“If you’re getting this email…”
When I see those words my heart does a little jump. My husband is coming home soon. His unit is preparing families with Return and Reunion briefs, banner making parties, and last minute get-togethers for spouses. A lump builds in my throat and I begin to daydream about the first time I will see his face, kiss his lips, and feel his strong arms wrap around me. I am excited, elated, and thrilled that he will be home soon. Yet oddly enough, I’m…nervous. I’m anxious. I’m scared.
I look at my calendar wondering how time has gone by so quickly. The list of things I still haven’t done runs through my mind over and over again. I wanted to organize the closet, clean out the garage, finish our family photo albums, and plan my daughter’s first birthday party; all while losing the rest of my baby weight. I haven’t done any of those things. How did time slip away so fast? How am I going to get everything done before he gets home?
But those “things” I wanted to do are not even on the top of my list of worries. This is our second deployment- our first with a child. It is one thing transitioning back into a relationship between two adults who understand the separation, but it’s a whole other ballgame trying to reintegrate a parent and a child. My daughter was 3 months old when my husband left. She will be 10 months when he comes home. I have done my best to help her recognize daddy’s face (she has a Daddy Doll, a book filled with daddy’s pictures that we look at every night before bed, our United Through Reading DVD with daddy reading to her, and we Skype frequently). I’m afraid that she will see him as a stranger. I know that she will eventually warm up to her daddy, I’m worried about that time in between. How will my husband react if she cries every time he holds her? How will I react when he is frustrated and upset that he missed so much time with her and now she doesn’t know him? Will I be patient enough to remind him that it is going to take time and that he has to be persistent, yet give her space?
I also worry about us. Are we going to be able to communicate effectively? Will he integrate into our daily routine? So many things have changed since he left. The way the house runs and our daily routine is very different than it was when he left. I’m worried he’ll feel left out.
I understand that this is going to be a learning process, for all of us. There are going to be great days, good days, okay days, bad days, and horrible days. We have to re-learn what it is like to be a family again. The greatest thing about a military community is that there are resources to help us prepare. Below are a list of websites and information packets that may help you prepare and deal with the stresses of a returning family member:
- Military One Source (militaryonesource.org): Military One Source is a one-stop shop for all things military related. They have websites, files, and articles dealing with spouses and family members returning from deployments for both service member and families.
- AfterDeployment.org: This website is a great resource for specific deployment related issues such as PTSD, injuries during deployments, alcohol/drug issues, and more.
- RealWarriors.net: Here are tips for spouses of returning service members. Giving you helpful tips for days immediately following their return, tips on how to communicate with your spouse, and what to expect from your children depending on their age.
After reading over these websites, I realized that the hardest part for me is going to be remembering to make sure my husband feels needed and included in our family. I’ve gone seven months doing things on my own: taking care of the baby, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, mowing the lawn, washing the cars, etc. The chores that were once his became mine, and I think it will be hard for me to give back the responsibilities of these chores when he doesn’t do them exactly when or how I would like him to do them.
But I hope and pray that everything falls seamlessly into place. I’m sure there will be days where we both feel like we are at our wits end. And maybe that is a good thing to know beforehand- to know that there are going to be crappy days. But we are a family. And more than that, we are a military family, we will be able to get through it no matter what.