Deployment and TDYs are synonymous with being a military spouse and family. Most of us have, will or are currently enduring one right now. And almost always, we’re creating this incredible homecoming in our head counting down the days until we’re reunited with our spouse. It’s hard not to, right? That’s practically what gets us through the entirety of it all. (That and possibly a little wine and maybe some chocolate??)
So we plan for it; we plan our outfit, get our hair and nails done, and maybe set up a photographer. We think about that moment and all the excitement that encompasses it and we hold onto that feeling.
It was a tough reality to accept that the happy homecoming moment I built up in my mind wasn’t all that happy. In fact, it was an emotionally hard realization.
I always compare it to the feeling I had as a little kid counting down the days until Christmas. Then, inevitably, the moment arrives, and yes, that initial feeling is amazing; we see our service member and our stomachs fill with butterflies and we get that giddy nervousness and excitement, and all is right in the world because we have our person back. But it’s what happens when we get home that feels like a slap in the face.
It’s the tough reality that something so intricate could ever be so simple. (And could intricate be too harsh? Perhaps, but if you took deployment and put it under a microscope, you’d see all the hardships both parties endure, the emotional ups and downs, the emotional stress, the traumatic experiences, etc. So maybe intricate, or even delicate is an accurate adjective?)
During military separations, as dependents and solo parents, as the current head of household, the “homefront heroes,” if you will, we activate this survival mode. It sounds intense and it truly is. We now have to do all things and that means creating a new routine and a new normalcy. In short, we keep living our everyday without our partners. So when they are thrown back into our world again and a part of our new and adjusted daily life, it’s hard and it’s not always a smooth transition. There’s a post-deployment adjustment period for us and a reintegration period for our active-duty service members.
It’s complicated and messy, it’s frustrating and awkward. It’s simply uncomfortable. Our people, best friends and teammates are suddenly strangers in our home. They come through the door completely unaware of how we’ve lived our lives over the past however many months and they just aren’t doing things “right.” This of course is by no fault of their own making it equally as frustrating for them! We’ve simply just learned to live without them, we did what we had to as dependents to keep things running smoothly for not only our sanity but for our kids as well. And now, they’re “messing up” our school routine, bedtime rituals, weekend activities, etc. There’s arguing, bickering, frustration and maybe even some resentment. Nobody ever said deployment was easy, I knew that much, but nobody ever mentioned that the homecoming could be just as hard.
So the next deployment you have to endure, treat the homecoming as delicately as you can, prepare yourself for that adjustment period, and give yourself and your partner grace as you work through it together.