Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Military family stereotypes debunked

Krystel Spell is a freelance writer and creator of the popular blog and community Army Wife 101. This mother of two answers questions from Army spouses worldwide and enjoys helping them navigate this sometimes challenging but great life we lead.

Stereotype 1: Military wives are unclean, lazy and uneducated with lots of kids.
There are lazy and uneducated people in every walk of life. Sure you have a select group of military spouses who don’t aspire to reach any goals or maintain hygienic order in their homes. But there’s a far larger number who are educated (many holding college degrees, have or had careers and chose to put their goals on hold to take care of their families while their spouse serves his or her country.

I have never met so many giving spouses who volunteer at their local bases, will drop everything to help another family in need, are part of various groups and lastly who manage to work in a state or country far from home and play mommy and daddy all while their spouse is deployed to a combat zone.

Stereotype 2: The Military doesn’t pay taxes.
Boy, I wish we didn’t pay taxes! The fact of the matter is regardless of what you heard from your cousin who had a friend who had a uncle who served in the Revolutionary War, the military pays Federal and most pay state taxes depending on tax rules in their home of record, along with Social Security and Medicare. The only time a service member doesn’t pay federal tax is if he or she is serving in a tax-free combat zone.

Stereotype 3: Most military wives are stay-at-home moms.

Many of us are, including myself. These women are also entrepreneurs running businesses from their homes that help bring in extra income. Considering that we move every 2-3 years and have spouses who are frequently deploying it is hard to maintain stable employment. On the flip-side many spouses work on the military installations where they live—in the eateries, the commissaries, the exchanges and even in the health clinics and hospitals. 

Stereotype 4: Officers wives are snooty.

It’s well known in military that some spouses try to wear their husband’s rank. As with any position of authority you will always have some people who will utilize that connection to try to make themselves feel as if they have power. 

With that said I have attended many social events where I was invited by an officer’s wife and have felt very comfortable and rank has never come up. It’s no secret that officer’s wives have been branded as “AS,” which means an Automatic Snob. The reality is these snobs were probably snobs long before they became officers wives, and most military wives could care less about rank and have no interest in trying to be better then thou. I recently attended an officer’s wife’s baby shower and out of the twelve people there only four of us were enlisted wives. Naturally we knew who was who but there was no mention of rank at all.

Stereotype 5: Military spouses cheat.

Everyday people cheat and yes while you have some bad apples not all military spouses do. Believe it or not many of us have other things to do besides sit home with the red porch light on outside or flamingos in the yard (another myth, google it) and screw with other service members. The majority of us are loving supportive spouses who are proud of our heroes and who are committed to them and their careers. The last thing most of us would want to do is put the stress of infidelity on them while they’re protecting our country.

Stereotype 6: Military families have lots of money and continue to have kids for
extra money.

Did you know that most military families with the rank of E-5 or under qualify for some form of governmental assistance? Yes it is true that we can choose to have our housing allowance removed from our check and live on-post, and have semi-free health care

depending on what plan a family chooses and their personal needs. At the same time the average salary for a new private in the Army is $1467 a month and while with the benefits that may serve well for a single Private, for one with a family it is extremely tight. Even during deployments service members only receive $575 extra monthly, which in my opinion is not enough to get shot at. 

There is also this misconception that military families get extra money for each child they have (hence the stereotype that military spouses pop out babies all the time). This is not the case, in fact a service member receives housing allowance with or without dependents. A dependent equals only (1) person, so whether a service member has 1 kid or 12, they will not receive extra money per child. I will say that while military members and dependents are by no means rich or upper middle class, we can manage to live fairly well in a dwindling economy because of some of the benefits afforded to us by the service of our loved ones.

What stereotypes have you heard or thought about military life?


  1. I've heard the uneducated one too many times- it makes me want to punch people. You don't have to be dumb to join the military- it's not a prerequisite.

    Is it too hard to believe that some people want to protect and serve their country?

    Ps. your "about me" section breaks my heart. xoxoxo

  2. Thanks for sharing this with your readers. I enjoyed writing it and also hearing what myths and stereotypes others had heard.

    Look forward to reading more :)