So, your spouse is finally home from that deployment! Congratulations for making it through! You’ve finally had that long-anticipated reunion. The kids have their parent back. Your service member is thrilled to be back home (if not a little anxious about how reintegration will go). You’re finally whole again!
So … Now what?
Well, if you look anything like my family does, a reunion is typically followed with comp time which means Dad is home for a few weeks. And that equals mental “vacation mode.” The house fills up with out of town family who want to see their son/brother/grandson/nephew. We’re all caught up in the family time we’ve craved so much over the last year. And what happens then?
NOTHING gets done around the house.
House chores get put off, kids’ bedtimes get ignored, laundry piles up, take-out is ordered, and on and on the list goes. In our most recent return from deployment, one funny thing happened. When family comes to visit, my kids have a tradition of waking them up each morning at a given time (this ranges anywhere from 0500-0800 usually). They’ve been doing this since we joined the Air Force. Whenever we get visits from Grandpa or Uncles, they arrive with the expectation of being pounced on each morning as a wake-up call. Mom and Dad, however, have had very strict rules about staying OUT of our room and leaving us to sleep. Well, this return from deployment, my husband was so excited about being home that he allowed the kids to wake him up (awfully full of exuberance for 0’dark-thirty) during his comp days.
So, we started off the day treating Dad like he was a house guest. He was followed around like a puppy dog because the kids felt like he was just a visitor at first. We’re at about 45 days out now, and we’re in a whole new cycle of adjustment back into “real life” not the initial reintegration phase. The kids aren’t allowed to jump on him at 0500 anymore. The laundry has to be done. Children have to go back to normal chore schedules. Unfortunately, we can’t live in a constant state of relaxation.
It’s a constant cycle of change when you’re a military family. If you’re going through something like this, you’re not alone. We all go through it, but it’s like that “dirty little secret” that no one talks about. Finding the new normal after a deployment is like searching for a magical unicorn. “Normal” for military families is constant upheaval.
So, if you’re going through any of these quirky reintegration situations, or if your spouse feels like a guest in their own home, or if you’re pulling your hair out (like me) over the fact that your kids are treating their dad like an outsider … take heart. You’re not alone. It’s just one step in the process. You’ll move onto the next step soon!