Key Spouses: Who They Are, What They Are Not

Sometimes key spousing is no fun.
A look inside my key spouse binder. Specifics blurred out.
Our squadron’s updated deployment list came out last week.  Upon looking it over, I commented to Hubs that one of his friends is deploying soon.  While this isn’t news to him, my comment was more to the effect of, “Hey!  This is one of the guys whose wife you said was nice.  And I need friends…”
To which Hubs sympathetically replied, “Yeah…  She doesn’t really like your group.”
My group, by the way, is not what this woman thinks it is.  According to a handful of people, though, my group exists only to do petty things.
For them, to be a key spouse is to pretend one has authority over non-key spouse spouses.  It means holding social gatherings in order to talk about the people who aren’t there.  It is about holding my husband’s rank high up in the air for all to see.  To be a key spouse is to be an elitist snob.
Alas.  That is not what I do.  As a key spouse to our squadron, I check up on and extend myself to the families of our deployed.  As a key spouse, I send out mass e-mails to make sure our squadron is aware of what our base has to offer them.  When they end up in the hospital, I call and see if there is any way to help.  Childcare?  Short-term chauffeur?  Meals until you’re back on your feet?  Done.  If I don’t have an answer, let me call someone who will.
Sure, there is a social side to being a key spouse.  We also arrange monthly social gatherings.  Playgroups.  Book clubs.  Dinners and holiday events.  We have the hope that there will be something for everyone.  Even if it has to be subgroups, it is our hope to instill an actual sense of community.
Once a month our squadron’s key spouses get together to discuss how well we’ve been keeping up with our assigned duties.  We work together to figure out what is working and what can be done better in order to help spouses feel welcome and at home.  There are four of us and about eighty families.  Of the four of us, I am the only spouse whose husband is enlisted.  The officer’s wives express some concern over the fact that a few of their charges refuse to accept their help.  They have used mutual acquaintances to play telephone, informing the key spouse group that they will not speak with officers’ wives, “because they know how they are.”
As I understand it, there are spouses out there who wear their husband’s rank.  The women I know, however, are not those women.  Nor are they cookie-cutter renditions of one another.  Regardless of  whether they are married to an officer or an enlisted man, all of these women are Air Force Wives.  They remember their own times of need, and how the help they did or didn’t receive affected them.  As they balance the various aspects of their personal lives–which still include deployments–they also choose to take on the work of a key spouse, and take that responsibility seriously.
My final priority as a key spouse is this: to bite my tongue and cap my pen, lest I send certain folks Thinking of You cards pointing out the sad irony which lies in calling their key spouses snobby, elitist women.

2 thoughts on “Key Spouses: Who They Are, What They Are Not

  1. In the Navy they are called an Umbudsman. I must say I don't speak to them either, because most of them I've met do indeed wear their husbands' rank and only live their lives through their husband. Knowing you personally I know this isn't you at all, but I can understand peoples' need to keep their distance. Gibson's coffee please!

  2. Yeah, I can understand the keeping of distance, too. I'm just hoping that if we work at it, this sort of thing can be transcended.Honestly, the reason I wanted to be a key spouse had a lot to do with the commander's wife we had last year. After meeting her at a handful of events, it became clear that she was only interested in talking about herself and her husband, and her daughter that had just gone off to the air academy.She proved herself to be a true nightmare, and it was clear that she wasn't going to make any positive impressions. She made no effort to help people who clearly needed it at the time, and the few key spouses who volunteered had no idea what they were doing, no direction, no support, and the commander's wife shot down every good idea they had. Eventually they all quit.Thankfully, that woman is gone, and not only does the new commander's wife care about people's well-being, but her husband does, too. So I've been fortunate to meet the people that I have, and to help be a part of building a better support system from the ground up.I don't want to think badly of people, but if I come across that one woman again, or people like her, keeping my unbiased disposition might cause me to develop some sort of twitch…To Gibson's!

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