Yesterday, a couple military-spouse friends and I were privileged to attend the launch of The First Lady and Dr. Biden’s initiative to encourage Americans to offer more support to their military and military families. Aptly called Joining Forces, the initiative aims to encourage all areas of our society–individuals, businesses, communities–to find ways to reach out and give assistance where needed to the military and their families.
Both Dr. Biden and Mrs. Obama spoke of the challenges military families face, and how much they admired the families they have met over the course of developing this initiative.
Of course, they would never stand there and tell a room full of military and their families that we are ordinary. Mrs. Obama defined us as extraordinary because we go about our “ordinary” lives, but she believes they really aren’t so ordinary at all.
Our lives are filled with hellos and goodbyes, anxiety and elation; there are many hard days, though extremely proud days. There are losses and there are gains. But that’s an ordinary life, too, isn’t it?
Nevertheless, I certainly appreciated the sentiment.
One reason I really wanted to attend this event is because the moment I heard about this program and some of the details, I thought to myself, “Wow, Mrs. Obama was really listening to someone, otherwise how would she know about some of these issues that military families struggle with?”
One of her points that resonated with me is that military spouses have a difficult time finding and keeping jobs because we live where our military husband or wife must be, and we move often. The truth, at least for the women I know, is that a good job for a military spouse is very hard to come by. My friends are extremely skilled, all have higher education, and some are pursuing additional degrees; however to have a full-time, fulfilling job is rare in my circle. And because of that, many struggle to find purpose outside of their spouse or children.
I know women who, during an interview, will conceal the fact that they are a military spouse for fear of discrimination since we move often. I know women who will take their master’s degrees off their resume because they will seem too qualified for the job for which they are applying. I know a woman who would drive two hours each way to work because it’s all she could find in her field. And I know women who take any job they can get, whether they like it or not, whether it has anything to do with their chosen career path, just to have work.
Mrs. Obama believes that this is an area where Americans, specifically business owners, can step forth and offer their support: they can hire a military spouse.
I am one of the lucky ones. I worked in another city before deciding to move to be with my now-husband. Thinking I had no other option, I searched for a job in the area where he was stationed (and within a 50-mile or so radius too). I was taking a career risk to move to a tiny military town. There just weren’t many prospects here. But realizing that there was another option, I eventually, nervously, faced my boss and told her my plans: I was moving, and I was either going to have to quit my job, or work something out with our organization to continue working in some capacity from home in another state.
Though remote working isn’t new in my organization, it’s not necessarily common in every department. I wrote my proposal and my boss made it happen. Thank you, Boss. You have given me an opportunity that I otherwise would not have had: Work. In a military community.
So Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, thank you for taking the initiative to encourage others to do their part and support their military families. And because the employment aspect is something I’ve had a good experience with, then if you would like it, here are my thoughts:
Encourage companies to find military spouses and hire them–we are an incredibly smart and talented group of people, many of whom desperately want to work, especially when our spouses are gone. Don’t just focus on those companies that can transfer an in-store job to another in-store job in another city, even though it should definitely be part of your focus. Ask these companies and organizations–and government–to create opportunities for military spouses to work remotely.
My organization took the chance to keep me in my job and (hopefully) they have found it as beneficial as I have.