An Interview with Chris Pape, the Macho Spouse (Part II)

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Here's the continuation of my interview (part I here) with the founder of MachoSpouse.com, Chris Pape:

CP3: Historically, groups such as The Officer's Wives Club and Enlisted Wives Club met and held meetings in support of female military spouses. How have things changed? Can you share some specific breakthroughs?

Macho Spouse: In relation to how these groups have changed in regards to being gender neutral, I believe a lot of progress has been made. Even though there are a few "Wives Clubs" that insist on remaining female only, or at least make men feel uncomfortable at the thought of joining, most have become very welcoming. Some have even gone as far as changing their names to "Spouse Clubs" instead of "Wives Clubs" so they're more inclusive. I had the opportunity to meet several women at this year's MOAA Spouse Symposium who expressed how excited they were to have men participating in their base/post spouse groups. In Kansas, the Community Spouses Club of Fort Riley just welcomed in a group of male spouses with open arms. I believe their first big event together will be the "Casino Royale" poker night in April.

CP3: The Department of Defense recently changed previous regulations regarding women in combat. How does this affect you and your family? How does this affect those you're talking to?

Macho Spouse: My wife is in the Air Force, so the new regulations don't currently affect my family, but who knows what the future may hold. As for other male spouses who have active-duty wives in the Marines and Army, they say their wives have already been serving on the front lines. Or at least close enough to be put in harm's way. The chatter on our Facebook pages has mostly been from women spouses while the guys have acted as if it's no big deal. So this new regulation only supports the reality of what's already been happening in the minds of male spouses.

CP3: There's definitely a learning curve for those not used to having a Macho Spouse as part of the military family. How do you teach others to understand that Macho Spouses have both similar, yet unique needs?

Macho Spouse: This is another core mission of Macho Spouse, to help others understand that most male military spouses process similar situations differently because we're men. It's no big revaluation that men and women approach daily and long-term stresses differently, this is especially true in military life. Yes, we all experience the same obstacles, but how we respond and overcome those obstacles is different. It's important for military and spouse organization leadership to recognize that we are not like female spouses and at times we may need separate support. When you visit MachoSpouse.com, you can see that our content is similar to what many other spousal organizations provide, but how we present that content and what advice we offer is uniquely different. We also travel and speak at as many functions and events as possible. We believe our message is important and people need to be aware. We don't expect or want special treatment, just consideration when decisions and programs are being created for spouses. We are constantly reminding people that men are part of our military spouse community too.

CP3: What can the military do to further the cause of recognizing the Macho Spouse? Much like single soldiers, these groups often get overlooked. What have you had to call attention to or "correct" when you encounter certain situations as a Macho Spouse?

Macho Spouse: Just as I mentioned above, we find ourselves constantly reminding military and spouse group leadership that we exist. For example, I recently conducted an interactive, multi-media presentation on Macho Spouse at a large military spouse conference. The audience was engaged, they asked questions, they laughed when they were supposed to, and we finished with a great round of applause. The very next presenter...the VERY NEXT presenter, got up and thanked "all the women spouses who support our men in uniform." I was sitting directly beside the guy! I bit my tongue, but shouldn't have because this presenter should've known better. We use this as an example to the lack of situational awareness about male military spouses. It's not our style to call everyone out who forgets about us, but if we think a person is in the position to know better, we usually say something. We don't want, or ask for, much; just simple acknowledgment that we exist is a good start for now.

CP3: Tell me, how tough is career management (moving constantly and not growing deep roots in a job) from the male spouse point of view? How have you been able to overcome objections faced by military spouses who live this "vagabond" lifestyle?

Macho Spouse: For me, PCSing is more difficult to handle than deployments. One main reason is the amount of damage done to my career with each move. When I first started traveling with my wife it was no big deal because I still had a lot to learn within my career field and our PCS's were to larger market cities. Finding work was time-consuming, but relatively painless because I was an affordable employee. As time went by, I noticed my career plateauing because we weren't moving to bigger markets and opportunities for growth were limited. To make things worse, the more career accomplishments and experience I get, the more expensive I appear to potential employers. At this point it's difficult to convince potential employers that I am willing to work for much less than what I'm worth. I believe the term is "under-employed" and that's what many military spouses have become, under-employed. I am well aware that this whole employment nightmare isn't exclusive to male military spouses; career-minded women experience the same situation. What can make things a little tougher for men are the gender expectations of finding and maintaining a solid career for years, maybe even decades. We no longer have the option of continuing to work and network within a certain organization or geographic location the way our fathers and grandfathers did before us. You also have to consider the types of careers that are considered "male-friendly" are ones that many of us have chosen to pursue. Careers in marketing, business management, architecture, engineering, computer engineering, medicine, public service, education, entrepreneurship, etc. are usually not available at Home Depot and Wal-Mart. These careers usually require a specific blueprint and geographic location for growth, something out of the question when you're a military spouse.

As for overcoming objections by potential employers because I am a male military spouse, I've never had an issue. Maybe I am naive, but as far as I know, my military lifestyle has never been questioned. Nobody has ever told me I didn't get a job because I'm a military spouse. I figure if I'm the right fit for a job, the hiring agent is usually able to accept the fact that I will be moving on in a few years. I wouldn't want to work for anyone who felt otherwise, that would make for a negative work environment.

CP3: Any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

Macho Spouse: I believe I've said a lot. I would like to add that Macho Spouse is at a point where we really need support getting our name and message out to the public. We encourage people to visit and join our website, it's free and full of great information. The divorce rate for active-duty women married to civilian husbands is nearly three-times the amount of their active-duty male counterparts. We need help reversing this trend and a great first step is to let these families know there is a resource available that speaks directly to them. We also encourage people to "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter because these are our main tools for promoting new video and content releases.