Won any awards lately? Any big promotions on the horizon? Eh, me either girl, you’re in good company here. It turns out we’re not the only ones who struggle with feeling invisible, and with a moniker like the silent ranks, it’s not difficult to imagine why a military spouse might feel unnoticed in this awards and promotions driven world.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, the civilian world isn’t exactly cranking out medals for momming. No one awards you a medal for parenting solo through your Marine’s fifth deployment. There is no ceremony rife with congratulations for birthing a baby alone because your soldier was in the field. No one promotes you to Mommy First Class when you make a cross-country trip with three kids and two dogs and somehow make it in one piece.
These are just the things we do, we become accustomed to them, and to be honest, I think we become accustomed to the invisibility of it all, too.
One Little Word
I’ve always considered myself a hard worker, but I am definitely better suited for behind-the-scenes type work. Usually the lack of wall space dedicated to my plaques of recognition doesn’t bother me. I didn’t enter into military-wife-motherhood with visions of personal glory swimming in my head. I entered it the same way most of you did – hot, exhausted, itchy, and then eventually, with a room full of people intently focused on getting a baby out of me. There’s nothing more personally humbling than complete strangers handling your lady parts.
So it took me by surprise, recently, when I felt an oppressive blanket of jealousy upon my shoulders. You see, my husband is experiencing a particularly poignant season of recognition. He will receive his PCS award and be promoted at essentially the same time. And I genuinely could not be happier. He has worked hard, y’all. I don’t need to tell you about the long hours, and the missed events, and the night shifts, and the 24-hour duty, because you already know. He has been a fantastic example to me and our kids of what dedication and leadership by example look like, and I am so happy to see his labors rewarded.
But … there was a little seed of malcontent that sprouted inside me as I reflected on my own lack of formal recognition. I dismissed it as stress leading up to a big move, sadness at leaving my Georgia bestie, issues stemming from that third piece of cake I had … but still the seed of dissatisfaction wouldn’t go away. The sprout thrived, and grew, and pretty soon it was a nasty little half-grown beast of a weed that I couldn’t seem to get rid of — which is especially irritating since I can’t seem to get any REAL green things to grow!
Things finally boiled over as we discussed dates for the promotion ceremony. My husband suggested the date of my birthday, and I snapped back with some childish comment about not being able to eat the food we would be serving anyway because my nursing baby couldn’t tolerate dairy, and wouldn’t that just be nice to watch everyone else eat cake on my birthday. It was a positively shameful amount of sass y’all. He explained that he thought it would be nice to hold the event on my birthday because we had worked so hard these past two years.
And like a dose of Roundup, that one little word crushed that nasty seed of jealousy. It turns out that all I needed was a little nod from someone I cared about to let me know I was doing good work; that I was headed in the right direction; that I was valuable and needed.
You Better Recognize
I love my role as a wife, mother, and home educator, and know that they are very worthy and important endeavors, but at times I slip into the trap of comparing roles, and I end up equating my lack of “awards” with a lack of self-worth. I have to remind myself that true service is often behind the scenes and is nearly always self-sacrificing and thankless and that those facts are actually OK. A lack of formal recognition does not equate a lack of worth.
There are many people, in an array of different roles, who labor tirelessly out of love for what they do and never receive any type of formal recognition. And maybe that’s my point.
We don’t need a promotion board to give us the go-ahead to lift up our friends and loved ones and congratulate them on a job well done, in whatever field they may be in.
So maybe the next time you see a friend triumphing during a particularly trying time, or a spouse from your husband’s company finishing his or her degree, or your next-door neighbor surviving another month of deployment, take them out to celebrate, send them flowers or a card, give them a call and tell them how proud you are that they’re thriving despite difficult circumstances, recognize them. Just because we’re not in this crazy military life for the kudos doesn’t mean that we can’t give them when we feel they’re due.
I may never be awarded an MSM or a BSM, and I’ll certainly never make any kind of rank, but when my husband recognizes me at his ceremonies (which he always does), and when a friend texts me to let me know she’s really proud of me for sticking to my guns on a tough parenting issue, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at being recognized. I think we could all use a little more of that.
This month I’d like to challenge you to reach out and recognize a fellow member of the extended military community who has shown excellence, determination, and that good old-fashioned moxie we military spouses seem to have in spades.
Who will you recognize, and why?