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Of all the titles and caps I have worn, military wife has been the toughest fit. That title has carried the notion I am either one or two things: a girl who fell for a man in uniform or a stay-at-home mother and wife.
I am neither.
When my husband and I first started dating, I was working at a newspaper and he worked part time at an office supplies store. My husband did not enlist in the Air Force until the day after our first wedding anniversary. Since moving to Bellevue, family and friends near and far have assumed that I would fall into a domestic role.
I have not.
We moved to Bellevue in July 2010. I enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha the following month. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication in May of this year. While at the university, I competed for the Forensics (speech) team, was a student representative for my college and won the school’s 2012 Most Outstanding speech student award, all while serving as a wife, mother and primary cook and cleaner in my home.
Now, my husband deserves a lot of credit. While I was competing in speech tournaments across the country, he was at home with our little boys. I am blessed to have married a man who understands that while I am proud to be his wife, I am more than that. But the problem was not my husband.
It was other women.
If I said I was in school, other women assumed I was taking online classes. If I mentioned I had children, they praised me for sacrificing my life to be a stay-at-home mom. And when I told them otherwise, I was treated like an alien. I can still remember a woman, whose husband is retired from the Air Force, making me feel like having dreams and wanting to pursue them was the most selfish thing she’d ever heard.
And I know I am not alone. According to the National Military Family Association’s website, 85 percent of military spouses want or need work, and 84 percent of military spouses have some college. The article went onto say that the statistics further confirm that these spouses do not only want a job to pay bills, but to pursue a title beyond military spouse.
Of course, a military spouse’s dreams are harder to pursue because of possible deployments, frequent relocations and the other sacrificial realities that come with military service. But that should not stop spouses from dreaming and from finding what is they want out of life. If it is to be a stay-at-home parent, then be that. But if it is to be something else, then seek that. But we have to stop assuming that every military coupled married for benefits. And we have stop shunning spouses for wanting to exist outside of a marital role.
Once we do that, the “military spouse” cap will come in more than one size, and it won’t be such a tight fit.
Tunette Powell is married with two children. You can read her every Tuesday on momaha.com
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