Why You Shouldn’t Judge a Military Spouse During Deployment
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Several months ago, I received an email from a particularly confusing woman who had some sad and misconceived thoughts about military spouses. It was confusing because she genuinely sounded like she wanted to help, but also came across as extremely judgmental and nosey.
Here’s what the email said:
Just came across your blog. I am not a Military Wife, but I adopt a Soldier every year since my brother’s retired a few years back, as a way of ‘helping’!
I wanted to write and give you an idea for a post. I have met several military wives over the past few years and I don’t know if it’s my area or what, but these wives just seem to not care about their appearance, making their children a priority (let’s just say, that more than a couple of them are at Walmart at 10 o’clock at night, children in tow!), or keeping up their homes. Some claim they are ‘bored’ and need to be out and about to be happy, some have said they can’t have a nice apt/home because the military doesn’t pay well, and they NEED to lay on the couch most of the day watching TV to help the time go by quicker.
Please don’t think I am judging, because I know it’s hard for these women. I just wonder if some of them need ‘ideas’ to help them keep it together, helping them to be stronger not just for themselves, but for their children and their returning soldiers. I hope you take this email for what it is: wanting to help these families. I promise I am not judging…I do as much as I can for/with the ones I meet. (I try to help with decorating when there is no money so their place of residence can be a haven, showing them how to make/play games with the children so the little ones feel cared for and seen, etc.)
Anyway, thank you for listening. I know those that are at home have it rough. It would be nice if someone who reaches so many can help those who need it.
At the time, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this. I thought about it, tried to see it from her angle, tried to tell myself she really did have other’s best interests at heart… but I couldn’t. I wondered why she cared about these other military spouse’s business, why she felt the need to stick her nose into things. There are plenty of ways to help military families, but the things she listed did not seem very helpful.
I decided that before I replied I would post the letter on my Facebook page to see what other military spouses thought. I wanted to see if others were taking it the same way I did. Here are the results:
“Oh my goodness, I have so many thoughts going through my head. I don’t even know where to start… This is part of the problem. Military spouses are all expected to be “strong” and “put together” and “perfect” and it’s a lot of pressure on top of trying to hold our marriages together when we barely even get to communicate! No wonder so many of us deal with depression at some point during our military lives.
This woman needs to be understanding and give us grace. We need grace and kindness and a listening ear while our husbands are gone. We need someone to eat meals with us and mow our lawns and be willing to help without looking down on us because we didn’t shower that day. There have been days where laying on the couch and watching TV was the ONLY way I could get through the day, the only way to get to the night so I could go back to bed. If that’s her way of dealing, then hand her the freaking remote and bring over a pint of ice cream!” – Tiffany @ Seeing Sunshine
“I want to know HOW does she know these women who are out and about at 10 p.m. at Walmart are military spouses? Last time I checked, we weren’t supposed to wear our IDs around our necks like a placard. And unless they’re wearing a shirt that says “Military spouse” then you can’t be certain. I want to know what would qualify a woman to be granted immunity from hauling her kids to Walmart in the evening in yoga pants and dirty hair.
How does the author of the email know that this isn’t a one time event? Maybe she or the kids are sick and no one is around to watch them so everyone needs to make a trip to Walmart for some cold medicine? Maybe junior forgot his diorama was due in the morning so mom is hustling to Walmart in her pajamas because that’s what moms do?
If it isn’t a one time occurrence then who cares? Do I like to go out to Walmart in my finest? Sometimes, but I also schlep to my kid’s school looking less than stellar some days, too. Unless this woman is sitting in Walmart taking a census every day she has no idea who these women are and what their situations are. But it doesn’t really matter because her contrived qualifications mean nothing.” – Jennifer @ Written by Jennifer
“I can see how from her point of view, she might think that’s helpful. It’s hard to really understand what is helpful for military spouses unless you are one. My husband is out of the Marines now and I still don’t always get everything on my to-do list done. I think in general, people except us to keep a perfect household up, but don’t think about the emotional turmoil that many of us are facing every day that our loved ones are gone.I hope if you write a post regarding this, she reads it and can get a better understanding of why things like your appearance don’t matter, especially when the most important thing to me during a deployment was a phone call. That’s it. Not my hair, not my nails, not my job, a phone call.” – Taylor @ Nerdy Foodie Mom
And these were just a few of the responses… I have many thoughts on this, but here’s why I think people should be more careful when judging how a military spouse looks during deployment!
3 Reasons not to Judge a Military Spouse
1. If You’re not a Military Spouse – Just Don’t.
One of the first things this woman mentions in her email is that she is not a military spouse. It’s great that she adopts a soldier and tries to help, but that is not the same thing as having someone who is a part of your very soul in the military. My solution: Not a military spouse? Then don’t judge!
2. Because Appearances Aren’t Usually What They Seem.
There’s the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I have to say that not only does this apply to military spouses, but it applies to almost everyone else too! Do you know why you see the things you do? Are you in these military spouse’s homes and intergrained into their lives? If I had to guess I would say that most likely you are not.
Since we’ve already established that you’re not a military spouse, let me give you a little idea of why these women are doing what they are doing and looking the way they look….
- Military spouse who doesn’t care about her appearance? Her husband isn’t home, who else does she need to dress for? She’s doing it all alone so the last thing on her mind is how she looks. Her priority is keep on going and get through each day.
- Military spouse who isn’t making her children a priority? It’s most likely looking like that because her children are her priority. She is both mom and dad while her husband is gone and that alone is enough. Maybe you came along right when she needed a break. Maybe she just needs a moment to herself. Maybe she is having a hard time on top of trying to be strong for her kids. A military spouse worries most about her children during a deployment. How will they cope? Will they remember their father? She doesn’t need your judgement on top of it all.
- Military spouse at Wal-Mart late at night with children in tow? Maybe her children are sick. Maybe she’s been sick. Maybe she hasn’t had a chance to grab groceries. Maybe she just needs to get out of the house and be around people. During our last deployment my son and I both had the stomach flu. It was awful, but I know that if I had to go out and get something late at night I would have. It’s not like we have people just hanging around waiting to help us in the middle of the night. Sometimes we have to do what we have to do.
- Military spouse not keeping up her home? Again, as said above, she is both mom and dad. She is doing everything herself. Her children are her priority and the house will probably come last. I know that my home was a mess when my husband was deployed. I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to keep up with it. I ended up hiring someone to help me with the cleaning. It was the best thing I ever did!
- Military spouse needs to be out and about to be happy? Some people need to be around other people to thrive. I am one of those people. I do better when I am with others than when I am alone. During deployment I did everything I could to have someone with me during the day or to go out if I found a sitter. Being around other people when my husband couldn’t be there helped keep me sane and yes – happy.
“I think the best piece of advice I can give is to just be a friend. I could care less if my other mom friends lay on the couch and watch TV, I do it too. I’m bored sometimes taking care of my 15 month old all day, and I work at night, so TV or going out and doing nothing is sometimes my only escape. And if I don’t shower, again who has the right to judge me? If it’s my day off and my hair still looks somewhat presentable, I’m not showering. Unless your own life is so perfect and put together, you have no right to judge someone else.
And I couldn’t have imagined raising children when my husband was deploying every year, so we waited til he was in a non-deployable unit. So yeah, your husband is in a war zone and you have three kids to take care of with family thousands of miles away? I’ll bring you Cheetos, cook for your kids and give you a freaking break because you deserve it!” – Jennifer
“A few years ago, and being new to military life, I was by myself with a 3 year old. I ended up in the Emergency Room. With family and friends several states away, and not knowing anyone in the area, I had to take my son to the ER with me. Thankfully it wasn’t too serious, but passing a kidney stone with a three year old was awful!
What some people don’t understand is that we are away from friends and family. We don’t have anyone to rely on except ourselves. If the car breaks down, you don’t have your husband to come and get you. If you have a medical emergency, you don’t have anyone to call. I relate it to being a single parent without any support. I have been a single parent before, but being a military wife when your spouse is gone is worse in my opinion. As a single parent I had a job, I had family and friends close by…I had support. Moving around and not knowing anyone can be hard on anyone, especially if you live on a base surrounded by a crime infested neighborhood.
Finding a job is extremely difficult, because employers know you could move at anytime. Not to mention the constant worry of your spouse and wondering if they’ll make it home without being injured or with PTSD. So don’t judge. If I end up in Walmart at 10 pm with my kids, it could be because one of us is sick and I needed medicine. Just be thankful you have men and women serving our country and be thankful for the spouses who support them.” – Georgiana
“I care less about what I’m wearing because I’m generally just getting life done and handling what needs to be handled. If I’m going out for fun, I’ll dress for that too… But if my kid is sick and needs medicine or we run out of toilet paper/diapers/milk etc then I’m gonna rock the yoga pants and sweatshirt and a messy ponytail and take care of business. Military wives, moms, humans — all need the same thing. Support. Compassion. Less judging. Everyone is walking a path you know nothing about!” – Catherine
3. Because Military Spouses Need Love not Judgement.
While the woman above continuse to emphasize that she is not judging, that is exactly how she comes across. Instead of judging, offer a loving hand. Step into their shoes and home for a day and see what is really going on and how you can help. Because chances are that the mom at Wal-Mart just needs a friend, a babysitter, or someone to cook her a meal once in a while.
Looking for more ways to help a military spouse in your area? Check out these ideas:
What about YOU? What do you think of this email? Do you think she was being loving or judgmental? What would YOU say to her?
Interested in knowing what other military spouses thought about this? Check out the conversation HERE.
Well said Kathryn! Sounds you handled the situation well. I pray God gives you wisdom in your response. A few years ago before my stroke; one of my dear friends’ husband was deployed about a week before their first born child was born. I can remember us trekking around Walmart picking up everything from diapers and formula for the baby and huge bags of dog food that were bigger than her! I’m glad I was able to help her out in that situation but I’m glad he is home with his family now:) I don’t know how military wives do it but I have the utmost respect for you and ladies like yourself. I am comforted by the fact that you have Christ in your heart to carry you through as you set the example for so many like you. As your blog and community grows may you be encouraged and beacon of hope for those who read your posts. Have a wonderful weekend as we “spring forward” today and may God bless you and yours!
You handled that whole thing with such grace I don’t think I could have. My husbands last deployment I was the women in Walmart. But I was alone. I had a miscarriage by myself, had no family or friends at our new base and no where to turn. I desperatley needed some grace but what I found was much of this judgement. I was the woman at Walmart, I don’t know when I had last showered let alone left the house. I was in too big clothes and the bags under my eyes were unreal. The amount of judgement I recieved from civilians and fellow spouses alike was unreal. I was in such a deep depression the entire deployment was a blur. It really is true spouses need some love and grace during deployment.
I think she means well but just has no clue. As others have pointed out assumptions rule her post, from assuming someone is a military wife to assuming she understands what’s going on.
ps … I would also add that it’s not just during deployments, sometimes reintegration is even harder and you have less support/less people to talk to about it then during deployments. Military life is just hard period.
I completely agree. Thanks for sharing!
She just doesn’t understand. I remember when I was moving from one post to another by myself with a 5 month old and a two-year-old (my husband was still deployed to Iraq). Two days before the move I had found,a mouse crawling in my daughter’s bedroom. (We had been placed in condemned housing when we had moved on base despite it being condemned. In our 18 months there my daughters lead levels went up to 4/5. But that’s another story as is my husband’s deployment during most of my pregnancy) I was breastfeeding and exhausted by the time the movers showed up. They packed us up but the next day when all my daughter’s toys were in boxes, the moving truck didn’t show. Try entertaining a two-year-old and taking care of a,baby by yourself surrounded by boxes. Next day they show but when my neighbor was watching my daughter, her son jumped,down on her arm. I had to leave the movers with my neighbors and take my daughter and baby to the hospital. During the x-rays I gave my baby to a stranger – a nurse but still a stranger. When I went to the hotel that night, I was SCARY looking. But nobody knew what I had been through.
I wouldn’t want this woman in my life when my hubby was deployed, or at home! I believe she has good intentions, but “good intentions” are never enough and simply not the foundation for a good supportive relationship.
On another note…the photo for this post hurts my heart. An American flag should never be used as clothing (although people are often adorned with them in military blog photos), but more importantly the American flag should *never* be allowed to touch the ground, or be sat upon.