Mailbag: Family Support or Family Stress?

Ahhh, the Family Support Groups. When they are good, they are very, very good!  And when they are bad… Well, then they make the evening news.

A little while ago, RedLegMeg touched on this very issue when she wrote about her FRG discussing a “First Kiss Raffle” as a fundraiser.  Emotions were high on that one, and it’s not hard to see why.  Nor did everyone agree – many spouses were absolutely fine with this idea for a fundraiser.

We recently received a mailbag letter from L on somewhat the same subject:

Personally, I do not have contact with my FRG. I work full time and a lot of overtime,then when I get home I have our daughter to take care of.  Imagine my surprise [this information was given out only at a meeting] I find out that they have a raffle to pick your hubby up at the airport.  Now, being a submariner, we generally dont get this option at all, its pick up and drop off at 3 am in the morning. The point is, the FRG groups should not have the “power” over peoples lives like they do.  I work, I don’t know if they do or not, but I have to, end of story. I do not have any people I know from the boat, we have chosen to keep his career and our lives totally separate.  The last time I tried to get information from my FRG, I was told that it was not an option: I either go to the meeting or I find out soon enough. Unbelievable.

I said somewhat the same topic, because the raffle obviously isn’t the only issue at play in this letter.  There seems to be a breakdown in communication at the family support level – at least from the information we were given.  I wish I could say this rarely happens, but unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case.

When my grandfather was fighting in World War II, my grandmother had her own run-ins with other military spouses at Victorville.  If you were one of the lucky ones who met my grandma in San Diego, you know that she is a pistol.  She managed to figure out a way to get the information she needed and work around the difficult personalities in the group – but to this day she has some doozies of stories to tell about it!  I’m pretty sure you could talk to Wives Groups of the Civil War and hear the same complaint.

The problem is that anytime you have a group that exists to fulfill information purposes, it becomes very easy for that to be abused – even if the rules are all being followed.  Particularly when they are staffed entirely by volunteers, people’s feelings can get hurt, leading to a downward spiral resulting in an emotional knock-down, drag-out more raw than the time Geraldo got his nose broken by a skinhead.  It’s an emotional minefield.

Another problem is one of being disconnected.  I understand the urge to separate oneself from military issues, believe me.  Even when we’re being assured that office politics are being kept out of the situation, they’re often still there.  And as a spouse, it’s frustrating to have our words and actions measured against our active duty partner.  It’s frustrating and it’s not fair.  And sometimes we just want to get away from it all.  We have things to do and schedules to keep, and if a spouse group is unwilling to be understanding of that fact it is easy to throw a one-finger salute to the whole thing.

The problem is that by cutting our ties, we also cut our support lines.  An FRG may be disfunctional, but not everyone involved with the unit will be.  Just as our spouses need battle-buddies to get them safely through deployments, so do spouses.   It’s not just to get together and talk about child-rearing milestones over coffee, but to exchange information and look out for one-another.

Sometimes, we are all we have.

And since we are here as a virtual spouse support group, what advice do SpouseBUZZ readers have for L on this?


About airforcewife

airforcewife started her military journey as an Army National Guard wife, but upon experiencing base housing decided to aim high and made the switch to the Air Force. That's worked pretty well for Air Force Family so far, even though airforcewife holds the spouse world record for Come to Jesus talks with various members of the command.

Air Force Family has four children, two pit bulls, and a Mother-in-Law who lost her mind eight years ago. Despite the reputation of pit bulls, airforcewife would like to assure you that her Mother-in-Law is truly the most dangerous of the group, and is banned in more places than the dogs.

airforcewife gets through Air Force Guy's frequent deployments and TDY's by frequently attending her boxing gym, after the chance discovery last deployment that hitting things really does make life better. She also volunteers as the Ambassador for Sew Much Comfort to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and in a variety of other causes throughout the year.

airforcewife has no idea what the future holds, but decided five years ago that she wants to be Andi when she grows up.