My favorite definition of wholeness is sweet and simple – To be exactly who you are, and to be that well. As a coach, my deepest desire is to help my clients discover who they are truly meant to be and to find their own way of bringing that to life. As a military spouse, I’ve learned from my own experience and from my research that our career challenges can be a huge obstacle to becoming and being who we want to be in the world.
It all began for me when we went overseas for the first time 13 years ago. I left my consulting career behind and reluctantly joined my Air Force husband for an assignment in Eastern Turkey. I had never in my adult life been unemployed before, and was terrified that I had lost my identity as a successful professional. My worst fears were realized when we arrived and my residency permit had been stamped “Ev Hanimi” or “Housewife.” At that moment, every ounce of self-worth I had possessed seemed to melt away. Is this how I would be defined forever more in the eyes of the Air Force, my friends, my family?
What was the point of working so hard for so many years, if it could be taken away with a simple rubber stamp?
The answer is, of course, that nobody can take away who you are. But how do you respond when faced with such obstacles? The military speaks of “resiliency,” but to me it is really about maintaining wholeness. If you know who you are, and believe deep in your bones that you are valuable and worthy, then no job or lack thereof can take that away from you.
There is no doubt that the facts on military spouse employment are sobering. We know from recent surveys, sponsored by MOAA and Blue Star Families, that unemployment rates among us are as high as 25%, and that just accounts for spouses who are actively seeking employment. We also know that the majority of spouses who are not working say they would like to be. And 90% of us who do work are underemployed, either because we are overqualified for our jobs or under-compensated. It is outrageous and sad, to say the least.
I realize that changing this reality will take time, and change happens slowly. In the meantime, my purpose each day is to help other spouses know exactly who they are and to be that well, no matter what. Because when we know who we truly are and find a sense of wholeness, we are better equipped to weather the chaos of military life, to creatively navigate career challenges, and make peace with a way of life that sometimes asks us to sacrifice our very identity.
If you are a military spouse seeking wholeness, contact Michelle (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a complimentary coaching session by phone.