Spoonfed Wives or Suck It Up Climbers? You Decide

stair

When it comes to today’s military spouses, where do you stand on the Suck It Up/Spoonfed Spouse Staircase?

As part of the blog series on their new free ebook, Everyone Serves, the folks from Blue Star Families are wondering about what kind of spouses we have created in this generation of the military.

On one end of the spectrum are the whiny, entitled spouses who don’t seem to realize that they married someone in the M-I-L-I-T-A-R-Y. They need lots of caregiving and encouragement. Sometimes they even seem totally outraged by the idea that lots of moves and deployments are part of the job.

On the other end of the spectrum are those tough-as-nails Suck It Up Spouses. These chicks can do anything and expect you to do the same. They don’t need no stinkin’ FRGs or FROs.

So which is it, are we weak or strong? Helpless or competent? Shameful or admirable?

Geez, this is a hard question. Because on SpouseBuzz.com, we see all kinds. For every benefits hound looking for her Military Wife Paycheck, I’ve got a dozen women giving birth alone, making the most of OCONUS living and chasing the local tornado in the middle of a move.

It is just wrong to think of an entire generation as only one thing. Instead I think we gotta realize that people are going up and down a staircase.

We all start at the same landing — that place where you are in love with someone in the military and you are convinced — convinced!! — that with your own set of uniquely awesome skills and positive thinking that the problems that upset other people will never happen to you.

So you take a step up on the Suck It Up Staircase. You are going to make this work!

Your servicemember deploys and you go to work everyday and Skype with the guy on weekends and send cake in a jar every chance you get.

You and your servicemember have got this, dammit. And you scramble up the Suck It Up Staircase like Rocky Balboa without the sweaty sweatsuit. Which is awesome.

Until a blizzard arrives during your very first PCS move. And you have a year-long wait for housing in a place where you will only live six months. And your servicemember came home from deployment with a hair trigger on his temper. And the interviewer stopped the interview when he heard you were a military spouse and thanked you for coming in.

Suddenly you are slipping down the Suck It Up staircase. Not because you are a loser. You are slipping because you don’t know what to do with these military-created problems.

So you take a step or two down the Spoonfed Staircase. What are you supposed to do now? Is there a program for this? This sure doesn’t seem fair or right or normal.  Is anyone else outraged at all?

The thing is, none of us are ever standing still on the Suck It Up staircase. Things happen every day that people up and down that level of need.

Sure, every now and then you find those people circling the lowest level of the staircase as if they born to live in darkness and plan to grow a tail.

But the majority of us keep trying to move up. We are all trying to be a little more competent in our lives.

When we criticize people for seeming whiny or entitled, doesn’t help. Criticisms are that hard shove on the shoulder that send you down another step.

Instead we need to see our fellow spouses as travelers on the same staircase. Everyone going up. Everyone stepping down. Everyone needing a little more compassion and inspiration than we offer them now.

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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.
  • the first mel

    For me, the issue isn’t those who ask for help, it is those who expect others to fix things for them without their active participation. I was at a Return and Reunion workshop a few days ago and I was amazed at the number of existing and new programs that are available to help military families. I think it’s great because they are providing tools to families to navigate military life. Just on this base, where my husband is stationed, you can get help to learn about the Marine Corps, to deal with deployments, to better handle finances, to prepare to be a parent, and the list goes on. It baffles me when I run into a spouse who is blaming everyone else for her misery and does not take advantage of what is offered to improve her life experience.
    To me, being an adult is doing what you need to do to handle life’s challenges and sometimes that entails getting support from someone else. A child blames everyone else and doesn’t take responsibility for their choices or actions and sulks until they get their way. To be a military spouse you can’t behave like a child.

    continued

    • the first mel

      We have to be independent but we also have to be smart enough and brave enough to lean on someone when we are overwhelmed by what we are going through. If someone tells me their problems and then demands that I fix it, I am going to walk away. If someone gripes about how unhappy they are and they continually refuse to make changes to become happy, I will stop trying to help. My own personal philosophy is “suck it up” and yes, I hate asking for help, but I do understand that not all live as I do. As long as they are trying to handle things I won’t tell them to “suck it up”, I’ll give them a hand.
      Now for things that people gripe about that they can’t change, ie: work hours, training schedules, deployments, PCS moves, then I will say “what did you expect, your spouse is in the military and that’s part of the job”. Some things are useless to whine about and I certainly wouldn’t call my husband’s boss and gripe about it.

      • the first mel

        continuation: I am more satisfied in my life by understanding what I can’t change and accepting it, understanding what I can change, determining how to achieve that change and taking the necessary steps to reach my goal. We can’t expect others to always hold our hand to get us through things. Sometimes there is no one there to hold your hand and you have to rely on yourself to manage your life.

  • sabrinacking

    To everything: turn, turn, turn…..I think you sum it up perfectly. Its more in truth the: Suck It Up turnstyle…then the staircase. I think its also important to remember, this is the internet. Some of us…just might come to the internet to huff and puff and be a teapot…because we are quite high functioning read: extremely type A in every last inch of our existence (ok except the exercise part I could use a few more of those, get up and get exercising articles personally) in our actual lives. The internet, just might be the one place its ok in our reality to throw a tantrum, before shutting the screen off and going back to Polly Perfect in our real lives. In my real life…honestly, I don’t meet any of these people with tails, these burdens on society, nonadult military spouses. Who are those people? Because the spouses I know, are pretty amazeballs…and HUMAN BEINGS, not stereotypes either way.

    • I think you nailed it right at the end there…we are human beings, not stereotypes. As such, we have our good days and our bad days. There are going to be days when all you want to do is to cry out “why me? why now?” but for me, those moments are fleeting. I may choose to share them with family and friends when I do have them, but I hope that even they know that it is only a moment. By the next hour, that night, or the next day, I will be back in the “suck it up” kind of attitude and be the headstrong Texan that I am. All of that is to say that perhaps we should not judge one another based solely on a moment in time and instead look at the overall picture over a period of time. As a Vietnam Vet told me the other day, military wives are amazing and under-appreciated…he should know, he had one.
      And a final thought…since when has stereotyping EVER been a good idea? :)

  • BeenieBee

    Programs of support are supposed to exist for the specific times when people need them. If the same people need them all of the time, clearly, there is a problem with those people. There is a very scary realization about to hit many who can’t seem function on their own- program elimination due to budget cuts. I do think the military has created a monster with all of the support programs in existence- it’s created a vacuum where many people haven’t been forced to grow up and be responsible adults. And when these programs cease, they are going to be completely lost. With all of the hype about being resilient, the crutch programs offered negate that entire concept. How can you learn to be resilient when you’re relying on help all of the time? The military is not your parent- if you can’t live out on your own as grown-ups and function, maybe you don’t need to be married, have kids, etc., and should be back at home under your real parents’ care.

  • Guest

    This is Clearly one of the best articles I’ve read on here!! I’m a suck it up spouse and I adopted Kelly Cutrone’s motto “If you have to cry go outside!”

  • NavyWife 2

    This was exactly me this week! Monday we had orders to Bahrain, Tuesday we had orders to JAX and yesterday we found out we also have orders to somewhere else simultaneously. As someone who has worked very, very hard to build a solid career, I felt pretty yanked around by the last few “great” Navy days. However, I am so thankful that I have an employer that not only supports, but actively hires military veterans, reserve, guard and spouses. I am also thankful that my husband and I are a team and in this life together. Sometimes I yank him up the staircase by the ear and sometimes he puts me on his back and gives me a lift up a few flights. We shall see what September brings! :)

    • Darby Tyndall

      Loved your response

  • I have met a few of those spouses growing a tail, no matter how many times you point them in the right direction they want to sit and complain instead of actually doing anything to help them self. I try to be the suck it up wife but I will admit at times I lock myself in my room for a good cry, then move on.

  • Renee

    This was a really great post. Too often I see the suck it up spouses being NOT helpful. If I hear one more time “you knew what you were getting into” I may karate chop someone. I married my husband yrs before he enlisted and neither of us have any military experience. We had NO idea what we were getting into. Which isnt to say were upset but there have been some growing pains. I think the suck it up spouses do us all a disservice and I hope to never become “that” jaded about our lot in life.

    • the first mel

      I think it’s incorrect to assume that “suck it up” spouses are jaded. I see it as a way at looking at life and dealing with issues. As I mentioned above, I’m one of those spouses and I don’t consider myself dull, apathetic or cynical about military life. I have and still enjoy being a part of the military community. I appreciate what this path has allowed us to experience. Not all has been great, but nothing in life is all the time. If I was asked what I thought about the past 24 years as a milspouse, I would tell them that I wouldn’t have wanted my life to be any other way.

  • JerseyAngel2

    It doesn’t bother me that someone comes on any forum, especially this one, to express their frustrations and express their shortcomings. Everyone needs an out somewhere along the line, and when they find a spot where they feel comfortable to express these feelings, they shouldn’t be critized for it. Most military wives are all alone when their spouse is deployed. I know that I was…and I had five children to raise. Compassion is something in general that is lacking. If you are a strong individual, then you should offer a handup to those who are less fortunate than you.

  • I love how you approached this topic, Jacey. I had a hard time with it at first, because a person really can’t generalize the entire milspouse population. But what you wrote is absolutely true!!

  • jojo613

    I’m half way in between a suck it up spouse and I need support spouse. I think that type of spouse is a happy-medium. I do think that there are some suck it up spouses, who are jaded, and I think there are spoon fed spouses, who expect too much support. Be realistic with your expectations of people. If you complain too much about how other people are complaining you are probably bitter and jaded. And there are things that commanders and command staff need to know, you don’t need to be obnoxious about it, but you also should let someone know if you are having difficulty.

  • Before I finished reading the article my answer was “it depends”. I love the stair case analogy because some situations call for a suck it up tude and sometimes I need a little whiny pity party before In pull myself up off the couch. The fun part is knowing which friend to call. When I am in a tough as nails mood I call military friend A and we tough it out together. When I am in a whiny mood I call civilian Friend B just to have a shoulder tom cry on, for a minute. When I need to be a friend I can tell very quickly into the conversation which side of the staircase they are on so I can adjust my position accordingly.

  • MRSmilitary

    And what if your spouse joined the military many years after you married him? I do like the staircase analogy for everyone in all walks of life. You just never know what is coming next and it may be a bigger challenge than you ever thought you would have. But as for choices, it is also true that being a military wife leaves you a lot less freedom to make your own choices. What if you don’t want your husband to join the military and he does any way? Do you stick by him and do your best to “suck it up” or do you leave him? Some of us didn’t “choose” this life when we married our spouses, but we do our best to “suck it up” when we can because we love them more than we love ourselves. That doesn’t mean it isn’t very hard sometimes or that we don’t need sympathy sometimes. I think to tell someone “Hey it was your choice to be a military wife, suck it up, is just plain ignorant. What if our only other choice was divorce? What kind of choice is that?

  • Olga

    Neither, honestly.

    I have not been raised to make trouble of myself for everyone’s “enjoyment,” nor am I accustomed to being an army mule, so to speak.

    No, I do not need FRG. With some help from relatives (driving the U-Haul to meet my husband at his AIT), I did our first PCS by myself: found us a place to live off base, set up utilities and intrawebs, packed our old place up (while suffering from crippling allergies), hired movers, got the truck, mapped out the route, and got as much paperwork done as I could with an imperfect POA (it only extends to his civilian affairs – I need another one to be able to administrate his army-related affairs).

    TriCare Prime? Got it! Top ten things for a military spouse to know? A generous thought, but kind of a no f-ing sh!t set of concepts – do people really need to be told this? Loneliness? Who has the time!

    THAT BEING SAID!

    I am not about to become pregnant and give myself an emergency C-section in the midst of a winter storm. I already have a list going of what can be done to make next PCS (please, God, if you exist, let it be soon and to Southwest) far easier.

    I will not, I refuse to make things harder for myself than they ought to be and I’m not the type to sit down, shut up, and be 100% grateful and satisfied with my lot in life. Things have improved for us since he joined. They could be a lot better though. Let’s work on that. And yes, yes he is going to the doctor’s with me, and to the store, and to that restaurant he doesn’t really like because I married HIM, not U.S. Army. It is his career and the rest is our lives that we make work around that career.

  • nita wilson

    I am an army mp wife on my 5th deployment. We did a hard ship to camp Casey. Got to jlbm in December 10,13 then April 4th my husband had to go again. January needs to get here. That way maybe he can see our child grow up but he had the first 3 years out of 8. He has 15 years n and will get out when the army says done.