Several middle-aged military spouses have made numerous and frustratingly futile attempts to reenter the workforce after having been stay-at-home moms and/or dedicated volunteers for a decade or more. Their experiences are fundamentally the same as those of their civilian counterparts who are also trying to get jobs after years of child rearing. Many of these women, civilian and military spouses alike, have degrees, many of them advanced, and they've no shortage of experience. Having never before come up against the kinds of women they themselves used to be, they're ill-prepared to face the piranhas who have spent years sharpening their teeth and who now make up today's employer market.
I empathize. I'm 50 years old with a letter from the Social Security Administration that says I qualify for $103 a month should I file for benefits at age 62. Yea, I'll be rolling in the Juicy Fruit. Ten, 20, and 30 years ago I was being told by women my age and older that I really wasn't X material or a good fit for X, nor did I have a degree in X or X number of years' experience with X. This came from women who, after establishing themselves in the workforce, would later put their careers on hold to raise children and who are, now, trying to get back into an antagonistic workforce that had previously held them near and dear.
Again, I empathize. As a 20-, 30- and 40-year-old who had very little education and a lot of experience in a variety of jobs (both paid and volunteer), I was used to being escorted to the door by wide smiles and ridiculous platitudes. That I was a woman didn't help (even when being interviewed by women) and it somehow made things worse when I said I wasn't going to have any more children: it was as if I'd pegged myself as lacking foresight, or worse – a liar. Then there was the issue of being married to a U.S. Marine, which in the eyes of many civilian employers was akin to having leprosy.
At a time when both jobs and applicants were readily available, the best job I qualified for was a waitressing position on base at the Staff NCO club. This indeed opened doors for me: teeny tiny doors that led to bartending; dishwashing; coordinating banquets and Mess nights; and filling in for the club system manager's administrative assistant when, predictably, her husband was assigned to a different base and she vacated the post. Unbeknownst to me, every new duty station's club system would turn a blind eye to my previous experience and put me right back on the bottom rung.