I'm not sure when the transition took place. No, wait, I do. It happened when we got stationed at AFIT.
I suddenly became an "older" MilSpouse.
It isn't a bad distinction, but I wasn't prepared for the sudden realization. I mean, heck, I'm not even 30 years old yet!
Basically older spouses are the ones supposedly in the know. We've been around for awhile and are aware of how the military works. Dealing with Tri-care problems? We've been there. Had issues with your PCS? Us too. Husband being sent away suddenly? Yeah, we know what that's like.
What made me an older spouse? While at AFIT I met many young women who were newlyweds since a lot of AFIT guys come from the Air Force Academy and cannot marry until after graduation. Or the people had only been stationed at one base, often married less than 3 years. Military life was new to them. They were unfamiliar to the whole dependent status. They were still coming to grips with the fact their life was to be dictated by the career of their spouse who ultimately has no control over what happens. Many found themselves putting their own careers or schooling on hold and some were even anxious and upset about the change to their lives.
I wasn't new to the military by any means since I have been a dependent my entire life. Being the third of four navy brats, my parents had PCS'ed several times before I was even born. It was surreal to review my medical records when I was pregnant with William and find them complete from my own birth at a military hospital and forms filled out in my mom's handwriting. While in college I was in ROTC and planned on the military life for myself before I met Ryan. I was told by several people (including the detachment commander) that I was already prepared and had an idea of what life would be like before my husband even commissioned... which was only mostly true.
At our early bases I was always considered a younger spouse. I was finishing school. I had my babies. Other women who were seasoned with military life were the ones I turned to for issues. They had experience and, often times, answers.
While at AFIT there were some ladies who had been in as long as we had or a few even longer, but we were vastly outnumbered by newbies.
Then we come here and I begin to meet other spouses... and I feel old. My kids are no longer babies. I've been married almost 10 years! We've moved 5 times, including an overseas assignment. I've dealt with nearly all Tri-Care regions (by far North was the best). I'm still maneuvering the waters of EFMP and I understand the difficulty that comes with finding a new church/dentist/hairdresser/babysitter every few years. And I can tell you that more often than not you'll want to pick up your fruit at a civilian grocery store over the commissary.
I don't know everything. My goodness, no! It's not like I'm full of sage wisdom. I respect those women who have weathered this military world longer than me. Even now, I may turn to my older spouse friends if I'm experiencing something new. Hubby is over the hill of a (hopefully) 20+ year commitment, yet he hasn't had to deploy. And who knows what the military might throw at us in the future.
Even with the difficulties, I love my military life. This is what I wanted. I support my husband with his career and am willing to follow him wherever he is sent. The older I get, the more challenges I overcome, the more full our life is. When I meet a soon-to-be military couple or a newlywed military couple I always say the same thing: Married life is an adventure. The military makes it more so. Enjoy it!