Let’s jump right into it: The FRG.
We’ve had our share of them, yes? Family Readiness Groups were created with the specific design to “encourage self-reliance among members by providing information, referral assistance and mutual support.” (I literally just looked that up. I didn’t know that until 12 seconds ago.)
As we all know (or should know), an effective FRG is run by myriad volunteers, some of whom were “voluntold,” some of whom are doing so with minimal time. Many are burnt out and lack motivation, and some blessed souls are those who are excited and willing to serve, but lack knowledge, resources or the support of other volunteers.
Whew. It’s work, my friends.
This article is in response to another MilitarySpouse.com article about what our FRG leaders wish that we knew. And, ooh da lolly, I have struggled with writing this one. I’ve been on the receiving end of FRGs for the better part of 11 years; it was just last year when I first became the FRG leader in my husband’s unit. And I. Have. Learned. So. Much. Writing this article was half guilt-provoking and half motivating so that I can start doing better in my own FRG.
After asking (so many obnoxious) questions and scouring articles and Facebook posts and forums discussing the FRG concerns of military spouses nationwide, I have created a list of items that demonstrate some concerns of spouses of various ages, sex, military branches, ranks, and stages of life (compiled from several sleepless nights of wondering, searching and asking annoyed military friends).
Here are 7 things we wish our FRG leader knew about us:
1. Our names.
Many school teachers and college professors believe that quickly learning the names of their students will improve their classroom climates. As a teacher myself, I believe this to be true. When I learn students’ names quickly, they trust that I care enough about them to learn the first and most important thing about them – a vital part of their identity. In a community such as the military, learning the names of fellow spouses is just as important.
This community is a part of our livelihood, a group of people who are supposed to understand our joys, our concerns, our plights more than anyone else. Let’s start small: please learn our names. We are people, individuals – not relegated only as someone’s spouse or called only by our last names. Instead, we’d love to hear, “My name is Kiera. What’s yours?”
2. Our family situations.
It is 2017. Military families are so varied and different – it’s absolutely beautiful. Now’s the time to find out about a spouse’s family life: young children, teenagers, grown children, parent of a soldier, husband of a soldier, wife of a soldier, blended families. The FRG should be a place for everyone to feel welcome and accepted, regardless of family situations that may have previously seemed out of place.
We are a melting pot – no one should feel out of place. The activities, get-togethers and family days should be planned in accordance with the fact that we are not a one-size-fits-all type of community: We are a family readiness group – and that includes everyone.
3. Please listen to us.
Don’t just hear us, please. Listen to us. We have struggles that need to be vented, ideas that may benefit our FRG, and are real people behind our words. The conversations are often full of vulnerability and confidence and trust. We need someone to listen to us, to help us sort through our thoughts. Who knows? We might become good friends.
4. We need help.
The week my spouse left on his most recent deployment, I may or may not have left this message on the voicemail of our newly minted FRG leader: “There’s a possibility that I, the outgoing mother of three young children, might be feeling inundated and overwhelmed in my little corner of the world and have lost the emotional wherewithal to complete simple tasks and might need some help folding my laundry.”
Two hours later, she was at my house folding my laundry with me. I understand this is probably not the norm for most FRG leaders (although a laundry-folding friend seems like a necessity for people everywhere), but she offered relief and support when I felt like I was drowning under the burden of daily tasks. She came. She helped. She is my dear, lifelong friend because she chose to offer succor. Help comes to us in so many forms – and, dear FRG leaders (and your committees), you have special powers to help relieve some burdens among kin military spouses who need a form of relief that only you may understand.