How to be a Military Wife

photodune 579220 retro girl xs 300x279 How to be a Military WifeI almost didn’t write this post.

Ten+ years of war has has impacted military wives, too – it killed her career dreams.

How to be a military wife

  1. Marry your military hunk.
  2. Move around the country several times.
  3. Become more and more frustrated with finding jobs (or not) and where your career is headed.
  4. Resign yourself to the fact that your dreams aren’t going to happen right now.

When writing the 17 things to do TODAY to become successful article, I asked a Facebook group of over 1,100 Army officer wives to give me an example of a successful military spouse they know.

I was looking for help. Beyond the military spouses that have careers that help the military, finding spouses that have successful careers can be difficult. When I was working in Clarksville, I didn’t always tell people that I was a military spouse. I didn’t feel like I had much in common with the stereotype. I had trouble connecting with other spouses with my full time work schedule. I couldn’t just leave work for a 14:00 FRG meeting.

SIDE NOTE: I’m always looking to find more military wives that run awesome businesses and professional lives. Know someone? Contact me with her name! I’d love to reach out to say hello!

Back to the Facebook post. My question was, “Who are the most successful military wives you know?” Here are the replies I got:
 How to be a Military Wife

  • “She can hold her own”
  • “Her spouse and kids are happy”
  • “She handles situations with grace and humor”

I completely agree that these qualities are important, so I replied asking if anyone knows a spouse who does these things AND has a business/professional life. The reply I got was, “a career doesn’t make you successful, it means that you have the ability to balance.”

Disclaimer: This is obviously a small sample. I also know that success is not the same for everyone (as a new mom, my priorities have definitely changed). Some of my best friends are stay-at-home moms and that lifestyle is a different goal – not better or worse than something else.

However, a week earlier, I had posed a different question to the same group, “What is your dream job?”
 How to be a Military Wife How to be a Military Wife

Their answers included a bike shop, bakery, interior design, fashion consultant, and more. We aren’t lacking dreams and aspirations. What is stopping us from going after them?

There are the obvious answers:

  • The emotional stress of the military lifestyle is really hard. Surviving, let alone thriving, can be a challenge.
  • Moving all of the time is not the ideal situation for succeeding in a traditional career.

And less obvious ones:

  • There is a high value put on the wife who stays home to take care of the homefront in military families.
  • There aren’t many examples that showcase uncommonly successful military spouses that make their career work with the military lifestyle. Without role models, it can be hard to figure it out on your own (I’m working to change this!).
  • Non-traditional careers work better for our life, but the path to creating success as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or telecommuter is not as clear as getting hired by someone else (I’m working to change this, too!).

With the wars drawing down (I know everyone is not home yet – I’m thinking of you if you are missing your soldier today), I think the upcoming years will be the revival of the military spouse’s career. We can finally breathe a little, and turn our attention back to ourselves and our dreams.

I’m so excited for you to reach your biggest dreams. Together, let’s celebrate our success stories as we write them.

I’d love if you left a comment! What do you think? Have we been putting our dreams on hold? Are you ready to go after yours?


  1. Kate S. says:

    Wonderful article, Kaye! I completely agree with you & I’m so glad you decided to post this!

    So many Wives, myself included, put everything into being a Stay-At-Home-Mom. This is not easy, of course. However, I take offense when this choice is considered more important than those who choose to have their own career. I do not have a career, yet I appreciate those who are courageous enough to go after their dreams, as well as raise their Babies. These Wives give me hope & encourage me to go after my own dreams. It does NOT mean they care less about their Children or are selfish because they go after their own ambitions. It means they are confident enough in themselves to TRY to have it all. What’s not to admire about that?

    • I couldn’t agree more, Kate! Thanks for visiting the site, and THANKS for leaving a comment. You rock. Keep on keeping on after those dreams of yours. :-)

  2. I just found your website recently. Don’t ask me how, because I honestly can’t remember. Anyways, I wanted to say…. I am just just getting started in my dream job. I own a small photography business and I am having a really hard time focusing on growing it, raising my three small kids (6 year old, 3 1/2 year old, and 10 month old), working towards my degree in graphic design all while not having my husband around much because of his career with the Army. I want it all, I guess. My mom thinks that’s a “pretty tall order” but I want this business to grow to help ease our financial situation and get some money into savings, I want my degree because I think an education should be a top priority and I want to be around for my babies. I just don’t know how to balance it all. I am really looking forward to succeeding… one of these days :)

    • I’m so glad that you found me! I’ll be covering a lot more about photography businesses and work-life balance in the future… hope I can help! Keep following those dreams. Good luck!!

  3. Great post! As a soon to be Army wife, I have always focused on my future career and my dreams despite the “Army wife” future I have. I think it’s important to do what’s best for you as an individual and pursuing my degree and career has always been the most important to me. I know by doing so I will be a happier wife and in the future mother. It is possible to be successful in ones dreams and also be a great wife and mother.

    • YES, it is absolutely possible to follow your own passions and be a great wife and mother (giving them up can even make some people resentful). Thank you for commenting! The road ahead may not be the smoothest, but its worth it. :-)

  4. This is great! You took the words right out of my mouth. I started my own business and it is going great, but sometimes I get really frustrated. The military lifestyle gives me so many extra challenges. I think it is a huge accomplishment to balance a military life, husband, kids, and manage the household! I can’t even say that I am successful in doing that myself. But what about the spouses who want more, who want the successful career that they always dreamed of. It’s almost as though you have to choose between the two. Like you mentioned, there is a high value placed on spouses who stay at home to handle the home front, this military culture sometimes makes me feel selfish choosing my own dreams. There are plenty of people who are successful at doing both, but in the military you face many more situations where you ultimately do have to choose between your career or supporting your husbands career. When one career isn’t at all flexible sometimes the other will bend until it breaks.

  5. Grace Presley says:

    When I married my husband and ultimately into the Army, I didn’t realize what I was signing up for. Not saying that I wouldn’t have married my husband regardless, but let me explain.

    I am a go getter. An independent, DIYer, goal setter, “failure is not an option”. I am a mother, an L&D nurse, and a small business owner (I own a photography business and am currently expanding to offer more than photography products).

    When I explain what I do to most I usually receive the raised eyebrow. I’ve heard more than once, “Shouldn’t you be staying at home with your kiddo and supporting your husband?” While that may be a goal for some- it is most definitely not mine. And I cannot put my dreams, goals, and ultimately my well-being on the back burner just because I am a military spouse.

    I fully support my husband. I love being an Army wife. And while his career may put mine on hold at times, that does not justify me giving up my goals, dreams, and desires.

    I hate to think that other spouses put their well being on hold. You CAN do it all in moderation and have a healthy, happy marriage and family.

    • Grace, I agree 100000% with your entire comment.

      I couldn’t support my husband as well as I do if I didn’t pursue my own passions. I would be a bear to deal with at home, and that’s not good for either of us.

      Like everything in life, everything has a season. There may be times when the army comes first, others when the kiddos do, but for me there also needs to be times when I come first. Non negotiable.

      THANK YOU for being here, you are wonderful.

  6. Tracy Lynn says:

    LOVE this post! Thank you so much for the inspiration and for pointing this out. I’m a new Marine Corps spouse (as of June 2012) and, so far, have been maintaining my career as a communications and public relations consultant. I’ve been trying to position myself for a growing career as we continue to move. Although I don’t know what the future may bring, I am certain that I will continue to strive for professional success as well as ‘family success’ for years to come.

    I agree with you that one of the major challenges for spouses is the small pool of examples from which to model themselves after. When I attended my first milspouse event, the only careers the other spouses had were nursing and teaching. While these are awesome and admirable professions, they are not the only options for milspouses. I truly believe that we are in a unique position to create our own career paths and be a model for other industries who are experimenting with dispersed workforces.

    Rock on, sister! Hope to stay in touch…

    • Tracy,

      Yes, I get so tired of the advice to be a nurse or a teacher. There are SO MANY lovely, ambitious, and rock star women in those roles (many on this site!). My talents just lie in other places. I want to give examples of other paths that are working for military spouses.

      Keep rocking :-)

      PS Love your style, girl. We look like we’d be great friends.

  7. Katie S. says:

    Great article! I know many of us have put our dreams and aspirations on the back burner for our husband’s military career. I know that I am successful because I am constantly working toward my goal and with continued baby steps, I will reach it!

    • Katie, YES. That’s success to me – realizing what your big, ultimate dream is and working towards it! It sometimes take us a bit longer (as military spouses), but that is no reason to give it all up. You rock for being here!

  8. Cassadeena Collazo says:

    While my husband was on the trail I went to school for my associates in early childhood development so that when we got to our next duty station I could open an in home daycare and stay home w my children until they started school. Mind you I had wonderful fellow spouse support we took shifts caring for each other’s children while we were in school. He is scheduled for deployment next March so my plan is to go back for my Bachelor so that I can truly teach in a public or government school. I think our goals are possible but they take longer to achieve.

    • Cassadeena, you bring up such a great point – the support structure. As milspouses, even independent ones, sometimes need to learn to rely on our support systems to accomplish what we want to. Much like it takes a village to raise a child, sometimes it takes a village to raise a career. :-)

  9. To start: I think I love you. Let’s be friends.

    After meeting all the wives of my boyfriend’s friends, I felt like I truly didn’t belong. They are amazing, super-moms, true, supportive army wives, stay at home heros….. I am an independent, crazy person.

    of course I 100% support my soldier, I’m aware (although maybe not prepared) of everything that I’m getting myself into, and Im completely in love, he’s the one, end of story…..

    But I’m a school teacher, and professional photographer/business owner, that owns my own home (albiet far away from where we are currently stationed) and have always paid my own way, mowed my own lawn, followed my dreams and taken care of myself.

    The idea of staying at home and not doing those things, makes me immediately anxious. I’m sure if I had children that my priorities and anxieties would be vastly different.

    But I love the idea that it is possible to be an Army-wife and also maintain my own existance. I love the idea that there are women out there that think like me.
    Thank you.

    • YES, Let’s be friends!

      I felt the same way when I first met a bunch of military wives. To be honest, some of them are now my closest friends – I love our differences and having someone to ask advice when I’m way out of my element (cooking, weird things that come up taking care of my new babe, mom groups, etc). However, I LOVE and absolutely need a network of women to bounce my crazy business ideas off of. And so this site was born. It is possible to have everything you want (just maybe not all the time, or as quickly as you’d like it).

      Thanks so much for being here and leaving a comment. :-)

      Please reach out if you ever need an ear or another business brain!

  10. Jennifer Kelley says:

    Wow. I have to say this is eye opening. I am new here, new to the military world and have a daughter who is 21. I’ve always worked but then it was in the civilian world. This new world I am in is so different, I thought, until today when I came to this site. First, in case anyone reads this…if you want a career , you are not selfish! I do not understand the mentality of how staying at home (as noble a career as any) to raise the kids is “supporting your soldier”. How is it that staying at home is supportive? and working is not? What does one do day after day by staying home to support their husband? Is it cleaning and making lunch and dinner? Is that what that means?? I’m not trying to be impertinent (sp?). I am really just curious. I hate to see anyone’s dreams fall to the wayside. At my age I can tell you that following your dreams, staying in the workforce (if you want) is the admirable thing to do! If you don’t it is hard to get in later, and also, kids grow up and move on…then what? When my daughter left for school I was devastated and realized I needed a life of my own too, its how to be whole really.

    • Jennifer,

      I have the same questions – it is what inspired me to write this post. I know that in order for me to be the MOST supportive wife to my hubby, I need to take care of myself too. The way that I do that is by pursuing my passions and professional goals (others might do it differently, thats just me).

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love that you are here, and will try to help with as much information as I can give!

      xoxo, Kaye

  11. Anna Morgan says:

    LOVE this article!! LOVE these comments Ladies!!!
    I have been an active-duty Navy spouse for almost 19 years. I chose to stay home with our children when they were young (infants), only to realize once they became toddlers that I wasn’t meant to stay at home full-time.
    So I chose to go back to school full-time and work on the Associates. My favorite rumor, by the “stay-at-home” spouses in our housing area was: I was a prostitute and that is why I was never home when my husband deployed to Iraq in 2003. I had one “friend” that would defend me by saying; “You try going to school full-time (5 courses), being the Leader of a Girl Scout group, a Soccer Mom, and taking care of a 3 and 6 yo. Then you can talk about not being at home.” Still talk to that wonderful woman today and my kids are now 17 and almost 15.
    If you’re happy stay-at-home with your little ones, kudos, do what makes YOU happy! But if you’re not happy being a stay-at-home mom, why make yourself miserable, so others won’t look down on you? Do what makes YOU HAPPY! Do things that YOUR PASSIONATE about! Follow YOUR Dreams!! There is NOTHING wrong with any of those things!
    I assure you once I realized I couldn’t stay at home 24/7 to take care of the little ones, they were happier, the hubby was happier, and I was happier; so all around the family was not only happier, but we functioned better, more smoothly and valued the quality time we had when we were together!
    Kudos to each and everyone of us, in whatever choices we make!
    True happiness comes into a woman’s life when she realizes; Instead of continually tearing each other down, we can admire, learn, grow, and lift each other up; celebrating that each of us was created differently for a reason!!

    • Anna Morgan says:

      Oh, I forgot to mention once I finished my Associates, we transferred. Where I continued to get my Bachelors, then we transferred again. Where I completed my Masters in 2010.
      Shoot for the Moon Ladies, even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars!

  12. Jessica says:

    I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who has slight resentment toward the military. I was pretty successful before getting married. I worked full time to support my husband going to college full time before he joined. Once he joined I was expected to follow him across the country. Where we moved, there isn’t much in my line of work because it is such a small town where people work at mom and pop stores or at the local Wal-Mart (which are all fine but I swore that I would never work retail again after graduating college). After sitting through my first meeting welcoming us to the military, they told me the only way to get through deployments was to do what o have always done. GREAT, I’m screwed, I thought to myself and walked out of there angry. Angry for thinking I could do my job anywhere and of course coming from Los Angeles I never knew towns could literally be a couple stop signs and no big cities for over 150 miles. Angry that my husband gets all this praise and attention and Im considered a nobody after having such an amazing job for 11 years. Then I get angry at myself for being angry. Am I the only one?

    • Nope, you’re not the only one! Our post is a little larger how you describe yours. However, I quickly realized there were only two companies in town I could continue my career in professional sales with and both would require me to travel extensively (which obviously isn’t ideal with a husband in the military). Getting married at 30, I knew exactly what I was getting into, also, but upon realizing I had just boxed myself out of my career path, I felt screwed, too.

      My solution was to start my own business – not saying that’s everyone’s solution, but it worked for me. Sales rep to entrepreneur? I suppose it’s not that much of a far fetched leap… Not sure what will happen when we PCS, but hopefully someone will buy my business! I’m hoping to find a sales rep job in our next duty station, but I’m not counting on it (why do they put posts in the middle of NOWHERE?!). Already trying to dream up another business idea… maybe I’ll get lucky twice.

What do you think?


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