It was a question that you don’t see or hear often across military installations-- “Are there any ‘Daddy and me’ groups on post that do activities?” This was a post by a male spouse to one of Fort Irwin’s community group pages. The reaction was met with overwhelming support.
“I’ll gladly accept you into the Fort Irwin Mommy Tribe group,” Meagan Coleman said. She’s been a lead member for more than a year. Other parents posted ideas of everything from a flier for a parent support program called, “Play Mornings” sponsored by the Fort Irwin MWR, to music time at the library, the neighborhood parks and the family fitness room at the Box Fitness gym.
Over the last, few months, not all of those areas have been accessible due to the pandemic, although many parents are still finding a way to keep in touch safely.
Some of the groups on post to support stay-at-home parents include the Fort Irwin Mommy Tribe, MomsNext within the Fort Irwin Chapel and the Mommy and Me Playgroup within the Military and Civilian Spouses’ Club.
As the titles imply, civilian male spouses on post may not feel the groups are all inclusive but the group leaders say all are welcome.
“It might be called ‘Mommy Tribe,’ but I believe we are just a primary care giver group,” Coleman said. “We don’t really talk about mommy-only topics. There are some amazing dads that do the main caregiving and they need help, too, and I hope they aren’t scared to ask.”
Coleman said the Mommy Tribe is mostly for childcare needs overall, they try to help with anything anyone needs surrounding playdates advice.
Male Spouses at NTC/Fort Irwin
Darryl Parson is a civilian married to the Col. Nancy Parson—the commander of Weed Army Community Hospital.
He believes some male spouses may feel left out but they also have to make an effort to feel included.
“We just need to come out of hiding and support organizations across the Army,” Parson said. “Most of us probably don’t (attend) because we think we will be the only male.”
According to Military One Source, 47% of 70,000 women in the Army are married—the highest of all the services. Of that number, 36% of those marriages were dual military couples where both married parties were active-duty members of the Army.
That means the number of male spouses married to an active-duty, female servicemember is approximately 11%, according to a breakdown on the Demographics Profile of the Military Community.
Parson also served in the military, a trend for male spouses. He was in the Navy Reserves for 12 years while working for the Federal Government.
He and Col. Parson have been married for 19 years and said it can be tough being in this role.
“It’s difficult at times, but I’m sure all spouses regardless of the service members rank or the spouse’s gender endure some of the same hardships,” he said. “I mean, it’s always hard to give up your job in order to move with your spouse and having to constantly look for a new one. As a spouse, a lot of us must put our careers on the backburner to support our soldier.”
With nine military moves during his wife’s career, his experience with finding work is not much different than other spouses. But what other spouses do have, is the choice of a good network of other female spouses.
“The hardest part for me is during socials or gatherings,” Parson said. “I’m usually the only dude sitting awkwardly in the middle of all the other spouses, while our soldiers sit and talk about work.”
Krista Parker is the president of Fort Irwin’s Military and Civilian Spouses’ Club. When it comes to members, she said, “We had one male spouse member last year.” That member was active on the club committee, although also worked fulltime and was not able to attend monthly luncheons and events.
Parson said he’s never been apart of any of the military spouses groups and doesn’t know if a good, male network of spouses exists in the Army.
“Command Spouse training was a little difficult too,” he said. “I have been twice and have been the only male each time. Everything is set up for the female family member.”
When Parson does attend military social gatherings with his soldier-spouse, he has been mistaken as being the military member, as opposed to his wife.
“I normally politely correct them by letting them know I’m not the sponsor,” he said.
Male spouse bonding and acceptance
Bryce Brown served in the Army Reserves for 11 years. With a seven and nine year old, he’s not a stay-at-home father, but his wife, Maj. Susan Brown is now the sole servicemember, as a nurse at Weed Army Community Hospital. He said he’s had similar experiences to Parsons when he’s considered the sponsor, instead of his wife.
“Every time I call anywhere on post trying to schedule anything or if I take the kids to an
Appointment,” Brown said. “I just make it a joke and say that I am the ‘Army wife.’ It makes everyone laugh.”
Mark Moore has not served in the military. He is a civilian medical coder at WACH, married to Maj. Tanya Moore, a nurse at Fort Irwin’s hospital.
“It is not a position that many men can accept, however, for those who can adapt to the role, it can be a humbling, rewarding, and sacrificial commitment to family and country,” he said.
The Moores have been married for 13 years, with four children, and although he says there are benefits, he admits it slightly tough in the beginning.
“It definitely was difficult early on,” Moore said. “I would say it was an adjustment during the first 5 years. I had to overcome the traditional notion that men are the service member, not the spouse. I had to come to grips that she is the sponsor and I the dependent. It was a blow to my ego indeed. As time went on, though I was able to reconcile this reality and focus on the bigger picture.”
The Parsons have seven children together, four of them being girls. He said he’s never been afraid to switch up the stereotypical gender roles, pointing out that he’s the cook in the main house.
“My girls can see that it’s okay for a man to do these things,” he said. “I don’t want them to grow up thinking that ‘this is a man’s duty’ and ‘this is a woman’s duty.’ I don’t see life that way.”
Male civilian spouses say the best part of being in their roles is being able to see their soldier wife thrive and succeed.
Parson, Brown and Moore all said they don’t believe more groups and activities are needed for men in their position but there are resources available on militaryonesource.mil about what to expect, questions to ask and advice.
To other male spouses, Parson had this to say: