texting to phone conversations, who are accustomed to having access to anything with the touch of a button and who find ways to make anything portable — even seemingly immovable careers.
That’s who we are.
But there are a lot of things we aren’t, contrary to the beliefs of other military spouses and civilians looking in on our military world. Here are just a few of the misconceptions I’ve heard about millennial military spouses and why they are far from the truth.
1. Millennial military spouses are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to sustain our military marriages. We’re the selfish generation.
Past generations of military spouses made of lot of incredible, admirable sacrifices so their significant others could move all over the world, deploy and thrive in their careers. They don’t see us giving up our jobs, staying home with kids, and attending military events at our spouse’s side. So yes, it looks like we aren’t prepared to give things up.
The reality is, our sacrifices in modern times are much more discreet.
A lot of us changed career tracks when we found out that we couldn’t follow our original professional goals. I’ve met many military spouses who went back to school to get degrees in fields with more portable career options. I’ve met innumerable others who, thanks to technology, have found ways to work remotely at their old jobs when they PCS’ed. There are also many freelancers who write blogs, produce YouTube videos or run websites. Technology has opened up the options for careers.
With our careers thriving, we have had to send our kids to daycare or employ babysitters to help out. Still more of us have decided to wait to have kids; we’re eager to see how far we can build our professional lives before we fully settle down.
Our millennial service members are wonderfully supportive and flexible. They understand when we can’t come to an event due to work and they help with kids to balance the load.
2. We have very traditional, “old school” values and ideas about the world.
A lot of people outside of the military assume that all military families are extremely traditional, conservative (not just politically, but in lifestyle), and “by the book.”
The military family is changing, because service members and their spouses have grown up in a different world. We grew up in a time when people were buzzing about “social justice.” We read online articles, Facebook posts and tweets from our friends about legalizing x, y, or z “controversial” topics. We have access to so many different opinions and sources of information and it broadens our understanding of complex social and political issues.
It’s inevitable that we are conditioned to see things a little differently. We’ve seen women join the Army Rangers, the legalization of same-sex marriage and strides to increase diversity in the ranks of the military.
Several military spouses who I went to school with became advocates for important social issues, deciding to become lawyers or journalists who write about and argue for reform in the justice system, law enforcement and the military.
Republican or Democrat, religious or agnostic, military spouses now live in a world where the “traditional” nuclear family looks a little different, women are taking on more leadership roles and people hotly debate political issues online. Thanks to our exposure to new perspectives, we may have the same deep-seated morals and traditions as our parents, but we do see the world (and our role in it) in new ways.
3. We suck at communication.
By comparison to our predecessors, millennial military spouses are very unromantic. We don’t send countless love letters and photos to our deployed husbands and wives (although I’m sure some still do, and that’s awesome). We don’t all rush home to make phone calls or sit by the phone for fear we will miss a call during a deployment.
We’re lucky – we have so much access to our loved ones. Email, Facebook, texting and Skype all make it easier for us to stay in touch.
So it’s not that we aren’t communicating. It’s simply that we can communicate whenever we want to.
If our service member can’t talk on the phone, they’ll send an email or a quick text that says, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” We don’t experience deployments the same way, since Skype enables us to see our spouse’s faces from thousands of miles away. We’re lucky.
While other generations seem to think that we are too wrapped up in technology to have meaningful interaction with others, we think that we are perfectly plugged in.
Technology strengthens our interactions, at least when it comes to military relationships where there are often hundreds or thousands of miles between you and your partner.
This set of misconceptions is really only a brief sketch of the millennial military husband or wife. The modern military spouse can’t be understood through a simple list of what he or she “looks” like. However, this is a sampling of how people seem to see him/her.
It’s also an opportunity to portray how very different all military spouses (no matter their age) are from one another and from the vision others have of them.
The best thing about the modern military spouse is how unique they are – how eager they are to embrace their individuality. This means that no matter how comprehensive, no list can truly capture what it means to be married to the military today.