It's hard to believe my husband has been home for four weeks already. Having him back home has been wonderful as well as rejuvenating. It's great having a second set of hands around the house, and with the kids, again.
In many ways we've very much fallen back into our same old routine in life, almost feeling like he was never gone at all. I attribute part of that to the fact that our overall routine never really changed. But it did surprise me that, after being away for 8 1/2 months, my husband easily slid back into the routine himself.
I think I expected the whole reintegration process to be slower than what it's actually turned out to be. A few weeks before the end of the deployment, there was a 'Coming Home' meeting for spouses to attend, where we not only discussed the forecasted events of the actual homecoming day, but also what reintegration may or may not be like.
- What are your expectations of your spouse when they return home from deployment?
- For the duration of deployment, you've been in control of everything within the household and concerning your children. Are you ready to relinquish some of that control back to your spouse?
- What are you looking forward to the most when your spouse returns home from deployment?
- When your spouse returns home, what do you think he/she is looking forward to the most and what do you think their expectations are?
Before that night I had only considered the reintegration process from my side, taking into account only my feelings and my own expectations.
I had completely failed in taking his wants, needs or expectations into consideration. That night when I got home, I wrote my husband a detailed email discussing what I had realized that night. I wrote about how I imagined the first week or two of his homecoming going, and a few things that I was hopeful for (as I no longer had 'expectations'), and asked him to do the same in an email to me. As the group counselor had suggested, I was going to be open-minded and very patient.
I wholeheartedly believe that taking the time to discuss our own expectations and feelings towards life after deployment and our reintegration helped. My husband knew that I understood the fact that he'd been out of practice as an active parent for 8 1/2 months, and that I wanted him to feel comfortable easing back into the role. We both knew he wouldn't have any troubles with that, but it was nice that we both were on the same page so neither one of us felt any pressure towards it.
In the same respect I knew that he understood my exhaustion from handling everything solo for so long, as well as the fact that I had been handling everything on my own with no help while he was away. We talked about every aspect and possibility we could think of, and promised that if something either of us did frustrated the other, we'd remember to have patience and politely discuss the infraction.
The first week my husband was home, we really did just ease into everything. He hung back and played more of an observer role the first couple of nights, getting reacquainted with our routine and absorbing the minor changes that were so normal to me I didn't realize them until he had pointed them out.
After the first couple of nights, life seemed to pretty much fall back into place the way it was before deployment. I won't say it's been 100 percent smooth sailing, I have had to remind myself a few times that the way I do something — though I've been doing it that way for so long on my own — may not necessarily be the only way that particular task can be done. Honestly, that's probably been the hardest part of it all — me learning to let go of some of the control and let my husband do things the way that works best for him. Overall, though, I'd say the reintegration process as a whole has been a great success.
Don't dismiss reintegration. I think we wives/spouses tend to focus so much on the pre-deployment, the goodbye and the deployment itself that we often forget that the homecoming and reintegration part is just as important. Of course, it's the part of the whole deployment process we look forward to the most. However every rose has its thorn and even reintegration can come with a few bitter surprises. If there's any piece of advice I could give anyone on the topic, it would be to take the time to discuss your expectations and feelings. Listen to one another, and always be open-minded and patient.