I saw a meme online the other day that essentially said (and I’m paraphrasing): “You’re upset that the government is telling you what to do and changing your plans without notice? Welcome to life as a military spouse.”
I’m not trying to make light of our world’s current state of affairs as our nation works to collectively combat COVID-19 and responds to its effects; I do think, however, that there is some underlying truth to that meme’s message.
Whether you’re a relatively new military spouse or a seasoned veteran, our whole marriages have been spent in-training to be resilient when faced with considerable uncertainty.
How many of you have had orders change at the last minute, or worse, while in transit during a PCS?
How many times has your spouse come home to say that in a matter of days or even hours, they will be departing to an undisclosed location for an unknown matter of time?
How many critical decisions have you had to make with little to no information and just pray that it will all work out?
I’m looking at you:
who committed to an OBGYN without meeting them first because you were PCSing from overseas 34 weeks pregnant and that doctor was the only one who was taking new patients,
or who rented a home sight unseen because of a hot housing market,
or who agreed to an assignment with no information about the deployment rotation,
or who had to trust a relative stranger to be the alternate point of contact for your child’s school because you didn’t know anyone at your new duty station,
…and the list goes on.
Now, as information and circumstances are rapidly changing by the hour, far more people are experiencing the upheaval that we as military spouses have often experienced. And it’s scary for these folks because many have never had their routine, job, family, health, and more upended in the blink of an eye.
So, what can we do?
Well, for starters, we can step up and lead by example, showing our friends, family, neighbors, and communities how to manage with less in the face of adversity.
We can continuespreading patience, compassion, and grace that we’ve shown others when they were in the midst of uncertain times (e.g., a tumultuous PCS; a difficult deployment).
And, we can humbly submit to all of the things that are out of our control, like we’ve done so many times before. Not only have we overcome these challenges in the past, but we’ve also found ways to thrive in the present and be resilient in the future.
I bet you’re thinking, “that all sounds great, but what does that actually mean?”
Leverage your network. Do you have a friend or neighbor who’s suddenly found herself home with four school-aged kids indefinitely? Hook her up with a military spouse friend who homeschools on the regular with kids of similar ages so they can swap resources.
Check-in with your people. You are a seasoned pro at making do when your world is turned upside down, restricted, and shoved through the metaphorical wood chipper. Still, the civilians in your life aren’t. Social distancing doesn’t exclude calling, texting, emailing, or FaceTiming. (This includes checking in with your former and retired military people too. For many of them, it’s been years since their lives have been massively affected like this. While for some, it may be like getting back on the bike, others may have forgotten how to cope.) Connect and share some of those crazy stories you have. By no means will it mitigate the severity of what we’re facing, but I guarantee whoever you reach out to will appreciate some comedic relief. Share about that time Sniffles the Cat peed on the customs official after a harrowing 18-hour journey to Korea.
Share your creative solutions. Remember those completely random yet incredibly delicious meals you made before PCSing that used up all of the random ingredients in your pantry? Post them! Remember the games or activities that required little to no supplies that you did in an empty house because your HHGs were gone or hadn’t arrived yet? Share them! We’re in this for the long haul, and everyone needs all of the inspiration they can get.
Exercise compassion and demonstrate grace. If you hear someone is struggling, check-in more often, or connect them with resources and people you may know about in their community. Military spouses have connections all over the world, and times of uncertainty can affect people in drastically different ways. We have to help each other cope and manage as well as possible, so once we come out of this on the other side, we have a happy, healthy, and supported network.
What other ways can you think of to help support our non-military loved ones during this trying time?