Milspouse Appreciation and Mothers-in-Law

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“That museum was exhausting. It’s a very stressful subject. I was glad we were done.”

This statement came from my mother-in-law shortly after she returned from what was, apparently, a stressful tour of the history and current workings of the Infantry at the National Infantry Museum (a very cool place, by the way).

My response? “Welcome to our life.”

The stress level of military spouses can seem like a mystery to the outside world, and that includes mothers-in-law. Yes, she understands that her son is often in danger and often poorly fed and, yes, that scares and stresses her. The mothers of servicemembers absolutely make incredible sacrifices in their own way.

My mother-in-law, like most of civilian society, cannot fathom what it’s like to live under the constant drum of military life. And when she encounters it she, just like any sane person, wants to run away and leave the “museum.” If only it were that simple for us.

We are very familiar with the stress she finds exhausting. I don’t need to enumerate to you all the burdens of deployment, TDY separations, field time and loss — or the whole new realm of stress faced by the spouses of those with serious emotional, psychological and physical wounds.

But I think sometimes we share her attitude when we encounter others in this military life who have it “worse,” or at best “different,” than we do. There is, without a doubt, a hierarchy of suckiness in our world. My lot, at least at the moment, is a pretty easy one. My husband is home, uninjured, we live somewhere half-way decent, and so on. And when I encounter someone who has it worse in a way that I cannot fathom, a tiny part of me wants to hide.

Civilian society may never be able to wrap their heads and hearts around what we deal with. And why should they? Remember back, before you married your servicemember? You had no idea then. Neither did I.

I am grateful, excited (and yes, a little bit skeptical) about the White House’s community support push. Reminders to the outside that we’re still here are never a bad thing.

I wonder, though, if before we get on the civilians to step-up and remember us we should get handle on supporting each other. I love to sit around and trade complaints, but when it comes to sacrificing my own precious family time to watch children for a neighbor with a deployed spouse or have my husband mow someone’s lawn when he could be cleaning out our attic, I’m a little less likely to pitch-in.

And what about those spouses of wounded warriors? When was the last time I wrote a card, brought a meal or actively did something to help someone outside my immediate circle of friends? I won’t say “never,” but it’s definitely been awhile.

Military Spouse Appreciation day is May 6. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the sacrifices of each other before we harp on civilians (and mothers-in-law!) to do the same.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Juli

    With year on/year off deployment tempo, I am very stingy with my family time. I keep my outside stress as low as possible. I think this is an area where the civilian help would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I am near my breaking point. I don’t have any more to give. Maybe that is selfish, for me, it is survival.

  • Petra

    As a MilSpouse I do my best to support my fellow MilSpouses. And believe it or not, sometimes this support is as simple as picking up the phone and asking if all is well. Or meeting up for a cup of coffee and just chat. I know I personally love it when another spouse checks on me. Especially since I am definitely one of those people who have the hardest time asking for help with ANYTHING. You know, the fear to burden others, to seem needy, and the stubborn thought that I can do it by myself…

    At this point I want to add that I appreciate this page immensely. It is a great way to connect and to make me feel like I am not alone in this crazy, wonderful, stressful, joyous military spouse life!