For those just entering military life, either as a spouse or the significant other of a service member, it can be overwhelming. There are so many things we need to learn, sometimes quickly, and it’s shocking when the military tells us when we’re moving, where we’re moving, who our doctor is, where our kids will go to school, and more. We get comfortable in a location, but then we move on. We must find ways to adapt and overcome the obstacles. This is where milspouse empowerment comes in.
But as I often say in my writing, remember that there is a “you” here, too. Even when you have to quit your job and move to a new location to potentially start over—again—your goals are still important.
While it doesn’t get easier saying goodbye and uprooting once every two or three years or fitting ourselves into military life, we can get better at coping with it. One of the best ways is by empowering ourselves in this military life.
We hear the word “empowerment” a lot—almost as much as we hear “resilience”—and sometimes, the meaning gets lost in the repetitive use of these words. It’s become a buzzword, because it’s important.
What is empowerment?
Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling your life and claiming your rights. Without muddying the waters too much, empowerment exists in five categories: social, political, psychological, educational, and economic. Resilience is different—it’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Those of us who’ve been around the military for a while might have a graceful set of armor, but that doesn’t mean we’re confident or know how to take control of our lives when it’s needed.
We may be resilient, but we might not be empowered.
You might have snickered at the thought of controlling your life in the military culture, but it is possible. Sure, we can’t control every aspect of our lives. I mean, I don’t even know where I’ll be living next year! For many of you out there, you might not know how much longer you’ll be able to work at your current location, you don’t know what the next set of schools will be like for your children, you don’t know what sort of necessary health care options will be available at your next destination, and you have no idea what your service member’s OPTEMPO will be like.
Even if you’re able to list your duty stations in order of preference, you still don’t know what you’re getting.
This is where empowerment (and resilience) is important, but telling you that only gets you halfway there. Let’s talk about where you can find it.
Where can I find milspouse empowerment?
You don’t need to go to special workshops or pay money to find empowerment resources and support. You might not need to look any further than your own backyard. Your installation and numerous non-profits offer assistance. Here are three sources of empowerment:
1. Your friends: Don’t underestimate the power of the people in your own backyard. I say this from experience. I’ve shared a lot about how I’m currently working on a book that I hope to publish. Recently, at an event with some girlfriends, they were asking about how it was going. I’m still very fearful of sharing my book and talking about it, but they were so supportive. I said, “If I get it published…” and a friend looked at me and responded, “No, when you get it published.” If you don’t have a strong squad behind you, find it. Nurture it. Return the favor. Our friends can empower us! I’ve become friends with two other military spouses who have published books that have explained where I go from here. They’re arming me with the information I need to meet my goals. That’s empowerment.
2. Installation resources: You’ve probably seen the ads or heard about counseling, workshops, and guidance offered at your installation. In most cases, they’re offered at zero cost. Sign up! One of the best starting places for Army spouses is Army Family Team Building classes, where you can learn all about the military. It helps to find your place in the community when you know the basics. You can also sign up for financial counseling, resume and interview assistance, seek medical help from your patient advocate, learn more about TRICARE with a representative, understand the housing process by visiting your installation housing management office, and more. Knowing where to go after hitting your first dead end so you don’t have to give up? That’s empowerment.
3. Private resources, like AWN: If your installation doesn’t offer it, then a private organization will! You can find military family assistance here at Army Wife Network. As an organization, we’re dedicated to empowering military spouses by providing our weekly Army Wife Talk Radio broadcasts; THE SITREP, our weekly newsletter; informative articles from expert bloggers; encouraging posts told from our own experiences by our Band of Bloggers; what to expect at various duty stations with our Post With the Most series; and interaction on our social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can also find assistance through other organizations like Blue Star Families, the Military Family Advisory Network, and a lot more. Knowing where to turn for a helping hand? That’s empowerment.
I have a T-shirt that says “Empowered women empower women.” In a group of military spouses, empowerment doesn’t stop with our own. We’re able to share that with everyone we meet, helping them find their way until they realize, “I’ve got this” and can straighten the graceful armor mentioned earlier and take control of their own lives with confidence, working constructively to excel in military life.
Because we can’t just stop at resilience.