Behind the Scenes: Life as a Military Spouse
Posted by Lacey Wilcox | May 6, 2022
April, it seems, brings about far more than just May flowers. The month of May has a surprising number of holidays and observances. The list of everything we get to celebrate and appreciate this month is truly delightful: from Star Wars (ok, I’m not 100% sure this is actually official, but my love of puns compels me to include it) to Cinco de Mayo, from mothers to nurses, from Memorial Day to Teacher Appreciation – we truly get to do it all.
But one day this month that is worth highlighting is May 6: Military Spouse Appreciation Day. While it’s easy to argue that our military will never receive enough appreciation, their spouses receive even less.
In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we want to provide you with a more intimate look at one of our all-time favorites, Senior Copywriting Lead Danielle Holmes. She graciously shared her story as the wife of an Air Force Officer, along with some of the unique challenges that military spouses face—particularly in regards to consistent employment, and how she came to Primitive.
Behind the Scenes: a Firsthand Account of MilSpouse Life
While being in the military will always keep you on your toes, Danielle and her husband, Will, are especially agile after over 13 years in the Air Force. The two first met in college at a conference in Colorado Springs. And while it wasn’t perhaps love at first flight, theirs was a connection that was swift and lasting.
After Will graduated, they began a series of moves that would take them to both some of the most beautiful and some of the most remote places in the country. They spent almost two years in Texas—at Laughlin AFB and NAS Corpus Christi before being stationed at Cannon AFB in New Mexico. At that time, it was the only base where Will’s plane, the C146, was found.
After six years in Portales, the Air Force decided it was time to shake things up, and moved the C146 to Duke Field in Florida. Danielle and her family lived there for five years before a recent move to Vance AFB. (Yes, our team is ecstatic to have her a little closer.)
That’s quite a bit to type—but imagine all that was involved in actually moving a crew of four all over the country: that’s a lot of miles, a lot of cardboard boxes, a lot of house hunting, and a lot of attempts to find a decent grocery store, talented hair stylist, and a good cup of coffee (#essentials).
But moving so frequently is just one of the challenges that is unique to military families. Below, Danielle shares the good, the hard, and the Primitive.
A military spouse has to wear multiple hats. Can you share some of the unique roles you have to fill, especially when Will is deployed or training?
A lot of this depends on what your spouse is doing at the time. If your spouse is deployed or away for training, you’re responsible for day-to-day house maintenance and upkeep, scheduling contractors or communicating with insurance if there is an unexpected issue (there will be—Murphy’s Law), and just doing life by yourself. If you have children, there will be seasons where you are parenting without a present partner. And when days are long, it’s tough to not have a partner to tag team with. But the challenge doesn’t just involve wearing different hats: it’s also about knowing how to share them when your spouse is home.
Reintegration is a process. While your spouse is away, you develop new habits and routines, you each have experiences without the other that shape you. When your spouse is home, it’s important for everyone that you share the work, but it is an adjustment. It takes time and a lot of grace to be in-person partners.
While many households in America are dual-income, this can be even more necessary when one spouse is in the military—especially if that spouse is not an officer. Can you share some of the things that make it difficult for military spouses to find work?
Data and lived experience show many military spouses are underemployed at a higher rate than their civilian counterparts. This is usually due to a mix of being overqualified for jobs available, being in an area with a difficult job market, or frequent moves. When you also consider the cost involved for childcare—especially in locations that are either expensive or rural (both of which have a significant financial impact on a household’s budget)—it becomes more difficult for military spouses to find and maintain meaningful work that pays well.
In my experience, military families often have to pay out of pocket for the community they don’t have. Because you don’t get to choose where you live, you might not have friends or family nearby to help watch kids, bring you a meal when you’re sick, or help you find services like contractors or repairmen who won’t take advantage of you. And if you’ve been stationed in an area where the cost of living is higher, you may have trouble finding affordable housing.
It can also be difficult to find work when you know you move every few years. We were lucky enough to be stationed places for long stretches. That is certainly not a typical military experience. And if you find yourself in a rural duty station, you’re often competing for jobs with a close-knit community of locals—who also need to work. And if you’re in a career field that requires recertifying when you move states—or being in-person—you face loss of seniority and income every time you move.
Because finding jobs near a base or station can be so difficult, many military spouses—like yourself—start their own businesses. While this is a challenge in itself, military life can make it even more so. Can you share your experience owning a business as a military spouse?
Sometimes it’s just easier to start your own business. It can move with you, and you can have greater control and flexibility over your schedule. When you need to, you can build in breaks for a move, care for a sick kiddo without needing to request timeoff, or take off ablock of time when your spouse is home.
photo cred: Amanda Albert Photography https://amandaalbertphotography.com/
When Will and I got married, I knew that I was either going to have to pivot or start a new career path. I wanted to stay in academia or work at a museum. Neither of these felt possible when we were stationed in a small town in New Mexico. After a degree change, I did successfully pursue academia and was an adjunct professor in New Mexico. But I knew when the move to Florida was on the horizon that I’d lose department seniority in a move. I ended up deciding to start my own company: The Observer’s Table. I initially offered editing services and later branched out to include copywriting services. I loved the connections I made with clients and everything I learned about writing for marketing.
But, small business owners have multiple responsibilities. It’s more than just the work you provide clients. You also have to build out your own marketing, chase new leads, and manage your books and finances. When we moved to Florida, my business experienced huge growth. But that became more difficult after becoming a mom. I was suddenly looking at pricing changes to accommodate childcare while I networked, chased leads, and did client work. I ended up asking friends in similar industries if they knew of any open positions. A military spouse friend I had known from New Mexico and Florida said her company was hiring and that I’d be a great fit. Enter Primitive.
And that’s when life lead you to Primitive. What about Primitive was helpful for you, both in general and specifically as a military spouse?
Primitive offers benefits that are helpful for a military spouse, but are beneficial for anyone. The fact that Primitive was already set up with a distributed team made all the difference. It meant remote work that wasn’t isolated. At some companies, remote employees are on their own island, and can receive lower pay and fewer promotions. Primitive is set up to function with distributed team members, has a supportive culture, and creates opportunities for growth regardless of your location.
Primitive also offers a flexible work schedule. As long as I am available to my team and stay on top of my workload, I can work when it best fits my schedule or Will’s time at home. Unlimited PTO helped me not feel too constricted after being an entrepreneur, and having a four-day workweek every other week makes it easier to schedule appointments and self-care without needing to pay for additional childcare.
What advice do you have for businesses considering hiring a military spouse?
Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a military spouse! We’re hard workers, educated, and qualified. We know that frequent moves and our spouses’ demanding schedules can seem intimidating. But we promise, we’ll make your investment in us worth your time!
We’re really grateful for all the things Danielle had to say about Primitive, but we’re most thankful that we get to call her our teammate. She’s passionate, talented, a great leader, and excels at finding a brand’s voice instantly. You can check out some of the things she’s written for Primitive here.
Appreciation for military spouses isn’t something that can be covered well in one blog post. We’d love to share these resources if you are interested in learning more: