Integrating the 3Ms is just the Start
Lasting change to the military spouse unemployment and under employment issues will take more than a single initiative, on-base-program, or non-profit. It will be a multifaceted, service wide effort that has already begun but will continue to grow and gain speed by the conversations had at dinner tables, in conference rooms, and around wardroom/chiefs' mess tables worldwide. In the final chapter of her book Silent Sacrifice on the Homefront, Michelle Still Mehta discusses what she believes are the three root causes for the current military spouse unemployment rate - an outdated military culture, gender inequality, and a broken and inefficient personal assignment system pg. 192. She acknowledges that in her nearly 20 years as a military spouse she has seen marked improvements in the resources available and efforts afforded military spouses but there is still a lot of work to be done.
I agree with Michelle. There is a lot of work to be done and while it is being done military spouses will always find ways to thrive and make their voices heard. The stories from Silent Sacrifice on the Homefront are raw. They are from women who struggled with not only finding work but finding balance in their worlds. Michelle recommends integrating Marriage, Motherhood, and Military Life in a balanced way that best fits the needs of your family as a method for a successful experience as a military spouse. She developed this 3Ms lens from hearing the stories of the group of women she interviewed for her dissertation, and her own experience, and knows that it is not a cure for the system. "Ultimately, this approach is a coping strategy to help individual spouses thrive in their military lives. The 3 Ms will not remedy the root causes of the spouse employment problem" pg. 191. While she chose to interview only women for her book (based on female spouses representing the largest spouse group), this lens is not exclusive to military, female spouse life. This framework could easily be changed to "Marriage, Parenthood, and Work Life" then applied to non-military families too so non-military readers please do not stop reading here thinking this post does not apply to you!
Michelle poses thought provoking questions at the end of each M section in the book and asks you to pause to reflect on the balance of that M in your life. The following questions are the ones that stood out to me and made for good conversations between me and Jason. Take some time today to sit with these questions and seek honest answers. I have used variations of some of these in my coaching practice. The people who reported the most profound changes in their lives are those who sought true answers with open minds.
Marriage (all from pg. 73):
* How well does your spouse support your career goals through words and actions? What more do you need from him/her?
* Are you happy with the way you currently share household responsibilities with your spouse? How would you change your roles if you could?
* What resentments about unfairness do you need to let go of?
Motherhood/Parenthood (all form pg.116):
* How has motherhood impacted your career? Is there anything you would do differently?
* What is your personal definition of good mothering? How well are you living up to your own standards?
* If you are staying home, how satisfied are you in that role?
Military/Work Life (all from pg. 153):
* Do you and your spouse have a common understanding about his/her future in the military and how long he/she plans to stay in? If not, why not?
* When you think about the future, what worries do you have about your military life?
* What aspects of yourself and your identity are most precious to you? What are you not willing to compromise or change?
"Integrating the 3 Ms takes resilience and grace, without compromising who you are" pg. 187. Knowing yourself and having a true partnership with your spouse are key components to success in either the military or the civilian world. Hopefully this book, its stories and Michelle's questions, will inspire you to look upon your life, and partnership, with fresh eyes. If you are part of the military family and are struggling with your own employment/under employment issues (or know others who are), Michelle goes on to say that "Perhaps the greatest obstacle to seriously addressing the spouse employment issue is that of mindset" pg. 200. She then reflects on a very applicable Albert Einstein quote: "We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Start the conversation! Talk to anyone who will listen. That is how the necessary changes will continue to be seen and addressed.
I always love to hear your thoughts, insights, and stories from reading the books along with me. Please comment below, send me an email, or connect on social media to let me know what you think. If you have yet to read through this insightful book, pick up a copy on Amazon today then head on over to Michelle's site to connect with her too. The next post will be filled with beautiful pictures from our spring trip!! Come on back on April 26th to find out where we went.