Winding thought mountainous roads with many miles left to drive, I asked my husband Bobby, “what are your top tips for homecoming and reintegrating with our family? What have we done right and what we could use some help with next time?” The topic is fresh on both of our minds since his recent return from a six-month deployment. What I thought would take us the remainder of our long drive to discuss, in less than fifteen minutes we decided on five actions that can help couples reintegrate smoothly.
Curb Expectations: Bobby: There are going to be things that won’t go how you dreamt it to be for the last 6-12 months. I knew the kids would be a little cranky and take some time to warm up to me, I knew the house was going to need work. Briana: My view on this point is to share your expectations. You have spent months apart and it is only fair to share what you expect from your spouse when they return!
Take a Break: Bobby: Truly take time off work. Whether it is a few days or a week, disconnect from the job to focus on your family and your mental health.
Be Prepared: Briana: This sounds more like I am prepping you for a camping trip with the scouts than a homecoming, but starting to prepare in advance will ease some of the reintegration stress when homecoming is imminent. (Don’t wait to turn on his car until the week before and realize the battery is dead!) I wanted the house to look a certain way so that my husband didn’t feel like he had to complete housing tasks as soon as he walked in the door. After ten years of marriage, I knew the tree that desperately need trimming in the back yard would be one of the first things to do on his list and I wanted him to be able to relax and enjoy time with our kids.
Briana: I struggled with sharing this point as it illustrates my selfishness. I had our family’s homecoming pictured a certain way: the jets flying over, flags waving, outfits coordinating and us rushing to my husband, embracing with happy tears and smiles. When he presented the idea to meet him at the last port stop (which he received approval to come home from), I hesitated. He expected excitement and my reaction was disappointing. I felt like I was “cheating” on my two little girls who had been my “team” through deployment, and now I was leaving them to meet “Daddy” by myself. I also felt a little sad that the homecoming would lack the stereotypical (and lovely) pomp and circumstance. After some reflection, I realized how self-centered my thinking was. I was not focusing on what my spouse needed or how grateful I should feel to meet my husband ALONE and work through some of the “I haven’t seen you in a while” awkwardness. It ended up being lovely and exactly what he needed to decompress from being at sea and what I needed before “sharing” him with the whole family.
Briana: My kids were sick the week before my husband came home so the house wasn’t perfect, my car wouldn’t start and one of the toilets started leaking. After sheepishly explaining my current woes and the state of affairs at home, instead of being frustrated my husband gave me an out. He said, “It is OK. Leave it until I get home and I will take care of it.” What a relief! After months apart remember to be considerate and thoughtful even when the situation isn’t picture perfect.
Whether your homecoming is around the corner or months away, share your feelings and expectations with your spouse. There is no easier way to get on the same page (even if this communication is through email)! How have you and your spouse handled homecoming?
We would love for you to share your tips or a photo from your happy reunion in the comments!
About the Blogger: Briana Hartzell is a Navy spouse, mother to two beautiful girls (4 years and 2 years), a former full time USAA employee and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Briana writes at Being Briana, a blog focused on the joys that military life and parenthood can bring.
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