Jennifer is bringing awareness of the Coast Guard to her civilian (and sometimes fellow military spouses) community.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Since the founding of each of the service branches, rivalries have existed. For military families affiliated with the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps or Navy, there can be a lack of understanding about the Coast Guard’s role, especially if you are unfamiliar with the demands on Coasties. That’s where Jennifer Mullen comes in. The recently named 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year ® is reinforcing the old adage that a spouse is a spouse is a spouse.
“The spouses in the Coast Guard community are the same as the spouses in any military community,” Jennifer said. “We live an unstructured life, have the same concerns about housing and deployments, and struggle with how we fit in to the civilian world.”
Perhaps the easiest way to explain the lifestyle of a typical Coast Guard family is to compare it to life for a recruiter’s family. Plopped down in the middle of nowhere, no base nearby with support, no immediate connection to other military families, and a community that may or may not understand your role. While this is not always the case, it is more common than not. “We probably straddle the civilian world more than others do. I spend a lot of time trying to bridge the gap between living in a civilian world and trying to make sure the people around us understand the lifestyle,” Jennifer said.
Coast Guard Wife Puts a Voice to an Often Misunderstood Lifestyle
Jennifer, like most military spouses, wears many hats throughout the day. Full-time employee, volunteer, runner, mom, spouse, and author are just a few. Her secret? Prioritize very specifically. “I don’t do every one of those things every day,” she said. “Today I’m working. Tonight my husband and I are having a budget meeting.” She prioritizes each day, deciding what the most important things are for that day. “Then I feel productive and like I’m making an impact in my world. There was a time I was doing everything in one day and that was just ridiculous,” she admits.
Jennifer also gives herself a break. “I don’t do everything to perfection,” she said. “I allow myself to be good enough.” This was, admittedly something hard for her to accept and handle. But she knows she cannot do everything perfectly, so doing a good job is enough and she needs to be okay with that. “I allow myself to be happy.”
It’s something military spouses could use to hear more often.
Best Practices for the New Kid on the Block … Coastie Wife Style
With the possibility of being plopped down in the middle of a civilian community, Jennifer has established a few key ways to get out there and make new friends. “Volunteering is where I begin to find friends,” she said. Looking around and finding what makes you feel happy and fulfilled makes meeting people in that realm easier. “I found the Junior League here in Boston, which is full of like-minded women in my age range who work and volunteer in our community. That was my way to find a friend.” They had enough in common to start a friendship, and there was an opportunity to explain the military lifestyle, which would open the door for other military spouses.
Jennifer finds the easiest way to encompass new friends into her life is to simply ask. “Finding friends is kind of like dating, it’s important to just keep asking,” she laughed. “I have made more friends simply by asking about who wants to join me for paint night.”
She’s building a support system, which is something the Coast Guard spouses in Boston could really benefit from. There’s no spouse club there so she is laying the groundwork by setting up connections that future spouses in the area will benefit from. Her piece of advice: If you’re going to ask someone, ask everyone.
The most important thing that Jennifer wants everyone to know is that all military spouses and service members are in this together – one team. “We have the same end goal, we just do it in different ways,” the Coast Guard wife of 8 years said. “I want the same things, family, friends, support, and to have a positive life. If I see a need, I try to fix it.”
You’ve Met Jennifer. Now, how can you vote for her?
Tomorrow, Thursday March 3rd voting opens up for the 2016 Military Spouse of the Year. The overall representative will have a national microphone to talk about the issues impacting today’s families. The lives of Coast Guard families parallel that of anyone who has been stationed in an area with a lack of support or who has felt misunderstood. Click here to cast your vote, voting is open for 24 hours: VOTE FOR JENNIFER MULLEN.
The 2016 Armed Force Insurance Military Spouse of the Year ® winner will be announced on May 5th at the award ceremony in Washington, D.C.