There is one aspect of military life that is kicking me in the teeth over the last year or so. Reintegration. Or rather I like to think of it as "trying to figure out what normal family life is like since we are clearly not a normal family. BTW, while you're at it I need my personal space before I poke your eyeballs with a shrimp fork."
That sums it up nicely doesn't it?
My husband does not keep a normal Marine Corps schedule, scratch that, he does for his community and really what is normal in the military? But it does seem like we are odd balls sometimes. He doesn't do long extended deployments.... very often, they still do those, but the majority of his life is spent here one week, gone for two, home for 2 weeks, gone for 4 days, home for 3 days, gone for a couple more weeks. And we repeat this confusing cycle all year. Every year. Going on 15 years.
There are times I can't remember where he is, what time zone he might be in, when he's flying, or when he's coming home. But everyone misplaces their husband from time to time, am I right?
When I hear about reintegration I tend to hear about it in terms of long chunk deployments. Figuring out how to mesh after being apart for a year or 6 months at a time. And we've done that too, not so easy. But you know what they don't always talk about? Our kind of reintegration. It's not easy either.
When the kids were toddlers and babies it was easier for us. He would come and go and life for the most part stayed the same. Sure he would go and come home and they would be walking or perhaps had said a word or two but it seems different now. We've been married for almost a decade. A decade of spending at least 6mths out of the year apart. I've gotten used to having the remote to myself and sleeping with the tv on. And now the kids are older. Two are in school, the same two play on sports teams, life is picking up speed with no signs of stopping.
As the kids get older and busier I'm finding it more and more important to have a schedule and keep to it. Bedtime is a certain time and needs to be because they have school in the morning, homework needs to get done at a certain time because practice, and so on and so forth. I have fine tuned my solo parenting after 7 years of it. Sure I miss my husband when he's not around, when isn't it nice to have your partner here? But I'm finding myself getting into a groove and keeping things flowing and as harsh as it sounds, when he comes home from a trip I can sometimes hear the skids of our routine.
He's home and wants to be active in the routine but the routine starts to wonk out a little. It wonks and as we start to sort out the kinks, he's gone again.
Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it.
I know, in the common sense part of my brain, that I shouldn't be sweating the small stuff. Kids are kids, missing bedtime here or there isn't going to knock the earth of it's axis, but like I said, it's frustrating. And I can only imagine he feels the same way. I try to remember that while I sweat having our schedule knocked around a bit, my husband is doing one very simple thing: being an active, present member of our family. Can't hold a grudge against that can you?
Sometimes we get into a groove, we get a solid 3 or *gasp* maybe even 4 weeks together. Life starts to seem normal and relaxed. But then real life starts back up and inevitably reintegration starts all over again when the trip is over. And on the positive side ... retirement will come one of these days.
Because retirement is a couple years or more away here's what I'm trying to do, or as you might call them, tips:
* Remember, as hard as it is for you, its also hard on your spouse. Your at home in the trenches, yes, but your spouse is missing valuable time from you and the kids.
* Project a united front. My 5 year old, like all kids, has taken to asking one parent when the other parent has already said no. This happens even to parents who spend every minute of the day together, he has however started to capitalize on the fact that dad hasn't been around and perhaps he can get somewhere. I have to really applaud my husband, he can sniff this out like a bloodhound and isn't moved. At all. And don't bicker in front of the kids about who is in charge and how when he isn't here you manage to run things just as fine. Seems common sense but when the mood strikes you, try hard to bite your tongue.
* Try to keep them in the loop, either while they are away or debrief when they get home. This helps keep everyone on the same page and makes issues easier to handle when they crop up and you don't have to try to give the whole synopsis as its going down. Not that that ever happens to us.
* If your schedule allows, reconnect as a family while your spouse is home, put the chores aside for a Saturday and have fun! I'm not saying you have to drop everything and fly to Disney, although Disney is awesome, but guess what, no one ever died because laundry wasn't done right away. I know I said I like to keep my routine in tack but on the weekends when hubs is home I like it to be about the kids and spending time as a family. Or escaping and him spending time with the kids.
* Remember that marriage and family, especially a military marriage, is work. Sounds corny or obvious, but it's true. Anything worthwhile takes a lot of hard work and willing participants. Even if you want to occasionally stab one of them with a shrimp fork.
What are your tips for integration? Do you live this kinda of back and forth schedule and have the same issues?
Leanne is the mother of three rambunctious little boys and the wife of a Marine. Her days are filled with laundry, shuttling kids around, helping with homework, volunteering, dodging nerf bullets, repeatedly putting the toilet seat down, and tripping over flight boots. It truly is the American Dream. She also blogs as The Mrs. at Trying Our Best. However, since discovering twitter two years ago she has become a twitter fiend @mrs_flyboy .