7 months passed since I last saw my husband. I stood in an open field area on base at 3 am waiting in the darkness. All the military homecoming tips in the world weren’t helping at that point.
Among me stood about a hundred families anxiously awaiting the impending arrival of their service members. I felt giddy with excitement, but at the same time, anxious and insanely overwhelmed.
The deployment was rough. Multiple casualties. And one fatality that would remain forever burned in our hearts. Both him and I were changed in ways neither one of us fully understood in the days leading up to his military homecoming.
Little did we know, the re-building would happen in ways we never expected.
Military homecoming tips for spouses.
After he got home, I don’t think either one of us slept for the next three days. The emotions of homecoming were so overwhelming that we couldn’t relax enough to rest. I kept looking to him throughout our first days together thinking, “This is surreal.”
Since that military homecoming over four years ago, there are eight military homecoming tips that transformed the way our family handles reintegration.
Equate systems and routines to gold.
I’m all for spontaneity (okay…I’m not great at it). Which is why I think having a few basic family schedules and systems in place make a world of difference when transitioning from deployment to homecoming and vice versa.
How you pay your bills and manage your finances.
How you manage household chores.
How you run mealtimes
How you put the kids to bed at night.
When you have systems in place, your service member can come home and count on some sort of normalcy right off the bat.
As boring as this may sound to some, my husband and I have put our kids to bed, done our finances, managed chores (and more) in the exact same way for years. It’s saved us countless moments of tension and arguments.
Each time he returns home from deployment, he dives straight back into these systems. Military life gives you plenty of things to fight over; family systems and routines can cull that list of things immensely.
Spread your eggs into multiple baskets.
In the same way that you can’t put all your eggs into your wedding day basket and expect to have enough eggs to last your entire military marriage, homecoming requires eggs spread out over several days, weeks and months.
I used to think homecoming was a 24 hour burst of adrenaline. Then I crashed and burned. Now, I take time to do a few special things for each homecoming, and the rest of my energy goes into helping our family adjust in the weeks afterward.
There is no benchmark for success.
It’s hard not to look at what fellow military spouses and military families are doing for their homecomings. Ultimately, you need to do what works for you. Period.
Plan on the plan not happening.
We all know plans change, but it’s how we prepare ourselves to respond when plans REALLY do change. As every deployment winds down, ask yourself, “When the plan changes (and it will) what will I do?”
Try to put something in place where you can treat yourself to a phone call with a friend, a lunch date, grabbing a coffee, or reading a book you always wanted to when the plan changes.
Vulnerability can make or break it.
I always think of Brene Brown and how she says, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.”
Being honest with your service member, allowing those walls to come down, and sharing your heart makes a huge difference, even if your service member isn’t ready to reciprocate.
It’s not about you.
It is HARD not to take things personally when your service member comes home and your world flips. But ultimately, the way he is acting is not always a direct response to you.
Sometimes it’s a reaction to things that happened during deployment and your service member views you as a safe place.
A safe place where the emotions can come out.
And while you should talk about it and discover the real issue, please know that the root of reactions go well below the surface.
Create boundaries with visitors.
To many in the outside world, homecoming may seem like a big celebratory party. But to military families this is a huge adjustment period.
If you have friends and family who want to visit and be a part of homecoming, stick to the boundaries you and your service member want.
If you and your service member want visitors, that’s 100 okay. If you don’t want visitors, just say, “We are so thankful that you want to be there, but we don’t think we are ready for visitors right away. We will let you know as soon as we are ready.”
When it comes to kids, expect bizarre and unusual.
Kids are highly driven by their emotional brain (the limbic system) not the thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex). This means that during a time where emotions run high, your child’s emotions will likely seem more illogical than ever.
This is 100 percent normal.
Take time to acknowledge your child’s feelings, but know that temper tantrums and meltdowns are a very healthy way for your child to cope with all their intense emotions (anxiety, frustration, anger, over-excitement).
Carve out time for REAL conversations.
Without time carved out, real conversations get buried under the rug, resentment builds and nobody wins. Set aside time when you and your service member can talk–distraction free–with open hearts.
Avoid juice fasts at all costs.
It might sound tempting to lose 25 pounds in the 3 days right before your service member comes home. I can assure you he won’t notice the difference. You can buy a fancy dress, shave your legs three times and choose the perfect shade of lipstick, but what really matters is showing up and being there each and every step of the way.
We finally got back on our feet.
After about a week, things started to relax. We started sleeping again (mostly). It was only the beginning of our journey back together, but things were starting to settle.
I think more than anything–more than all the military homecoming tips in the world–all my service member truly wanted was for me was to show up and really be there.
To walk alongside him on this journey regardless of the twists and turns and difficult moments military homecoming involves. To offer a safe space. And of course, to show impressive patience when the entire house is covered in gear vomit.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of MSB New Media & Unilever. The opinions and text are all mine.
Want more on military life?
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- Military Kids and Homecoming: How to Ease the Transition
- Learning to Reconnect After Deployment
- 10 Relationship Saving Tips to Use During Deployment