The Changing Roles Of Military Wives By Nellie Russell Sociology: Gender Roles Professor Erica Dixon August 14, 2009
BACKGROUNDBeing the wife of a military man is noeasy job, the title brings greatresponsibility. Becoming a militarywife means making big sacrifices foryourself and your family. Thesewomen must juggle many jobs androles before, during, and afterdeployment.For someone not in a military family, itis hard to imagine the drastic changesthat go on during deployment; everyfamily goes through changes inhousehold routines and duties. This isan especially big transition for thewives, these women must completelyredefine who they are and what rolethey play in the family, often timestaking them way out of their comfortzones.
HYPOTHESISMilitary wives must sacrifice a great deal and must go through a change in their roles as a wives and or mothers and re-examine their place within the family when their husbands are away. These role changes alter the entire family system and how it runs, not only the woman herself. By taking on the role of both parents, these wives must transform how they define their role as a wife. The transformation that these women go through can be a permanent life changing experience that affects the whole family.
MethodsMy first method of research was reading articles related to the lives of military wives, including studies on recreation and leisure, employment and role satisfaction, life satisfaction, and army wives dealing with pre and post deployment changes. I also wrote up and sent out surveys through a number of army wife support groups, forums, and blogs. The main site I used to network with military wives was The Army Wife Network. I Received contact from a total of 6 women and 3 of them returned my survey when I sent it out. Even with a small sample group, the results were very emotional and fit directly with my hypothesis.
Prior to your husband’s deployment,how would you define your overall role in the family?• Mother• Wife• Caregiver/Nurturer• Typical mom stuff like running errands, and going to school function• Shared household duties but did not get involved in finances or automotive care
How did your role change when your husband deployed?The responses I got all came to similar conclusions which were that the wives had to not only do their normal jobs but had to take their husbands role aswell. Many of them felt overwhelmed because they had twice as work and half the time to do it and some of the women complained about having to become the main disciplinarian.
What duties did you take over doing when he was gone?The wives had to take over the known masculine chores around the house. Some things they had to included mowing the lawn, fixing the car, paying the bills, handyman, and being the only person to drive around the kids or go grocery shopping.
If you have children, how did they react to the changes in your role and duty as a parent?Overall, the children took advantage of the fact that there was not a masculine figure in the house by acting out and not listening to their mother. In situations with male teenagers, the mothers had trouble explaining hormonal changes, i.e. puberty to their questioning sons.
How did your change of role and duty affect you emotionally?These women went through many emotional ups and downs during deployment. Theyexpressed many tired days and having no time for themselves. Some women cried through many nights, they felt like they were spread too thin and were not doing well enough as parents.
When your husband returned home, what changed? What stayed the same?Homecoming was very difficult for the whole family because everyone had to change the had been living. Reverting back did not come easy and was often frustrating for the husband because he felt left out; it was difficult for the mother to give up her newly adopted responsibilities.
How did the changes you went through affect your relationship with your husband?The husbands return affected all aspects of the relationship, especially communication and intimacy. The husbands acted very distant and tended to isolate themselves. They felt emasculated by their wives taking over their masculine responsibilities. Although they were still very much in love, they didn’t quite see eye to eye upon homecoming.
Conclusion Throughout this study, my hypothesis was proven through the fact that it is very difficult for military wives to take on both gender roles while their malecounterpart is away. In addition I have found that it is much more difficult for the woman and children to get used to the fact of having a masculine figure in the home after their time away. I have also noticed through my research that these women go throughan emotional roller coaster because of the buildup todeployment, the stress of losing their partner, getting used to the way life is, then having to change again once their husbands come back. My study has proven that woman can do anything a man can do.