Spouse Programs Only For Stay Home Moms?

SBL team

My boss told me this would happen. He said that if we hosted a SpouseBuzz LIVE event on a weekday that the working spouses would feel excluded and insulted.

“No way,” I exclaimed. “There are only 168 hours in a week and those working spouses do not have time for a live event.”

Clearly, I am an idiot. Because I got this message from Steven this morning:

            Why didn’t you tell me that ” spouse” meant stay at home mother with children? This seems to be the trend when I see functions such as the up coming (SpouseBuzz LIVE) at Ft. Campbell. The hours are conveniently arranged around school hours, which completely alienates the working spouse with no children. Perhaps they would like to attend? Perhaps this could be done on the weekend where all could attend? It’s as though spouses who have careers don’t fall into the spouse category or stereotypical spouse image. Please remember the working spouses when you plan the events for spouses.

The truth is, I do think of working spouses, job seeking spouses, stay-at-home parents, male spouses, same-sex partners, spouses with kids, spouses without kids who want kids, spouses without kids who don’t want kids yet, spouses without kids who never want kids, OCONUS spouses,  National Guard and reserve spouses, dual military spouses, spouses-to-be….you get the picture.

Military spouses are not all alike.  This is 2012, people.  There is not one socially acceptable way to be a military spouse. In my job, I don’t work a single day without realizing that spouses are so diverse that we really only have one thing in common—we love someone in uniform.

I think that is an awesome common denominator. Which is why I love to put together spouse programs an in-person, live event. I like to see the people who are living the same life I am living because it makes me feel so much better to know I am not alone. I hope that makes you feel better, too.

So how should spouse programs be distributed?  How can we plan an event so the most possible people attend? Event planners from military installations all over the country tell us that they too have problems with creating functions that suit the needs of their audiences.  Your input could really help here.

Our spouse diversity and the busyness of life in general make it hard to plan an event for everyone.

If we plan something on weekends, families with kids tell us that they can’t attend because the kids already have soccer and play practice and swim lessons at that time. Or they say that weekends are for family time so they can’t come then.

If we offer something during the week, working people can’t attend because they are working.

If we offer an event at night or on a weekend, working parents don’t want to attend because they already have their kids in daycare so many hours a week that they don’t want them in more daycare. Or there isn’t babysitting. Or the service member does not want to attend one more training.

One way to divide up resources would be to plan programs based on the statistics. According to the Department of Defense 42% of military spouses are employed full- or part-time. Fifteen percept of military spouses are unemployed and looking for work. A full 45% of military are not in the labor force and not looking for work (I’m guessing these are mostly stay home parents, but there are no specific stats on that.)

At SpouseBuzz, we look at those numbers and try to offer a variety of events. Our last SBL was in San Diego on a weekend. The upcoming Ft. Campbell event is on a weekday so that we can offer childcare. I would love to find the right balance.

How do you think programs and services for spouses should be offered? Is there a time that you would be more likely to attend? Please weigh in. Because I want to meet you. And we will never get together if we don’t find the right place and time.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • MDarmy

    Have several different events at different times and then that should be able to reach as many as possible.

    • Rquick

      Thats a little unrealistic right? Not mention prob expensive?

  • I’ve always been a working spouse and up until recently, childfree on top of it. I’ve always felt that despite superficial efforts to encourage spouses to work, there’s many programs and services that aren’t available at times that are convenient for those employed full-time. I got the impression that while they preached work, they reinforced traditional family roles.

    I’d rather see these events held on the weekend. With enough notice, spouses can find childcare, versus a working spouse having to take a day off, which may not be possible or feasible with their workplace policies and procedures.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Erin I agree. But then again, it’s tricky to make an event that enough people want to come to enough to inspire them all to find sitters. Personally I have to REALLY want to do something to go to the trouble of finding a sitter AND giving up that sitter-free time to attend a “spouse event.”

  • Erin

    I mean, it’s just understood that SAHM are the majority in the military and that is who is going to be addressed. It’s much easier to dismiss working people, who might more likely not have children, then dismiss someone high on her “mom” horse. A child-free military spouse is just one who hasn’t had a kid yet, right? Everyone knows this. Parents get a lot more insulted when something isn’t designed for the family, so it’s just easier to appease. But Jaci, please- you had to have known this. There is no way you didn’t.

    • jacey_eckhart

      I don’t think a policy of appeasement ever pleases anybody. In my job I “know” that no matter what we do, someone will not be happy about it. By sharing Steven’s letter, I was hoping someone would have a brilliant idea about how to do this better. I would love a few real life examples of what other posts and bases do to reach all the different kinds of families.

    • mel

      What the heck do you mean by “someone high on her “mom” horse”? It sounds like you have issues with SAHMs. At my husband’s current unit most of the events have been “no kids allowed” and I have not been able to attend any of those events. Do I bitch, no, I just figure that eventually I’ll be able to attend something. Also, most of the moms I know are working moms, especially in my age group, so not all moms stay at home. Child-free can also mean that the mom has teenagers that do not have to accompany their parent every time they go to an event. There is such a variety of families in the military community that someone will always be left out and not all moms complain about missing out because they understand that the world does not revolve around them.

  • Amy

    “No way,” I exclaimed. “There are only 168 hours in a week and those working spouses do not have time for a live event.”

    This right here shows that you clearly don’t think working spouses could learn anything from spousebuzz. They aren’t of value to you. Sigh.

    • jacey_eckhart

      Seriously?? I AM A WORKING MILITARY SPOUSE. Everyone I work with is a working military spouse. We are mostly moms, too. I spent my day at the National Military Spouse Network event in Alexandria because I think spouse employment is one of our most important issues. I had to beg/barter/steal childcare in order to go because my husband is with the ship getting ready for Hurricane Sandy. I know how had it is for a spouse to make a decision about how to spend their 168 hours. That’s why I make sure we have content about spouses who are looking for jobs and spouses who love their work and spouses like Haley Uthlaut who have founded organizations to help other spouses get jobs. At SpouseBuzz we value the incredible variety of spouses and the many ways they handle military life. And we do it every day.

  • Charla

    Oh puhlease. I work and if there was an event that I really wanted to go to, guess what, I would take off of work! People complain about everything.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Dear Charla — I love you.

    • Rquick

      Right?? Not that complicated. I sure as hell wouldnt complain about an awesome event excluding me. Haters gonna hate!

      • Sarah

        well if i have ten days of paid time off and my husband is deploying this year guess what? my time off is going toward one week before and one week after he gets back. I’m not a “hater” I have a full time job I would like to keep. Free childcare is offered once per month through CYS so do it that day and everyone can come.

        • mel

          Not every child care center on every base offers free child care. Also, there are some families who have children over the age of 10 and the childcare centers are geared for the younger crowd. Also for that age group they shouldn’t be left alone for an extended period of time. For me, I just started leaving my 11 year old alone for short periods of time when I am within a 20 min. drive from home in case something happens. I have an older daughter, with psychological/behavioral issues, and for several years we couldn’t trust her to take care of her younger sister. Free childcare isn’t always a viable option for everyone. You also have to take into consideration space constraints. If it’s full, you don’t have the childcare. When our base used to offer it, it was offered base wide so you were in competition for open slots with the entire base, not just your unit. Not everyone’s needs can be met, so it’s best to determine what will work best for the majority of people in your unit and go from there.

        • Amy_Bushatz

          Sarah if only this were standard on every post. At JBLM, for example, every spouse was given 16 hours free childcare during deployment to use at will, first come first serve. Here at Campbell childcare is free twice a month (two Saturdays) to deployed spouses only. No other care is offered that day, so if we were to do it over “Super Saturday,” it would be hard for other spouses to come — because, as I can attest, you do NOT qualify unless he’s actually deployed. We weren’t able to use it at all for the 5 months my husband was gone but not deployed.

          If only the solution was easy!

  • Congrat’s to my great friend Jacey for bringing up this great conversation and I can tell you there is no one more passionate and such a huge advocate for the military spouse community – than Jacey!! Just the fact they are trying to figure out the best time shows their dedication to making things work – for all spouses. I love reading all the comments and feedback – it reminds me of when I was a DINK – dual income no kids to a SAHM to now a working from home military spouse and mom. The great part is the spouse community continues to evolve as we as military spouses evolve. Just remember – we are all in this together and you have to attend an event with Jacey – you will laugh your ass off!! Hugs – Jen/MilitaryOneClick

    • jacey_eckhart

      Jen PIlcher, you are too nice!

  • Rquick

    Man people are gonna hate and complain no matter what you do. There is no pleasing some people. People like to act like youre excluding them when really if they wanted to go that bad they would go. Don’t sweat the over sensitive ones =)

  • guest

    If I have the american standard of 15 days off of work a year, why the heck would I take one of those precious days off to attend a spouse event. Especially when most of these events don’t have a lot of notice. My companies requirement is 2 weeks of notice for a day off. I say weekends all the time.

    I am sick and tired of ALWAYS having to bend over backwards and interrupt my schedule to go to these things when woman readily admit that because they have kids it’s “too hard to find a babysitter” so they aren’t interested in going. Why should I have to take a paid day off of work with 2 weeks notice all the time because you find it too hard to have a babysitter?

    • jacey_eckhart

      I actually kind of agree with this Laurel. I do think we should make some accommodations for full-time working spouses. Is there some part of the weekend that is better for you than others?

    • Charla

      If you don’t want to take off, that’s your choice. If you have a job that requires you to give two weeks notice, that’s your choice. But please stop complaining like you are don’t have a choice to attend because you did. By your comment you dont seem to want to attend the events any ways. It’s almost impossible to have an event where 100% of the people can attend.

  • Guest

    Our FRG did spouse events and meetings on weeknights. Each meeting moms, or teenage children, would switch off watching the children brought, either in a separate room or at a special kids table in the back of the room. They had coloring books, crayons and simple snacks to keep the kids occupied. Every few months they did an adults only women’s or couple’s night on a Saturday night. And every few months the command would host a family BBQ on the weekend. It worked really well and people from all walks were able to attend events/meetings with this system.

    • Roalex

      What about the dad’s. That was my biggest complaint with our FRG in Germany, all the events were female spouse oriented. I guess us male spouses don’t need support from an FRG. Luckily I had enough training that I was able to change that and make the events something the male spouse would want to attend. But it was a battle to accomplish, when we PCS to Texas we just got our first male FRG leader, so I am satisfied I made a difference while there.

  • kla

    One thing that I think that helps draw people in is a good description of what the events actually are. You going to get some annoyed people if its a 3 oclock “meeting” that working spouses take time off for, and it turns out to be focused on breast feeding moms with deployed spouses (not that this has happened to me…ohh no, lol) Or example two, this cute trick or treating event the group did, which had a clever name that did not relate to trick or treating. I think new spouses will be way more likely to show up if they actually know what they are getting into.

    Now who is hosting the wine/cheese nights?? Thats something I’d drop work for! :)

  • anonymous

    Yes most events are designed for spouses who don’t work. The question is does that matter? After nearly 15 years as a working milspouse, I guess I am just used to it and don’t really care any more. I’ll always be an outsider and that’s ok.

  • Kalani

    When I first became a military wife, my husband deployed for 15 months. I was really looking forward to attending events that were being planned and held for the spouses. Events were held once a month, from 5:00 pm until about 7:00 pm, and always on a week night serving only “child friendly” foods(pizza,hot dogs, cotton candy etc). I didn’t finish work until 5:30. The commute, with traffic (if I got off work on time) would get me there at about 6:45…leaving me a good 15 min. which would be a waste of time. The events held in our command REALLY was focused on spouses with young children.
    Since my husband and I hadn’t PCS’d yet. I lived in an area that I grew up in, which for me meant, i had many other friends, family, and coworkers to spend time with. Now If I were someone new to the area and command, and these were the only type of events scheduled to “help and encourage” military spouses during deployments and such. I would feel left out and overlooked. Now that may be easy for some people to handle, while it may really be damaging to others who really need to be included.

  • Guest

    I am a dual military spouse and would love to be involved with my husband’s command. No you can’t please everyone but on a weekend at least everyone has the opportunity to go. Many people can’t take off of work (me included). I dont have a choice. I just falt out cant take off of work. I have always appriciated events being at night during the week or on the weekend and offering childcare for the children (I dont have any but that takes away the cant go because of childcare excuse). Because i work long hours (over 12 hours a day) weekends are always better for me. I realize I am the minority but I feel (and felt this way when I stayed home) that when you dont work you have a lot more flexibility than someone who does work. Not that people should have to cater to those who work but when you have a career your career takes precidence over being involved with your spouse’s command

  • soapbox

    For one thing I thing MilSpouses that work are already going to be getting support from there work right? They have friends from work and have a way of meeting more people. Sahm’s don’t because our boss is ourselves or our kids…haha. We want and need to talk to adults someone that doesn’t drool all over you when you talk. Or knows how hard it is to run a house alone with no support system in place because you just moved into the area. Where all the people you meet are childless couples that you everything in common but don’t hang out because the are always sleeping off that hangover or that dual military family who is always asking you if you could just pick up their kid from school because daycare or after school care is too expensive and they will only be an hour or two and your home anyway. But you never see or talk to them because they just tell you to send the kid home cause they are home now but too tired to walk down the street to pick up their own kid. I only know one other sahm mom but my kids are school age and teens but she only has a little baby. So we never get together because she is always tired when I call. I feel so alone on the base. I wish they had one night a month when all spouses would get together and have fun not just a spouse meeting to discuss what they think of the navy ball or a fundraiser. Why can we get together for a non-meeting. Just for some potluck dinner and talk and play a game or watch a movie together or something fun. Like manicure night?