By Marguerite Cleveland
There can be a bit of a generation gap among military spouses and sometimes that can lead to misunderstandings or hurt feelings. After conducting some informal interviews among military spouses of varying generations here are a few things I learned.
Those spouses of a certain generation, the old-timers or those who have just been around a while want you to know they appreciate you and your youth and energy. They want you to know that this military sisterhood is such a bond and this sisterhood is what got them through the past 20 years. One thing that is very important to them is the military traditions that have been passed down to them and that they try to pass on to you. It is not meant to be a “these are the rules and you have to do it this way”, although it may come across that way to you. It is more like in a family how you pass down or teach the next generation how to make a beloved family recipe or maybe how you always go to your grandmother’s for Thanksgiving Dinner. These welcomes, farewells, coffees and teas were shared with them when they first started out. They may have seen a commander’s wife farewelled with a tea and looked forward to the day when they would get to experience that.
Their biggest pet peeve (and this goes across all the generations) is the lack of people RSVPing to an invitation or waiting until after the date has passed by. Many events are so logistically intensive and you need an accurate count to plan for the event. We often laugh about the movies showing military events in the past where the clock ticks to the time of the event starting and everyone gets out of the car at the same time and heads to the door. The old-timers wish you would adhere to that and not arrive early. If they needed help they would have arranged for it ahead of time and that last ten minutes is their time to take a breath and freshen up before their guests arrive.
The newer spouses, the young ones, or those just starting on their journey wished you wouldn’t call them millennials. Did you know some millennials are now 37 years old? They also want you to know they appreciate the struggle you went through in tougher conditions and all that you did for the next generation of spouses. They also really appreciate the Family Readiness Groups and social events even though they might not always be able to go. They say those groups help them to stay connected to the military.
The most important thing they wished you would remember is that they are going through everything for the first time. So even though you may roll your eyes at their comments about missing their husband when he departs on their first month long training event, this is the first time for them and they are away from their families. They also wish you would take the time to explain the traditions without just dictating do this, this and this. Another area they really struggle with is wanting to participate and volunteer but having difficulties with childcare. The costs have skyrocketed and there is rarely any free child care available.
No matter what the frustrations at times, the military sisterhood is there for you when you need it. Good communication is key and also needs to be empathy to understand what the other is going through. What do you wish your fellow military spouses knew?
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com