Spouse Calls: Male spouses need friends, too
Gender-neutral terminology aside, the world of military spouses is a woman’s world. Last week, a reader reminded us that men inhabit this territory too, and he said the terrain is sometimes rough.
Tony Brown, an Army husband, father and a contractor now serving in Iraq, said men get left out of the support loop.
"My hat is off to the stay-home moms," he said by e-mail. "But let’s not allow society to forget about the stay-home dads and those working a full-time job and being full-time dad."
"Military spouses have always had to learn to do new things, to play both the role of the father and mother in some circumstances," he said from his home in Rhode Island. "Women have had to do it for a long time. They’ve had to figure out how to do the things that might traditionally be considered a man’s job, and so now it’s just coming back the other way."
Being in the minority does create challenges for men, Thomas said.
"It’s harder to fit it in and really feel at home within the (spouse) community because there are so few other men," he said.
Determination to be self-reliant is another obstacle.
"Whether they really can deal with everything on their own or not, men like to think that they can," Thomas said.
Tony agrees: "Some of us as men, being so independent, let our egos get in the way and will not seek help from other men in the community. We feel like we have to do it on our own because we are men. Well I am here to tell you, that is not the case."
Parenting alone is difficult too, he said.
"Consider the frustration a dad must go through when mom is deployed and he is dealing with a teenage girl going through puberty," Tony said.
"I have a teenage son, and when my wife was in school seven months out of our first year in Germany, I really could have used some father-and-son teen-building exercises or camping trips with other dads having some of the same issues."
Finding those other dads and making friends is another hurdle, the men agreed. Spouses clubs, populated mostly by women, offer activities that are sometimes not guy-friendly.
"I think the support the husbands need in the community is probably about the same as for the wives, only geared more toward men," said Tony.
"If we go with generalizations," said Thomas, "a lot of guys would much rather get together on a Saturday or a Sunday and watch a football game or basketball game … You drink beer, you don’t drink tea."
Spouse club activities aren’t for women only, though.
Mike Clark, an Air Force husband, joined a spouse club at Ramstein, Germany, to participate in its bowling league. Now Mike is the membership chairman, so he knows the score: Five of the group’s 220 members are men.
"I haven’t felt … excluded because I’m a man," Mike said. "We find our own little niche in the things they do. We do tend to kind of stick together at the meetings."
"I really enjoy hanging out with those guys at bowling or whatever," Mike said. "There are a lot of things, even now, that the spouses clubs do that are more woman-oriented. I still have fun with it."
Hear more from the men about involvement, support and friendship on the Spouse Calls blog and next week’s column.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog here.
Related story:Husbands on the Homefront