We've talked about how hard it is to say goodbye and we all know how hard it is when they're gone. But what about how hard it is to say 'hello' again after a long TDY/Deployment?
When the spouse is gone for a long time everything changes and shifts in the house: who walks the dogs, who disciplines the children, deciding what groceries to buy (I've continued to insist on my Flush Brush and Scrubbing Bubbles shower 'maid' !), who goes to doctor appt, bedtime routines, what time dinner is served. Life seems to take on a new 'flow' when the spouse is gone.
Papa Bear was gone for seven months this year on a very long TDY. He was only in Boston so I got to talk to him almost every night and he came back for a weekend a month. Truly, it really wasn't THAT tough. But we did have three surgeries here at home during that time, the joys of being an EFMP family ! So, there were some challenges! When he came back we were all thrilled! Having him home was so indescribably wonderful! The thought of not having to carry the entire responsibility alone was such a relief! Having a warm body, rather than a heating pad, to snuggle with was, needless to say, monumental ! It was also a complete rearrangement of our new family routine.
Readjusting when the spouse comes home is incredibly difficult. And it's the small things you don't expect. For example, I was used to putting the kids to bed at night from my bed. We'd snuggle up about 7:30 and read a chapter in a book, say prayers, hugs and kisses all around - then off to bed they'd go. I'd already locked up for the night and never saw a reason to go back downstairs. I'd settle down with a good book, work I needed to finish or a good movie and be perfectly content for the night! AHHHHH, life is good! First night Papa Bear was back, I kept to my routine until I hear this low, masculine voice from the foyer, "Aren't you coming back down?" Wow, wake up call. Routine had to change. It's not a major issue and I can happily haul myself out of bedtime status and go down to the living room and snuggle (which in the end is so much better, isn't it?), but it's an adjustment. Having to think about another person in the house and their needs, wants and desires. Having to grocery shop for more than Mac and Cheese, pizza and corn dogs! Having to remember that discipline is no longer a one person thing. Having to remember to ask what the plans are for the weekend rather than assume you have it all figured out.
And it's not just me, it's the kids too! It's really hard for them to readjust to having two parents again - as if one wasn't more than enough! They have to remember to defer to both mom and dad's commands, readjust their tummy clocks to dinner when Papa gets home from work and remember to come back downstairs to say goodnight to Papa! Two parents checking on schoolwork, chores, Boy Scout progress. In many ways, they love it! In many ways, it's hard on them as well.
I have friends who are Navy and Army spouses - ha, sounds like the old "some of my best friends are Navy and Army wives". It's true, but always sounds suspect! - anyway, their spouses routinely are gone for 6 months a year or more. Hats off to you all! This is not something we in the Air Force RDT&E community often deal with - although today it's happening more frequently. It's a tough time and I give you all the credit in the world.
I've since found some great information at the military.com site that I think is truly beneficial: http://www.military.com/spouse/fs/0,,fs_deploy_rr,00.html.
There is a lot of information on the web for military spouses facing the issues of 're-entry'. Perhaps some of you have found other information, books or sites that you found helpful. Please share! This is the best thing we can do for each other....share the information that has been helpful and our stories of life as a military spouse. If you know of anything that could help other spouses who are facing this issue.....this is the place to share that information. And, for those of you who are dealing with this right now or will be soon, check out the information and let us know what you think was helpful!