So, you’re reaching the end of deployment. The light is at the end of the tunnel, you can see it, you can feel it, but you’re likely a bundle of nerves. Emotions are running high. As the Homecoming date looms closer and closer, you may be anxious to see your sailor again.
Homecoming will be a magical, magical day. But what should you expect when it comes to reintegration? We asked and more than a dozen spouses offered some words of encouragement:
- I’ve struggled with the tendency to put MY projects on the back burner when he comes home. It’s important to keep the things that give you purpose even when the boat is back. Keep scheduling the sitter. Put your commitments on the calendar and don’t feel bad about not giving him every minute.
- I told my husband to just observe for the first couple of weeks. Observe the routine, behaviors, patterns, discipline etc.If they are withdrawn, it’s not because they don’t want to be there. It’s very overwhelming, on top of decompressing from deployment.
- Remove the extra people. Extended family can wait. Just focus on your own nuclear family. Patience is key. For everyone.
- For families of little kids, we have found it’s helpful, for dad and kids, if I send an email towards the end of deployment with: Typical daily schedule, weekly routine, classes, school, etc., recent happenings, highlights, and interests of each kid. Reintegration really is way harder than the separation and deployment itself.
- I ask my husband specifically for help with tasks that I know help ground him if he wants to help out. They help him feel needed and connected. Nothing time sensitive so he has the space to do things his way in his time.Talk when you can and allow each other space, grace, and patience.
- The first few weeks you really need the recently deployed spouse to observe mostly. Things change over a couple months more than you think and both parties need to give each other some grace.Also oxy clean, tide pods and downy’s unstoppables are key to getting amine out of clothes.
- Patience with each other. It takes time. You’ve been spent months apart and little things change – routines, expectations, etc. It takes time to get into a groove together again.
- I think the expectations is the biggest thing to just LET GO. You can’t control the duty schedule (didn’t he have duty the last homecoming day?) , the rain on homecoming, your grumpy-needy kids, needs of the force that always seem to supercede needs of the family, ANOTHER mother @%$& hurricane delay, the son who had an emergency appendectomy 6 hours before they were pierside, or the fact that the first thing on his mind when he came home was a shower and a nap (wait, WHAT?!). Relax, friend. They are home. It’s not a reconnection sprint. And for goodness sake, no one else has it perfect either…. No matter what their cute little reunion Facebook statuses say.
- No major changes (if you can help it) for at least two weeks. No suggestions of alterations to routine or discipline, and no expectations on either side for “big stuff.”
- Don’t expect your sailor to want that perfect home cooked meal the first night home, unless they specifically ask for it; they most likely want something quick and easy, and to relax on the couch, watching something that is *not* a flick they burned on crews mess underway.
- Homecoming is lovely; coming home can be *hard*. Give yourselves some grace. And tell your sailor to take day of arrival duty, and to pull trash when they get in, especially if they are a nuke. They can come kiss you hello, give a quick hug, and then you can skedaddle home while they establish shore power. Bring them dinner later on the pier, and then pick them up the next day when stand down starts. It gives you a chance to process your emotions, plus they’ll be asleep anyway.
- Oh and don’t EVER wear the trench coat and heels on the pier. We all know what you *don’t* have on underneath, and believe me, the wind is not forgiving. Just don’t do it.
- I get so used to doing everything myself that I forget to let my husband do some too. Don’t forget that you have also been working hard. In turn, he/she may have a hard time getting back into the swing of things. Just be respectful of each other and the whole reintegration process. Take some time to ease back into “normal” and enjoy each other’s company.
- Don’t let other spouses freak you out about how your husband will act. My husband never struggled with coming home and going back to “regular life”. We picked up right where we left off every time. All sailors handle it differently.
- My best advice is to not have any expectations (things usually don’t go according to plan!) and communicate with your spouse!
- It’s just as difficult for them as it is for the family that has been home. Don’t have expectations and take things day by day.
- Be patient with them. Be patient with yourselves. Talk with kids ahead of time that the sailor has been gone and isn’t use to the remaining families schedule/routine and sailor may want to do things different. They need to be patient and understanding as well (obviously if old enough!) Have grace. Know that every deployment/underway is different and how they return will be different.
- We (kids and I) stick to our same routine. I explain to my husband not to take anything personal if the kids ask me vs him. It takes everyone a minute to adjust and nothing is ever personal.I also tell the kids that yes dad is home, but he does go to work during the day and will be home around x time. I remind myself that he is going to be TIRED. I always forget that initial adrenaline of homecoming wears off pretty fast.
- Don’t forget to laugh! I have a routine so when he comes home it gets screwed up and one of us ends up the crap end of it. Just gotta laugh it off, apologize, and move on.
- Do not take it personally when they get overwhelmed by the daily noises we have learned to not notice.
For more advice on reintegration, check out these free resources from Military OneSource.