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A Communication Perspective on the Military

Interactions, Messages, and Discourses

Edited By Erin Sahlstein Parcell and Lynne M. Webb

A Communication Perspective on the Military brings into focus the challenge of sense-making in the war state. How do military family members talk to one another about the stress of deployment on their lives? How do media – old and new – render the costs of war meaningful? How is the narrative of war rhetorically constructed?
The dynamics of military family transactions, media-military relations, and war rhetoric reveal, reinforce, and may even disrupt U.S. war culture. Offering close analysis and thoughtful critique, this book reflects upon the ways the meaning of war is communicated in private lives, social relations, and public affairs. The collection highlights three broad areas of concern: communication in the military family; the military in the media; and rhetoric surrounding the military. Katheryn Maguire, Roger Stahl, and Gordon Mitchell introduce each section with overarching and integrative literature reviews that offer directions for the field. Each section includes six chapters reporting the latest research and offering suggestions for practical applications. The book is a must-have reference for military and communication scholars and an ideal text for graduate seminars and upper division undergraduate courses focusing on communication and the military.
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7. Work-family Predicaments of Air Force Wives: A Sensemaking Perspective


7.   Work-family Predicaments of Air Force Wives: A Sensemaking Perspective


Military wives who pursue paid work while their spouses are on active duty face a complex interweaving of constraints and contingencies. The stereotype of a military wife is a dependent or even “helpmate” who foregoes her own paid employment in order to manage household affairs and support her husband’s career. Although this once well-defined script is loosening, the role continues to involve a high degree of adaptation to change. The average military member relocates every two to three years, resulting in a lifestyle of continual movement (Burrell, 2006). These frequent and sometimes unexpected relocations can be especially difficult when compounded by periods of single-parenting given service member deployments or high job demands. As a result, spouses’ career trajectories are often fragmented and discontinuous. With each new duty station, a military wife who hopes her involvement in paid work will continue must reevaluate her options, goals, and the centrality of work in her life. She grapples with recurring questions about whether the working life she wants is possible in the context of military life and her family commitments.

The majority of military spouses, including both enlisted wives and officers’ wives, desire employment in some form and yet many wives are unemployed, underemployed, or have become discouraged workers, opting out of the workforce altogether (Defense Manpower Data Center, 2011). Military spouses earn less, face higher unemployment, and experience greater...

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