A life full of uncertainties. I doubt that little Black girls are playing with their Barbies and G.I. Joes and understand what it truly means for Barbie to marry Joe. When Flo Jo (my favorite barbie) and CPT Ken-drick jumped over the broom, I didn’t imagine what a life married to someone in the military would fully entail. This even coming from a military brat, who spent the first seven years traveling the world. My mom’s time as a stay at home mom was short lived even before they divorced. And by that time, she was motivated to make her own way in the foreign country she adopted.
Even those who grew up with stay at home moms knew that was rare in the Black community. The book “Motherhood So White” talks about the stigma placed on Black moms who did not work, even if their family could afford for her to stay at home. But for military spouses, a lot of the time, working is not even an option. Moving around so often, limits professional opportunities for those who “want to or need to” work. And for those who choose to not battle the workforce and instead invest their time into their households, the stigma still holds. The motherhood blog, Black Mom Life said it best in a post called “The Black SAHM: She isn’t a Mythical Creature” (2019) that Black SAHMs (Stay at Home Mom) are stereotyped as lazy and must be single moms staying home taking advantage of government assistance. Black SAHMs are not celebrated in the media like their white counterparts. How does this impact the Black SAHM who happens to also be a military spouse? As a mother, I transitioned from staying at home to working from home, by choice. Truth be told, with or without kids, supporting a significant other in the military, while also being Black, has its challenges. You are encouraged to assimilate and adopt new traditions. But how do you maintain self identity? This post is not meant to bash the military as those who serve deserve every bit of respect for their sacrifices but provide coping mechanisms for their spouses as they too live a life full of uncertainties.
A few tips I’ve put into my toolkit:
1.) Seek Out a Village - Find OGs at your duty stations. Schools, church and hair salons are the top three topics military spouses will seek out.
2.) Never Lose Sense of Self - You might feel like you have to reinvent yourself at each duty station but try not to lose who you are deep down inside. Adapting doesn’t mean that you need to fully assimilate or accept ideals that don’t sit right with your soul.
3.) Dora The Explorer - Take the opportunity to try new things and explore your new surroundings.
4.) Stay Connected - Don’t go ghost on your home village and those who have joined your crew along the way.
5.) Pack Light - Like Ms. Badu said, try not to bring all those bags with you to each duty station. Purge as you go or you will be that bag lady at the end of your spouse’s career. Carrying on emotional baggage will only weigh you down. If frequent moves are getting to you seek out a counselor on or off post for convenience.
6.) Support - Goes without saying, that you should set time aside to check in on your spouse. Being Black in the military, your spouse is also dealing with double consciousness being a minority in their field. This on top of everything that comes with being soldier. Check in often and advocate for mental health support, if needed.
These tips can be used to maintain emotional strength during your time spent “in the trenches” as a military spouse.
Tamara Turner, PMP is a Management Consultant with a M.A. in IT Management and a B.S. in Psychology. She managed Military Health Systems for 10 years to include implementation of a military behavioral health module and enterprise blood management systems. Married to an active duty Army officer, she now manages a consulting business while being a mom to two beautiful & energetic little humans with limitless imaginations. She is an advocate for women in STEM, Black maternal health, mental health awareness and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.