Military Spouse Magazine

JAN 2019

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G O O D A D V I C E THE BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEER- ING HAVE BEEN LAUDED AS GETTING CONNECTED, BUILDING MORALE, AND EVEN CAREER AD- VANCING. BUT HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? AND IS IT EVEN WORTH THE EFFORT? HERE'S WHAT MILI- TARY SPOUSES ARE TELLING US: "I was pregnant with my first child and I wanted to get connected. Our local FRG held social events. It was a great way to get connected through a deploy- ment. They welcomed me in and made feel accepted. Once I transitioned into a leadership position, I had such great fulfill- ment. There was so much value. Because I felt so welcomed in, I wanted to be that for other spouses." – Kirstin, Navy Spouse Volunteering can be a great way to get connected to a community that, in so many ways, can be un- derserved. Improving the quality of life for military families provides a way to give back and find purpose outside of everyday roles. Using our time, talents, and even our finances, can lead to making a differ- ence for someone else. As a new spouse, or as a new parent, find- ing a way to contribute to a greater good can be encouraging and create opportunities to meet new people. Volunteering also can foster feelings of fulfil- ment and satisfaction, in that you are able to make an impact for the better. Volunteering A feel-good way to give back or pressure-filled commitment? By Megan Brown, Air Force Spouse "The military isn't the reason that I feel pressure to volunteer. It's other military spouses. The longer that you are in the military, the more you realize that your actions impact your airman. You don't want to present that you aren't contributing while others do so much." - Jazmin, Air Force Spouse While it is no longer an advertised or spoken expectation that spouses bolster their airman's career by volunteering, the slight whisper of this expecta- tion is still alive and well. So many military spouses have a deep-rooted desire to cheer on their airman and support their career by making contributions to the local community. There is also a tendency to compare ourselves to other active military spouses who seem to have "super powers." These spouses project an image of perfection, manag- ing the balancing act of a family, a career, and extra volunteer duties. We want to be these people and end up striving, or worse, burning out in the pursuit of perfection. "Volunteering for some government or command run organizations is limit- ing, and only benefit those in charge of directing the program. I felt like I was being used to make someone else look good: the com- mand. The programs were designed only to look effec- tive and impactful, but not actually structured to serve. WHAT IS YOUR 'WHY?' Why are you volunteering? Do you want to get connected to the local area? Is there a possibility for career advancement or learning a new skill? Are you wanting to give back in a meaningful and impactful way? Asking yourself about your "why" will help you identify volunteer opportu- nities that will meet your expectations and motivate you to continue serving. 'HOW' MUCH ARE YOU WILLING TO GIVE? I have a rule that has served me well, in terms of avoiding burnout or over- commitment. I do not commit to more activities than there are days in the week. I know that committing to seven obligations may seem like a high num- ber, but consider this: not all activities that we engage in daily are negotiable, and take up a large capacity of our time. For example, I have four children, and three of them are involved in extracurriculars. Each child is enrolled in Scouts. Because of this, I deduct three days out of my week's ability to volunteer. Add in my work schedule, and the fact that I want off on the weekends, and I'm left with one "spare day" to volunteer. Knowing your bandwidth and capability to volunteer will help keep you from over burdening yourself, or taking on more than you can handle. H I have found that serving outside of official military programs is much more fulfilling and that I can truly serve those in need without limitation." – Pamela, Air Force Spouse There is sometimes an ugly undertone in mili- tary spouse volunteering. While there isn't always an agenda, the false pretense of overperformance can be frustrating for active volunteers. If a program is only appearing to serve the community, and the community itself is being neglected, volunteers may feel like they are support- ing an unworthy cause. Also, when volunteers are expected to conform to dysfunctional structures, the results can be discour- aging. Either volunteers will relinquish their position (with a bad taste in their mouth for service) or they will continue to per- petuate the broken system. CONSIDERING VOLUNTEERING FOR YOUR SERVICE MEMBER'S UNIT, INSTALLATION, OR LOCAL MILITARY COMMUNITY? FIRST ASK YOURSELF: WHY AND HOW? Photo by Patty Quinn 16 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / JANUARY 2019

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