“Who am I?”
Normally, this would be a very easy question to answer. I am a mom, wife, daughter, friend, teacher; a runner…the list goes on. The answer to who I am varies with the season of life and at times is very clear-cut. But at other times, who I am and my purpose in this life feel more complicated. And no time has been more confusing for me than at the conclusion of my husband’s recent deployment.
During his deployment, I knew what I was doing was important. It made a difference. Taking care of the kids and making sure that our household affairs were taken care of ensured that my husband could do his job without worry about things at home. I stayed strong and accepted the extra responsibilities of being a “single parent” with the knowledge that doing so helped my kids stay strong while their dad was away. I supported my husband’s service and, while I’m sure I complained some along the way, I was proud to be doing my part in serving our country by holding down the homefront. During this time I connected with other military wives and found a support system that I didn’t know existed. I knew that my purpose and my job during this deployment was to support my husband and care for my family. It was a cause that I gave my whole heart to and I’d do it all over again if asked to.
That role was one of the most important ones that I have taken on and it probably gave me a great sense of purpose. So the question became what now? Now that the deployment is over and my husband is thankfully home, who am I now? Yes, I am still a wife, mother, daughter, teacher, runner, etc and I have a great purpose in life, but the role that I identified so greatly with and that consumed my every minute for the last year is now in lesser need. I no longer have to take on all of the parenting responsibilities or carry on with a strong front when I really feel like breaking down because I miss my husband. I no longer have the need to create and send care packages to my husband, or have the need to carry the cell phone into the bathroom.
My husband is National Guard, so he goes back to drills once a month with the occasional training mission. I am no longer constantly surrounded with other Army wives going through the same separation. Everyone has returned to their “normal” lives in the civilian world and the need for each other’s support has decreased. The sense of urgency and worry is done, and while I am grateful for all of this, it has in a sense left me with a feeling of “where do I go from here?”
After much though on this question, and the one of “who am I,” I’ve come to realize that this feeling is normal. After living in a state of heightened awareness and emotional strength for so long, a “let down” period is to be expected as we all adjust back into our life as a family. Just as our Soldiers have to adapt into a life that is much calmer and slower than the one they lived while deployed, we too have to adapt back into life with our spouse safe at home. And it takes time. Reintegration is not an overnight thing and giving ourselves time to adjust is important.
As far as the “what now?” question, we may not currently be living an active military life where I need to be shouldering so much responsibility, but there are many others who are and I’ve realized that my knowledge and experience gained from our deployment can be used to help others. I can still send care packages and letters to deployed Soldiers. I can continue to support and encourage other spouses whose loved ones are overseas through online support groups. And I can continue to support the military families locally that are struggling with reintegration. There are many ways that I can continue to support our service members and their families, while at the same time supporting mine. My role at home has now gone from standing behind my husband while overseas to standing beside him as he adjusts back into life in the civilian world. It is my job to help him with any struggles he may face and ensure that he gets help if needed. It is also my job to help our children adjust to having daddy home again and ensuring our family becomes successfully united once again.
This is just another season or stage in life and change is to be expected. My roles may change and my identity may take on new characteristics, but they all go into making me who I am. And I am still the same person…an Army wife, a mom, a daughter, a teacher, a runner and so much more. Just like I accepted and embrace the change when my husband deployed, I will accept and embrace this change now that he is home. And I do it happily in support of my husband, my family, and my country.