Cammo Style Love: MilSpouse Stories: How We Do Reintegration {In 5 Easy Steps}

Saturday, December 5, 2015

MilSpouse Stories: How We Do Reintegration {In 5 Easy Steps}

While we all know reintegration can sometimes be the opposite of easy, there are things that you can mentally prepare for that will make the transition as easy as possible. We recently had what felt like our one-millionth reintegration and this time around I've had several people ask me how we do it when he comes home. Fortunately for us Mr. Air Force and I have had a ton of experience at this, but we weren't always this awesome at it. And while most of my advice in this particular post centers around family, reintegration without kids can be tricky in its own right. A lot of the stories and advice work for both situations.



Reintegration is tough, ask any MilSpouse. I've found myself struggling with making sure I find the balance between letting them feel like they are a part of the family directly and not putting too much pressure on them. For the spouse that has been at home, me, I've gotten into a routine. I've filled the role of both parents, of house fixer, boo boo kisser, bedtime story reader and all that other stuff that is usually split up between two people. I find myself taking over and doing things that he would normally do...or doing nothing in the hopes that he will step in and do it. Neither of which is probably fair for either one of us. I am a lucky girl though. I have a spouse who comes home and realizes that we've been going on without him, that I've been doing a lot, that the kids have chores and routines that he might have forgotten or not realized. He always asks how things are going, and what their chores and routines are. This is something that has evolved over our the years in our marriage, something we've really worked on. We've learned a lot over the last fourteen years and hopefully what we've experienced can help someone who reads this.

1. Don't Rush It

We've done it both ways, rushed and not rushed, and taking it slow when you need to is the way the to go. There are times that we've really needed it, and times that we've picked up right where we've  we left off without so much as a hiccup.  Leaving the next day for a family vacation, even if its just the a quiet one, might not be the greatest of ideas. And while having a Welcome Home party is a fun idea, overwhelming your service member with a large group of people directly after they arrive home, might be best saved for a couple days down the line. But just like everyone does deployment different, everyone does reintegration different.
"Give yourself time to readjust as a family/couple BEFORE inviting extended family and friends for an extended visit or long weekend stay. Having additional moving wheels in your new dynamic can really set things back. I would include parents and siblings in this guideline.  The deployed parent is playing catch-up with childhood milestones, the kids are trying to navigate the new normal while keeping up in school, and the non-deployed parent is just trying to hold it all together."
Don't rush things. You all have changed and experienced different emotions, joys and challenges and it will take time to find your new normal. Just make sure that your expectations are realistic, and most of all be patient with each other. Things may not be like before and that's ok.
Judy - The Direction Diva




photo credit: Gronde Photography

2. Routine
In my own personal life this has been key. The excitement of having a parent home when they've been gone a lot for the kids, and myself too. And while sticking with the standard routine can be complicated sometimes when you are introducing a parent in who hasn't been a part of the routine or doesn't know the changes in routine well, its a good thing for kids. Resilient as MilKids are, the structure that is found in a routine is so important for them. This is why I have learned how important it is to keep the deployed service member aware of the routine through your normal conversations. It keeps them connected and feeling involved while they are gone, and can only help with the reintegration process when they return.
 I've (slowly) learned that the key for our family is routine. It's bewildering for my husband to come home and be dumped into the routine we figured out. His unfamiliarity with daily activities makes him uncomfortable, frustrates and confuses our son, and puts me on edge (often unreasonably). Our last deployment I had the surprising effective idea to put a small dry erase board on the fridge with our daily schedule Every morning, if there was anything different or unusual going on, I would write it at the bottom. I also emailed that schedule to him before he came home. It wasn't a hard and fast rule - just an outline of how our day normally ran. What time munchkin needed to be in the bathtub in order to get to bed on time, etc. It totally changed reintegration for us. There will always be adjustment, but keeping communication open (especially non-confrontational channels is always a good idea. This time, I also insisted on taking some time for myself, and setting aside some time just for our son and I, even right after he came home.


3. Expectation
Expectations can be all over the place and it is important to talk about them and acknowledge them. What are you excited about, what are you worried about, what do they want and what do you want. If there are children involved, sometimes they aren't as excited for the return of their parent as much as you might hope. This is something I've experienced myself. My husband was so incredibly sweet and patient with our littlest one. Its important that they know it isn't them and don't take it personally.
The hardest thing for us is my husband and the kids. {My husband} was gone six of my son's first year (2 three month deps) and also away for his birth so they've had a lot of trouble connecting. Basically {he} wanted nothing to do with him and it broke his heart. So we eased into him being home, accepting that it would take time for {our son} to fully accept him. I've had to really reassure my husband that it will take some time and they'll be best friends before he knows it. Fortunately our daughter adores him so it's never an issue for her when he returns.
~ Anonymous MilSpouse~

4. Time as a couple
Especially important, and almost always forced to the back burner when you have children, is the importance reconnecting as a couple. I've noticed as the kids get older and become more aware of the realities when Daddy is gone, the focus switches almost entirely to them. It is sometimes a good thing because I am so focused on helping them through this that I don't have time to dwell on my sadness. The flipside of that is if I ignore myself entirely for too long I end of freaking out over something tiny. So inevitably when they come home the kids want to command all of the attention, which is understandable. Date nights are important all the time, but after a long separation they should be a priority. Even if its a stay at home date night, setting apart time to do something special is so key to a successful reintegration.
Take time to spend time together but also take time to spend time apart. Jumping from being apart all the time to being together all the time can be challenging at times. Scheduling some alone time can help. I also find that scheduling things for us to look forward to doing together is helpful. It helps if we get out and do things instead of simply staying around the house all the time. They're kind of like "dates" to help us reconnect.



5. Help them play catch up
Especially when your service member is gone for a year, there is so much they can feel like they missed. And sometimes a themed care-package doesn't quite cut it. I've seen people delay taking down Christmas if the arrival of their service member is close to Christmas, or wait altogether. Back in the day when you used VHS to record things, I recorded all sorts of silly and ridiculous things that my husband missed during a year long stint. That was a commitment! To this day I record tons of things and we have almost nightly date nights playing catch up on all that he missed. To involve your kids, have them keep a deployment journal with pictures or written entries if they are older. It will be so much fun to look through with their parent.
 I also keep a folder of random things from during his deployment he can look through when he gets a chance (or when he can't sleep). It has notes I made, or cards that came in the mail, funny things I read and thought of him, etc. Last deployment he was gone over Christmas so I had a big pile of Christmas cards for him. I think it helps make him feel "caught up" on what he missed while he was away.
Tara ~ An Aiming High Wife



photo credit: Gronde Photography

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1 comment:

  1. Cute photos :)
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    Maria V.

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