Being a military spouse is a singular existence: we are married to the one percent of Americans who serve our country. We experience separations and relocations frequently.
Being a military spouse means being part of an interconnected community of men and women. We rely on each other during hard times, for advice, for friendship, and for fun.
Most importantly, we all handle our similar experiences uniquely and can help boost each other up personally and professionally through sharing, networking, and building friendships.
When I arrived at #MilspouseFest2016 in San Diego, by myself and a little unsure, I was immediately welcomed and directed toward the coffee. Fully caffeinated, I was ready to military spouse it up with the best of them!
#MilspouseFest2016 is the professional development conference you always wanted but were never offered. It goes beyond Family Readiness trainings, past unit get-togethers, and is down the block from LINKS (or similar intro to military life courses).
This is funny, irreverent, real, and filled with prizes to get excited about.
Host Jacey Eckhart says everything you were thinking but never said. She is honest, hilarious, and ready to dish out things she has learned in her journey as a Navy spouse, Air Force brat, and Army mom. I found myself nodding along as she shared PCS stories, the difficulties of finding friends, and the way that nothing prepares us to tackle military life.
#MilspouseFest2016 confronts the funny and tough parts of military life head-on.
Here’s just a taste of the topics we discussed:
The advice we all hear and take in without comment? “Bloom where you are planted.” “Children are resilient.” “Stay busy.” “Be flexible.” You’ll get the chance to think about all the helpful tips you’ve been given over the years and decide if they are really useful at all.
When you originally promised to “love, honor, and cherish,” the marriage vows didn’t include all the ups, downs, and special circumstances of this military life. You get the chance to write new vows that actually reflect all the things that we just do, without too much comment, as a normal part of military life. It is so cathartic to talk to other people who have waited through extended deployments, been understanding about delayed homecomings, and cleaned up those muddy boots.
The whole time that we were discussing how the military has influenced our lives, our groupings were constantly shifting. Being grouped by age, by favorite commissary, and by branch of service helped to demonstrate how similar we all really are because of our shared experiences of military life. Trying to figure out who else graduated with me in 2004, while also staying completely silent, was challenging and funny. If you haven’t seen a bunch of grown-ups running around holding up various combinations of fingers or paper napkins to find their graduating class, you truly have not lived.
“Great, all of this togetherness and ‘yay military spouses’ stuff seems fine, but not for me,” you might be saying.
But it IS for you. #MilspouseFest2016 is for every military spouse. Men and women, recently married and celebrating several decades of wedded bliss, voting in their first election or well versed in the political circus, this is for you.
#MilspouseFest2016 does more than just cover the ground of how unique military life is, how alike we all are, and provide advice for how to thrive and survive.
And there are experts. Experts in sociology, experts in finance and money management, experts in turning our military spouse experience into actionable employment skills.
One of the most valuable segments was the employment session. You decide if you want to be employed in the traditional sense, if you want to start your own small business, or if you want to work as a freelancer or as a contractor. Then you get to talk to an expert in that particular area who is also a military spouse. These are top of their game, leaders in their fields– military spouses who truly have built on their experiences and expertise to succeed and lead.
It was so nice to be reassured that finding a steady job isn’t just something that I am dealing with, it’s a problem for many of us. And the ability to connect to other people, to hear their stories of success and adaptation, is simply inspiring.
I left feeling more hopeful than I have been in a long, long time.
Finances tend to be kind of a taboo subject. No one wants to talk about where or how much we put aside for retirement. We don’t talk too much about budgeting beyond coupon clipping tips or comparing the commissary to out in town prices. #MilspouseFest2016 will give you the rundown with a heavy dash of fun. USAA experts dish the dirt on smart investing and saving strategies, and contestants get the chance to win prizes!
Let’s talk more about those prizes. We all like prizes, and #MilspouseFest2016 has them! From coffee to a spa day to cold hard cash, there was a chance to walk away with awesome swag beyond the freebies from the sponsors and on-base service providers.
- Make new connections to other military spouses
- Laugh about the interesting situations military life throws our way
- Get solid work/life advice from milspouse leaders in their field
- Learn about fiscal health through games
- Maybe win some sweet prizes
Why aren’t you signed up yet? Get on that right now, before all the seats are full!
Meg Flanagan is a special and elementary education teacher who holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. In addition to classroom experience, she has also worked in private tutoring and home schools. Meg is passionate about education advocacy for all children, but especially for children with special needs and children of military and state department personnel. You can find Meg online at MilKids Education, as well as on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.