A blog from Army&You’s spring 2022 edition by Charlotte @boakye_cha
I was recently invited to an event promoting employability for military spouses and partners. Whilst the genuine efforts of those pioneering these schemes benefit many, I can’t help but feel frustrated.
Like many others, I’ve gone through the process of upskilling, applying for and securing a great role, feeling relief at the security that a second income will bring – finances in the green and a step closer to that all-important deposit for our forever home. Since 2005, the year I married my soldier, the cost of Service Family Accommodation has risen, pay for public service workers has frozen, and the cost of living has reached a record high. Arguably, there has never been such a need for spousal employment in the service community.
But despite the mounting evidence that it’s a matter worth supporting, I feel that there continues to be a resistance that resides within the military; financial challenges are not fully acknowledged, and the age-old expectation that the non-serving partner must place their jobs and careers second still exists.
Family matters requiring a period of absence, from childcare to annual gas inspections, should be at the sacrifice of the nonserving partner’s employment commitments. The impact of this is detrimental, often leading to a ‘why bother’ mindset.
When childcare has been an issue and my husband has had to step in, the impact was profound; a telling off including the old chestnut ‘that’s your wife’s job’, leading to a comment of unreliability on his SJAR, which may have had an impact on suitability for the next promotion.
I’m among many who over the years have juggled raising a family whilst our other halves have spent months in war zones, on exercises, and courses. My husband has turned down opportunities in order to support our family and my career, resulting in much sanction, accusations of being a poor team player and social exclusion.
Many of us continue to navigate through the minefield of securing a job that keeps our partner’s chain of command happy. Ultimately it leaves the question of whether employment support schemes are redundant to many, if the service refuses to offer reasonable flexibility and evolve to reflect the current challenging economic climate.