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When to Stay and When to Go

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The reality of deployments often come with a huge question mark. There are so many questions to answer on how your life will change as a result of the deployment. How will the family adjust? How will our relationships change? How will we manage the new reality of our Service Member being gone? Whether you’re a parent or not, it’s difficult to picture what it’s going to be like without your spouse at home for an extended period of time. I’ve found that one of the first questions people ask when you tell them your spouse is deploying is “are you going ‘home’ while he’s away or are you staying at your duty station?” Usually, it’s a question asked by individuals who aren’t affiliated with the military because it seems as though the spouse left at home will be completely lost without our other 1/2 by our side. I never find it to be an offensive question, but it’s one that comes up often.

It’s an important question to ask of ourselves too. I’ve known families who have taken both of these paths, and it really depends on your situation whether it makes sense for your family to stay at your duty station or return home where you have a family network and support system already in place. So, with that in mind, here’s a few questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether to stay or go during a deployment.

1. Are the changes it will bring about worth it?

I’ve noticed that families with young children are often the ones who make the decision to return “home” when their spouse is deployed. This can mean an enormous amount of change both on the kids and the adults in the family. It will include living with family again. It will include moving your kiddos away from their friends and routines. You have to decide whether the changes will bring about positive or negative results.

2. Am I ready to be “mothered” again?

If you move back into your parents’ house, you have to realize that it’s going to come with all the baggage that was there during high school and childhood. Your parents probably won’t enforce a curfew again, but you have to realize that you’re making plans to stay with someone else for several months, and that’s a big commitment. Use caution when you’re considering the fact that you will again have your parents very present in your every day lives. I know that the older I’ve gotten, the less I want people looking over my shoulder. Even though most moms of adult children don’t want to admit it, they often do revert to “mothering” their kids even when they’re all grown up.

3. Is it worth the cost?

We’ve found that whenever I leave our duty station long-term, it ends up costing more money than it would if we kept our family here. Extra expenses add up and you’re also probably still covering the basic living expenses of your home at your duty station. I know that when my husband deploys, we count on some of the extra money he makes as a result of the assignment and family separation allowance. We try to save as much as we can while he’s gone so we can take a trip or enjoy ourselves as a whole family once he’s returned. Sometimes, that adds up to us deciding to just stay home and pinch pennies where we can while he’s gone so that we can enjoy good family time together after it’s all over.

These 3 questions can come off as somewhat of a downer. I’m not saying that it’s a bad decision to return home to be with your family during a spouse’s deployment. I’m merely suggesting that you think carefully about the decision. Read up on others’ experiences under similar circumstances. Talk it out with your spouse and the family members you’ll be staying with. Set expectations carefully. Don’t expect that it’s going to be easy. That all being said, with careful consideration, open conversations, and good preparation, it’s possible to spend the entire deployment at “home” instead of your duty station. Just think about it long and hard. Don’t let the knee-jerk reaction be “my husband is deploying so, of course, I’m getting out of here and going home.” Forethought in the beginning will be very useful at the tail end of a long deployment!

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