Finding a Balance: Redefining Myself as an Air Force Wife

Michelle VanHuss is an Air Force wife, Off the Base contributor and member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club.

Michelle with husband TSgt William VanHuss receiving her Master of Public Administration.

By Michelle VanHuss

I’ve been an Air Force wife for five years but it’s only since I’ve been at MacDill AFB, since this past summer, that I actually feel like one. I think I have had to try to find a balance between the person I grew up as and the title of military spouse I married in to.

When I moved from my hometown of Miami, Florida to Dayton, Ohio, I didn’t feel that I could continue in my career path. I went back to school and got a Master’s degree. I also started to try to work in a new career field.

Unfortunately, I learned early on in our marriage that being a military spouse and getting a job did not exactly go together. During an interview they would sometimes eventually put two and two together and their body language would change and it would end up as “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Michelle with former co-workers Rebecca Fensler and Sarah Kelly and an event they hosted.

It seems while people are supportive of the military and of being married to someone in the military, they don’t necessarily want to have to replace you in a few years. As my mother-in-law, the spouse of a career Airman herself, told me that she would tell potential employers, “I can’t control what my husband’s job will ask him to do, but I do know that I will work to the best of my abilities for you for as long as I am here.” This became my motto and thankfully I was able to land a few great positions and work with some amazing people. 

I know I had preconceived notions about who a military spouse was and in my head and I didn’t fit the mold. I’m not from a military family. I was 26 when I got married. I had a degree and career before I met my husband, and I didn’t want kids for at least a few more years. I felt like I was an outsider that had somehow snuck in the back door.

Members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club at a homecoming.

However, I’ve come to realize that there is no mold. Military spouses are photographers and tae-kwon-do instructors; professors and students; fulltime professionals and self-employed, with no kids, with 5 kids; from small towns, from large cities. 

The latest personal challenge I’m coming to terms with is: Who am I now? For so many years, I defined myself by my job and my interests and I sometimes didn’t give my families’ lifestyle enough credit.

There is a give and take. For the years of missing out on what extended family was doing due to our moving, the TDY’s (Temporary Duty) and deployments, there are rewards. While my husband’s job keeps a roof over our heads and food on the table, I’ve been able to complete an advanced degree, travel and pursue new interests. And now, I’ll be able to stay home with my baby girl for the time being.

This, along with moving to a base with a great, established support system in place like MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, has made me shift my focus. My husband still has to explain military terms to me. I still can’t tell someone’s rank from their uniform, and I’ll probably never know where most of the places are on any base we ever live at. But, hey, I’m a work in progress. While I’ve always been thankful for my husband and his career, I am now embracing it.

Michelle VanHuss’ previous blog entry:

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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