Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trailing Spouses, Military Wives and Righteous Indignation

Ask a Manager answered a question from a military spouse today that was VERY pertinent to my interests:

I will be giving my (two week) notice at my job this Friday.  I’m not leaving to take another job.  I’m leaving because the Army is moving us ….. again.  Unfortunately, in order to get the job, I had to fib and tell the bosses that we’d be staying in the area (and would eventually retire here) and I think that’s one of the reasons why they hired me — I said I was sticking around.  Many employers will not hire military spouses if they think they are leaving soon, and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job.
Oy! Sound familiar?  This was my go-to excuse for not trying to get out of my current work situation, not wanting to start a job when I knew we might move.  You know who "might" move? Anyone!  I wasted years not letting myself move on, and that totally sucks.  I wish I knew if this lady had a blog, because I'd read the hell out of it.

The commenters on the post chastise her for her "fibbing" and tell her she's an out-right liar.  This got my hackles up immediately.  She can tell the truth and hope she's not dropped for the possibility she may move, she can omit what her spouse does for a living, or she can just stop living her life completely until she drops dead and finally "commits" to a burial plot.

When I asked my HR department whether or not I should tell my boss about J's graduation, we got into a talk about the possibility of relocation if he gets a good job.  I said that was definitely a possibility, but since I have no control over his job prospects, it's hardly fair to judge me for it.  One of the HR crazies even suggested that I let them know about his progress as soon as he gets an interview!  It's like I'd grown a third arm or something, and that third arm was looking for a new job.  Candace at Army Wives Lives answered a similar question to the one above, much more articulately:
Most states do not specifically grant military spouses protection from employment discrimination.  However, you may not discriminate against someone based on marital status.  An employer making inquiries about your marriage for any purpose is simply inappropriate.  They also cannot ask if you are planning to get pregnant and take maternity leave in the near future.
Yes, I do sort of have control over where he gets a job (once he gets an offer) and we are a unit.  I'm stuck to/with him for life, and I'm glad of that, but we are two different people.  I do not want to be thought of in terms of him when looking for a job.  It's enough to pull up roots and move somewhere for someone else, so I found it completely insulting that the commenters at Ask a Manager wouldn't even give her the concession of not offering up conjecture in an interview.

I see it as a bias similar to avoiding women because maybe someday they'll get pregnant and have to take time off.  Planning for the future is a part of being a manager, but there are some assumptions that shouldn't be made, for the dignity of your employee.

So, now I need to go find army spouse blogs, because that is a corner of the internet I never even thought to look in!  If anyone knows a good one, please let me know in the comments.  I'm in a lather right now and will probably have to come back to this later to make it more succinct.


  1. The responses at Ask a Manager is pretty ridiculous. I'm not sure how strong the legal case would be for marital status discrimination as a protection, but I think one of the important things about discrimination law is that ensconces what ought to be the spirit of employment/housing/etc policy: nothing but how you do your job is any of your employer's damn business.

    Keep us up to date with the military spouse blogs you find!

  2. So far, nothing yet. I have to do some major filtering to get past super conservative blogs. But I am really curious about women doing that kind of trailing/traveling.

  3. I found your blog through Diplopundit's highlight on your trailing spouse articles and I am in LOVE! I am a Navy wife who is "trailing" her hubby to a remote embassy post...I certainly haven't gotten on a roll talking beyond fluffy stuff (um, 'cause no one is listening to what I am saying at this point!) but I can promise you that I am not "super conservative." LOL! I am in the midst of moving my blog from Tumblr ( to Blogger (

  4. Hey Heather! I'm glad you found me, which means I found you. I'll add your blog to my list!

    The more voices I find on this subject, the less alone I feel. And more talking means we solve more problems. Identity and vocabulary are really important to me, and obviously, I like crafts too. Looks like we have more than one thing in common!

    (No offense with the "super conservative" comment. Not meant as an insult, just not an audience I think would appreciate me much.)

  5., offense on the conservative comment. It is hard to be a military/trailing spouse when you struggle with not having a voice/job/identity. Many military wives are all "I am just happy following behind my man. And, oh yeah, because I have no identity, I will just wear my man's military rank on my own shoulder."

  6. Hello all,
    I am a recruiter, HR professional, and career coach. Yes, I understand that it must be frustrating for you all (military spouses) to get a job, even more so than it is for anyone to get a job these days. However, you must put yourself in the employers' shoes. It costs a LOT of money to backfill a position, especially as you get "up the ladder" in regards of management levels (promotion discrimination). Right now, the US and most of the world has a skills shortage, as opposed to 10 years ago when there was a job shortage. Then, it was easy to find a job for anyone because employers weren't picky and would take anyone that remotely had the skills to do the job. Now, hiring manager are pickier than ever because they are taking on a big risk when they hire someone. It costs a lot to recruit a candidate and company budgets are tight these days, so they may have had to BEG their manager to approve a new position adding to company headcount. Therefore, when they finally get approval, they want to make sure that it is a perfect fit and that the person is going to stick around.

    Of course, that makes it very difficult for military spouses to get a job because in most cases, they will be gone in 1-2 years or less sometimes. You have to realize that companies need to remain profitable. Don't try to fight the system, blaming the evil corporations for not giving you the job when it is NOT in their best interest. The solution to your problem is finding the RIGHT jobs for your situation. Some companies have positions that are easier to backfill, so it's not as big of an issue. Find those companies. Search the internet for military friendly companies. Try a temporary staffing agency and work contract jobs. The temporary workforce is growing like crazy right now because of the poor economy! Being a temp gives you a leg up because you are cheaper to the employer in regards to lack of benefits and flexibility of contract. Start a part-time work from home business or work virutally from home as a customer service representative. There ARE jobs out there that fit your situation perfectly. Don't get beat up and disappointed trying to fit a square peg through a round hole. Keep your head up, do your research ahead of time, and I'm sure you'll find a job if you don't try to force it. Search for jobs that fit your situation.

    No, it's not fair, but that is the way it is and has to be. Forcing un-necessary expenses and risk onto companies wouldn't be "fair" to them either. Just look for the right fit for your personal situation. Sincerely, best of luck to you all.

    1. Your logic doesn't follow the other covered cases for employment discrimination. It's also expensive for an employer to fill a vacancy when the employee is on maturity leave. However that situation is illegal.

  7. Thanks for the mansplaination, anonymous! These are things we know, but we are talking out the existential difficulties, as well as gender concerns on this blog.

  8. Military Spouse discrimination should be illegal!!

  9. I am a real life example of military spouse discrimination. Yesterday everyone else at my company got their annual raise. Not much, just enough for inflation. I was passed over for this raise because I had told my manager in January that I could be moving this summer due to my husband getting relocated. I have an instrumental role in a few of the contracts that I have been working and I wanted to make sure that the company had adequate time to find a replacement and for me to help train that replacement to make the transition as smooth as possible. For my consideration and hard work for the last 2.5 years I get slapped in the face. Personally, I have learned an important professional lesson, unfortunately at the expense of any future companies I may work for.

  10. Here's a good military spouse resource for job info:
    I've been a mil spouse for over 20 years. Had a career for the first 4 years and then after the kids were born, I became a SAHM. Still had part time jobs most of the time, but there was no way I could go back to my previous career. When my youngest was in 3rd grade, I went back to school to get my teaching certification--online, since I knew we'd have a least one move while I was in school. As soon as I got certified we moved again, which meant more testing and money to recertify in our new state. Any career needing certifications--teaching, nursing, psychologist/therapist, etc--is very difficult and expensive due to varying state regulations and of course each state has its own certification process. We've been hearing for years that the gov't was going to pass a bill making it easier for military spouses to move with a job, but nothing came of it. It is doubly hard for spouses of civilians who have to regularly move with their spouse. At least we have a support system of other wives who understand and some agencies out there helping us find jobs, but there seems to be nothing for civilians in the same boat.


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