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.
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
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?
Melinda 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!