Now that's a phrase that can mean a lot of different things to different people. For some, it conjures up images of a prim and proper housewife in pearls, making sure that dinner is on the table when her soldier comes back from work, no matter how late that is. For others, it is a modern woman, wearing an army t-shirt with her kids in tow, doing the shopping while her husband has been away at training for weeks. Or maybe you picture a grieving widow, a woman who loves a man that made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Whatever image you have, and there are many more to choose from, the term Military Wife tends to evoke strong feelings in many Americans.
An Army Wife
Those feelings seem to be even stronger when it comes to the term Army Wife. I don't know if that negative image was sparked by the show "Army Wives" or if it is the show that exploited an often undeserved stereotype. For the record, I've only ever seen the first episode. I watched the pilot alone while J was deployed, spend the whole night crying, and vowed never to do that again.
I do want to state that I do not have any notion of an Army Wife as being lazy, greedy, gossiping, cheating, living off of her husband's career, etc. I'm actually not entirely sure what all the stereotypes are since most of the women I've met married to soldiers have been wonderful, kind, welcoming, and generally the kind of people anyone would love to be surrounded by. My objection to being called an Army Wife has nothing to do with stereotypes, with the possible exception of that fact that it makes me mistakenly think of a stay at home mom, a title I never want to have, though I respect that choice of the women that do. I say mistakenly, because most of the women I've met in the army work, and many of those that don't wish they could find a job in their career. No, my objection has to do with my absolute rejection of being defined by my husband's career.
A Landscape Architecture Husband
Reading the above "a Landscape Architecture Husband" probably made you wince. For one, it's an awkward term. For another, how weird is it to define someone by their spouse's job? I understand that Landscape Architecture and a Military career are very different. In the military, soldiers risk their lives, they are often gone for weeks, months, or years, the job has an unpredictable schedule, and in some ways legally requires the soldier to put his career in front of any other concerns. Although those are all true, there are other careers that have similar traits (with the possible exception of the legal requirement). I have a good friend whose husband is a Smoke Jumper. When there is a wildfire, he gets called in, packs a backpack, jumps out of a helicopter, battles a wildfire, then hikes back out to civilization. As far as I know he's never been gone for months, but several weeks is not uncommon. His job is dangerous, it is unpredictable, and no one has ever called my friend "A Smoke Jumper's Wife."
I know that no job is quite like the military. I know that in many ways it is a unique profession that requires sacrifices on the job of the soldier and the spouse. I also understand that there are many women married to members of the military that don't mind, or even like, the title of "Army Wife." To women who love it, I say keep it. If it makes you happy, if it works for you, then that's what you should go with.
Three reasons why I'm not an Army Wife
It, however, does not work for me.
- Being called an Army Wife denies the fact that I am a person separate from my husband's career. I was my own person before we married, and still am now that we are married. We share a lot, including a bed, pets, and a bank account. We share our aspirations and dreams. We do not share our identity. To me, the term "Army Wife" denies everything I have accomplished on my own, and ties me not to my husband, but to his career.
- I am not married to the military. I married a wonderful man whose career is in the Army. I am proud of him. I am proud of what he accomplished so far in life, and I will be there to support him and whatever the future holds. My love, marriage, and commitment are to my husband, not to the military.
- It conjures up images of a time in the Military (or at least the Army) when a wife was graded for her involvement in the unit, and her husband's career could benefit or suffer from the degree of that involvement. The Army has since seen sense. Wives are not longer dismissed from their jobs at the moment of saying "I do" and they can choose whether to work or stay at home, whether to have children or not, and how much involvement they want in their husband's units. This choice is good. And I choose not to be an Army Wife.
Now please do not misunderstand me. I love my husband. I support him in his career. I love being involved in the FRG and the coffee groups. And I'm happy to go to the balls, the meetings, the promotions and the other functions. All those things are a part of our happy marriage. The give and take, the involvement what is important to us. To me, being called an Army Wife implies that I have to do these things. But I don't. I choose to do them. And to me, that makes all the difference.