When I married Jamie in January 2011, I knew that a deployment to Afghanistan was looming. I knew that the first year of our marriage would be untraditional and that there would be hard times, but I had no idea what our lives in the military would hold once he returned in 2012. In hindsight I don’t believe there would have been any possible way to prepare mentally for what was in store for us had I known, and that’s that we would go to sleep a world away from each other for nearly half of our first five years of marriage throughout the course of three rapid deployments.
We’ve learned that instead of calling this “abnormal”, we just call it our normal. We didn’t sign up for “this” because we had no way of knowing that “this” is how our first few years in the military would shape up, but we did sign up to stand by each other for the rest of our lives, regardless of how high the obstacles would be in a relatively short period of time.
I’m so far from any kind of “military spouse expert” (I often feel like the exactly opposite actually), but after three emotional, incredible homecomings, Jamie and I have figured out a thing or two about how to readjust in a happy and healthy manner as a family after doing so much time apart.
It’s important to note that we didn’t do all of these tips right the first time or even the second time. Several of the following we’ve unfortunately had to learn the hard way and then apply our take-aways to the next homecoming/readjustment phase. It’s not a surprise that this most recent readjustment phase has been our most smooth and happy; We’re kind of in our “groove” of how to pick right back up.
How to readjust after a deployment
Finding happiness while establishing our new normal as a brand new family of four after welcoming Sadie this past spring has been one of our greatest victories as a military family.
- Set aside some of your block leave time for plenty of “unscheduled” time.
Having a block of empty days on your calendar allows the entire family time to rest mentally and physically following the true high of a homecoming ceremony. Unscheduled time allows you to fill your days however you want, whether that means watching Netflix marathons, more spontaneous family time at the pool, time to grocery shop together, time to sleep in and snuggle as a family in one big bed, and more. Unscheduled time is really just scheduled time to ease back into your normal routines before returning back to the grind and demands of one’s military job.
2. Listen to his/her stories that he/she may have not shared while apart.
A few weeks ago we were watching the devastating coverage of the Nice, France attack, and Jamie made a comment about what a horrible feeling it is to run for your life. He said it so casually actually, but it kind of took my breath away. I’d never heard of him doing this before, and for the next 30 minutes he unloaded three or four stories of when he experienced intensely close calls in Afghanistan. It terrifies me that he had been in these situations where the outcome could have easily been tragically different, but hearing his stories makes me respect what he’s done and seen overseas so much more.
3. Set aside time with just your spouse and children.
Jamie and I honestly enjoy few things more than time with our families. We always know when we’re going to see our parents and siblings next and really look forward to being together. We also love soaking up time with local and out-of-town friends, but we’ve realized just how crucial it is to set aside time (either at home or on a vacation) that’s just quiet time to reconnect with your immediate family unit.
4. Give yourselves grace if/when an argument surfaces.
Stress levels often run high for both parties during so much time apart, and during this time you’ve each had to problem-solve on your own. Now that you’re back together, you may still be running on “independent” mode (which often can lead to an array of issues). Give yourself grace, recognize that this is probably just a temporary, dumb argument simply fueled by occasional friction of readjusting.
5. All of the things you missed while apart? Actually do them once you’re back together.
Sometime we want what we can’t have and then take them for granted once they’re available to us. Go on those family walks that you yearned to go on while apart. Sit down at the table and enjoy having another adult to eat with. Oh yeah, and cook something that’s not from a box since you probably did way too much of that during the deployment. 😉
6. Seek financial guidance.
Homecoming ceremonies also mean a steep decrease in a service member’s pay, so before you fret and stress about your lifestyle changes and overspending, seek financial guidance from an expert. Lay out your financial situation, talk out your near and distant goals as a family, and then let an expert help you get back on track with your new income.
7. Take a soft approach when sharing how things have changed around the home.
Don’t expect your spouse to be a mind-reader and automatically know how you (and the kids) have been doing things while he/she’s been gone. When “teaching” your spouse new household routines, be kind. Also, bite your tongue and be slow to blow a fuse when things aren’t done the way you’re used to. Try your hardest to remember that this readjustment period will be over before you know it.
8. Give your spouse back the responsibilities that he/she once had before the deployment.
Did your husband use to bathe the kids every night? Mow the grass? Roll the trash can down to the street? Let him pick back up with those small tasks immediately. It will make the family feel back to normal faster and will give your spouse a renewed sense of contributing to the household and the family once again.
9. Celebrate the things you’ve missed with a date or vacation without children.
When you consider all of the money that you’ve saved by not going on any dates in the last “x” amount of months, you have every excuse in the world to treat yourself to a totally guilt-free date night, weekend trip, or all-out vacation. Clink your glasses to missed birthdays, holidays, and your anniversary. You deserve it.
On recognizing victories & DAV
If everybody threw their struggles into a big pot and had to grab one back out, I know that I’d surely dive for mine. If experiencing deployments is the worst thing to happen to us so far, then I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m very lucky. However, I think it’s important for military families to recognize their own personal victories they’ve achieved following a time of trial. DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a non-profit organization that is on a mission to help America’s veterans achieve more victories. To learn more about DAV, visit dav.org.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of DAV. The opinions and text are all mine. While I am proud to support DAV and their mission, I have not been a beneficiary of DAV services.
Hi! I’m a proud Army wife and mom to two little girls (ages 1 and 4), and I love sharing our lives with you. I blog all about motherhood, our time in the military, our travels, our meals, my fitness journey, my fashion favorites, and so much more. I truly enjoy sharing it all! I can’t get enough of birthday cake ice cream, weekend sunrise runs, or making my girls belly-laugh. I write almost daily about my family’s lives, and though I like to keep things light, I also share the messy parts too. Welcome! So glad to have you around. I’m active on Facebook and Instagram and would love to communicate with you there!