"When was the last time we got a compliment instead of criticism?" she asked the other teachers in the room. "It sure would be nice to hear a 'good job' or 'your efforts are really making a difference' every now and then."
Some other co-workers chimed in with their own complaints, and by the time I packed up my lunch bag, they were embraced in a group hug as they shared their mutual discontent. I watched them pat each other on the back. And I walked away.
I didn't know if I should be heartened by their united support for one another or saddened by their need for approval. Personally, I don't carry out my job with the expectations of a pat on the back. I asked for this job. I signed a contract detailing specific responsibilities. I perform those duties to the best of my ability day in and day out. And I'm self-assured that I'm doing a good job. Is it nice to hear from my boss and my students' parents that my efforts as a teacher are appreciated? Absolutely. But I don't expect it, and I don't base the energy I exert to my job on whether or not anyone will notice.
I feel the same way about being a military spouse.
President Obama signed a proclamation designating November as Military Family Appreciation month. This is the month in which "we celebrate the exceptional contributions of our military families, and we reaffirm our commitments to these selfless individuals who exemplify the highest principles of our Nation." (Read entire proclamation here.) Although I welcome the sentiment, I have to wonder what it really means, other than something the President can check off his long list of issues to be addressed.
Despite the fact that we are 3 weeks into Military Family Appreciation Month, not a single person has expressed appreciation for me and my family. But quiet frankly, I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to be appreciated this month until I read another blog post about it. Despite Obama's statements that "Behind our brave service men and women, there are family members and loved ones who share in their sacrifice and provide unending support" and we "have a national commitment to support and engage our military families," I really don't think the general public has any idea of the challenges military families go through. And because I don't think most people are aware of these challenges, I don't think Military Family Appreciation Month means a whole lot to anyone.
I'm not resentful of the general public's lack of appreciation for me and my fellow military spouses and their families. I'm not angy, I'm not sad, I'm not discouraged. Just as I was ambivalent toward my co-workers' rantings, I'm not quite sure how I feel about Military Family Appreciation Month and the fact that it has passed by largely unnoticed.
I don't expect appreciation for my job as a military spouse. Just as I signed a contract to be a teacher, I signed a proverbial contract when I married the military. I chose this life. I have certain responsibilities that are expected of me, and I perform those duties to the best of my ability. And I'm self-assured that I'm doing a good job. Is it nice to hear from other people that my efforts as a military spouse are appreciated? Absolutely. But I don't expect it, and I don't base the energy I exert to this job on whether or not anyone will notice.
Maybe my co-worker was on to something after all. Not the complaining part, but the group hug part. Maybe we military spouses and families should use what's left of this Military Family Appreciation month to share one big giant hug of support and pat each other on the back. Or at the very least, offer each other that simple thank you we may not be getting from anyone else.
So to all you military spouses out there...
I thank you and your families for all that you do, for all the challenges you endure and all the sacrifices you make. You are the ones who are silently serving, and what you do truly makes a difference. Happy Military Family Appreciation Month!