Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Having Your Own

Recently, I was speaking to a woman, an Army wife, who was telling me about how difficult it was for her to meet friends at her husband’s last duty station. They didn’t hold many activities for spouses—no FRG, no family events--so, she spent the entire two years that she was there without a single friend. She would stay at home with her children during the day, anxiously awaiting her husband’s arrival home from work, so that she would have an adult to speak to. She did, on occasion, speak to family and friends in other states, but never had a friend to actually talk with in person. Not only did this make me incredibly sad for her, but it made me wonder how many other women are in similar situations. Military spouses are especially susceptible to this, due to the frequent moves, isolation, and lack of resources, including often sharing one vehicle. But, I think that all women risk falling into this rut. It's a rut of only becoming friends with your husband’s friends’ spouses or your children’s friends’ parents, of building your life entirely around your husband and children, and therefore never having anything of your own. That, to me, is tragic.

I believe it is crucial for a woman to have her own—her own money, her own friends, her own interests, and her own life. Let’s start with probably the most controversial of these: Money. Now, I will admit that my husband and I have joint accounts. But, I also have a savings account that is completely my own. In the beginning of our marriage, I insisted on keeping things separate. This had nothing to do with a lack of trust in him, but more to do with my own sense of security. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my first marriage ended badly. I was in my second year of law school when my then husband drained all of our accounts and moved out. I was left to figure out a way to pay the rent and support myself and my four-year-old daughter, with no money in the bank. It was hard, but I made it. And I vowed that I would never again be vulnerable to having that happen. Now, I know many of you are saying, “but, my husband would never do that.” And hopefully you’re right. But, I can tell you that I would have said the same thing back then. And now, although I fully trust, respect, and love my husband with all my heart, I know that I still have to be able to stand on my own two feet, with my own money. Even if we are together forever in perfect health, as I certainly hope, I wouldn't feel complete without my own sense of security. I have my own career and know that I am fully able to support myself. My husband knows that I have my own account. And of course, if we were in a bind (as we were at the end of last year with the sale of our home), that money becomes our money. Ultimately, it’s about our well being, not just my own. But, it’s something I have for myself. I’m not advocating for keeping secrets. It is perfectly fine (and advisable) for a woman to keep her own savings account and her husband to know about it. He shouldn’t have a problem with it. And if he does, you may have more issues to address. But, that's another blog.

Second, let’s discuss friendships. There is no reason that a military spouse who relocates to a new area should have to limit her circle of friends to only other military spouses. Yes, they are the most logical connections to make, and often the easiest. But, there are so many other women in your area with whom you could build a connection, and eventually, a friendship. I have friends from elementary school, high school, college, previous jobs, and just random events I've participated in. I enjoy meeting spouses of my husband’s friends, and have made some great friends that way. But, I also need to have my own friends, who I have met on my own, and who I have something else in common with. For stay at home moms, there is no reason that your circle of friends should be limited to the parents of children in the playgroup. Yes, it’s great to spend time with other moms, especially when your children are friends. But, there are incredible women out there whose children may be younger or older than yours, or who may not have children at all. By limiting your circle, you are missing out on getting to know some phenomenal people. If you don’t work, it may be hard to meet other women, but there are definitely ways. Join a book club, volunteer somewhere a few hours a week, meet your neighbors…anything. There are so many friends-to-be just waiting for you to venture out and meet them. And with each new person you meet, you will learn and your life will become enriched. Which, of course, benefits your family as well.

And finally, it is important for a woman to have her own interests, hobbies, and career. I'm not saying that you have to work outside the home to be independent. If your children are young, and you and your partner have decided that you will stay home with them, that’s wonderful. Spending time with your children is the most valuable experience you will ever have. But, once they’re in school, you should be able to cultivate your own interests and career as well. And, even while they’re at home, there are ways that you can keep your interests and career alive. You can take online courses, work part-time from home, or even just volunteer a few a week. Find a cause or issue that’s important to you and find an agency that needs help. You’ll feel good because you’re doing something good, you’ll build skills that can enhance your resume, you’ll meet new people (aka, friends), and most importantly, you will be doing something for YOU. I know it seems like there’s already not enough time, but finding a way to do something for yourself is just as important as taking care of your family. And being invested in something that interests, and is important to, you will greatly enrich your life, and your sense of self.

I would ask every woman reading this blog these simple questions: How do you define yourself? And what do you have in your life that is just for you?

If you struggle with these questions, or all you can come up with is that you are a wife and mother, or you have a favorite TV show that you watch every week, it’s time to venture out. It’s time to find your own something, anything. Your husband and children may be anchors in your life, but they should not be your entire ship. So, get out there, make friends, find new interests, and develop your own resources. I think you'll find that there are few things more rewarding than truly having your own.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this blog! So many women depend on a man......and you should always be able to take care of yourself ~ especially if there are kids involved.

    Take care,