Any military spouse, fiancé, or significant other has heard the jokes about “Brenda the Dependa.” Sometimes the meme is taken a step further and she’s a “Dependapotamus” or a “Dependasaurus.” Whatever she’s called, she’s typically described as the fat, lazy, loud, constantly eating, Coach purse-carrying, sofa sitting, stay at home mom of multiple kids who leeches off of her military member just to get free healthcare and housing. When she does leave the house, she parks in the parking spots reserved for Command leadership, loudly berates the Commissary staff for refusing to accept her three months expired coupon for a tub of guacamole, and shows up to any event that offers free food, all the while loudly name dropping all the people she knows and what rank her sponsor is.
Not only does this stereotype check off basically every box there is for bullying, but most of the time, this judgement comes from other military spouses. And that’s what gets put out to the world outside the gates about who and what military spouses are. This judgement is usually slung around online by people posting behind a veil of anonymity, and it is usually used to degrade a group of spouses those people deem “less than” they are. Unsurprisingly, this climate makes it incredibly daunting for any new military spouse to come into the world of military life and know where to start, or even how to start without getting slapped with that dreaded label of being a “Dependa.”
Many military spouses see the military community and the social circles as the first opportunities to make friends and begin to put down roots in their new community. And shouldn’t it be just that? When we put stereotypes like this in front of new people, it creates so many opportunities for anxiety about everything–what if I keep quiet and they think I’m standoffish? What if I talk too much? What if I’m not dressed well enough? What if I’m overdressed and I look silly and out of place? What if I go to the gym and they think I’m fat? What if I go to the gym and they think I’m too skinny? What if they don’t like me because my husband is an officer and they’re all enlisted? What if they think I’m a busybody because I go to too many events? What if they think I’m lazy because I stay home with my kids? What if they don’t like me because I don’t have kids? What if they think I have too many kids?
It’s a spiraling rabbit hole of “what if’s.” And we need to stop it.
Military spouses are one of the few groups that can completely understand what each other go through to support their military member. Shouldn’t we be taking every opportunity to build each other up, rather than finding ways to tear each other down? Shouldn’t we be finding ways to support our military members and build more resilient families and rock this military life? Should we not know about the benefits and privileges that we are entitled to as military spouses? (And yes, I will use that word that is almost a swear word these days–entitled.)
Because we are entitled; we are entitled to be super spouses, to celebrate our military members, ourselves, and each other. We are entitled to be proud of ourselves and those around us. Whether you work in an office or you chase five snot-nosed kids around a community park, we work hard and we earn our money or support our spouse so they can “bring home the bacon.” We are entitled to spend our money on whatever we choose to spend it on. Be it a designer purse or the car we drive or whatever else we want. This is the land of the free, because of the brave, and that is us and we should unroll that flag and let it fly…unapologetically.
And if declaring that makes me a Dependasaurus, well then, let me find a couch to sit on and please pass the bonbons.
Posted by Jennifer Burns, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer