I can’t begin to tell you how many emails and voice mails I receive from military spouses (both male and female) who have expressed disappointment with their local and online military spouse networks.
Most recently, I received an email from an active duty Army spouse who resides with her soldier at an Army base in Georgia. Upon arriving to the base, Melody decided to join a local group of spouses for their monthly luncheon. In her email she stated that she felt a bit awkward because the group was primarily made up of one nationality. Melody is biracial and accustomed to being a part of multicultural groups. She goes on to share that she felt alone, out-of-place, and in unfamiliar territory.
Another correspondence from a male spouse stated that he is an attorney and his wife is an active duty officer on assignment in Norfolk, VA. Since arriving to the base he has been unsuccessful with connecting to male spouses. At a recent monthly gathering he stood up to express his concerns hoping to the gain support of his fellow spouses. Instead he left the meeting feeling like his concerns were inconsequential.
Finally, Carly, a nineteen year old spouse who came to the states from Japan was influenced by a fellow Navy spouse to join her an online spouses network.
Excited, she immediately signed up for membership, received her approval, and on the first sign‐in, she was extremely disappointed because the first few posts were from disgruntled spouses who were gossiping about another spouse from a different online group. She closed her account.
While there is some truth to the old cliché, one bad apple spoils the bunch, I venture to say that in the military spouse community as with any community, there are good and bad networks.
I too have met my share of military spouse networks; some were good and others not so good but I never allowed the actions of these groups to cloud my judgment or views of such organizations.
The lessons I learned from those experiences (good and bad) influenced me to create positive outcomes:
- I built friendships that still flourish to this day.
- Launched a virtual business that evolved into a full-scale online portable careers training initiative; which was then adopted by the Department of Defense, under contract.
- Volunteered as a business mentor to other military spouse entrepreneurs; honored in Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 26 Entrepreneurs you Should Know.
- Established an online talk radio show for all military spouses.
Military Spouse Networks have been around for centuries to offer support, build friendships, share information, and resources.
Today’s military family is quite different on many fronts: the population of male military spouses is steadily rising, while same-sex and cross cultural marriages continue to evolve.
The military recognizes these changes and is working diligently to meet the needs of all military members and their families. From my own personal experience, military leaders welcome suggestions from the military spouse community. One voice can influence major change.
In my online course Starting a Virtual Business 101, students learn about the importance of conducting their due-diligence (research). I urge military spouses who read this post to do their research before joining any military spouse organization or network.
Take the time to learn about the leadership, the mission of the network, their vision, and goals. In addition, consider the following questions:
- How long has the group/network been established?
- What are some of their accomplishments?
- Is the network involved in projects or events that you are passionate about?
Joining a network simply for the sake of affiliation is fine, if you are only seeking to belong.
However, if you are looking for military spouse networks with substance (advocacy, impartial, family‐friendly, support‐focused), then research is key.
Finally, if what you are looking for does not exist, start your own organization or network.
Some of my favorite networks include:
- Military Spouse Employment Partnership
- Military Spouse Corporate Career Network
- Military One Source
- Armed Forces Crossroads
What are some of your favorite networks? Post your comments below.
About the Author:
Victoria M. Parham is a (retired) army wife, veteran, podcast host, and, Career and Life Strategist. Her mission and purpose is to help people identify their ideal career and life’s purpose.
To learn more, visit my blog: victoriaparham.com.