Deployment sucks. It's hard to be separated from your
significant other, hard to learn how to be a single parent and hard to navigate
the hundreds of questions the rest of the world throws your way. You figure out
the routine, figure out what you need to do to get through the six, nine or
twelve months without losing it and you figure out how to thrive on your
own. Then they come home. The routines, challenges and emotions are in chaos
When your solder comes home it is supposed to be sun-filled
fields of wildflowers and singing a la The Sound of Music, right? Even though in
your head you know that there is going to be an adjustment period and it will
be hard, and you will both go through a lot of emotional ups and downs, it is
easy to forget that part and only think about the good things.
remember thinking about all of the things I was excited to do again as a whole
family—trips to the farmers market, evening walks, movie nights, the list
goes on. I didn't spend nine months looking forward to struggling with defining
parental roles, figuring out routines and navigating the emotional
rollercoaster I would experience once my husband came home safely. Who does?
Like with almost any experience, the first couple of weeks were
perfection. We spent time as a new family of three—he was able to get to know
his daughter and see all of her funny personality quirks and learn her favorite
games. We were able to connect and revisit all of the hopes and plans we had
before he left for Afghanistan. It was like a better version of our first
honeymoon. Sure, there were a few moments that were tough and emotional, but by
and large, those first weeks were perfection.
Then the routine starts to settle in and it gets hard. We'd
been married about a year-and-a-half but had spent less than six months
together, less than two months back-to-back. In the three years since we started dating, we'd never had the time to
develop any normal routine. There isn't a handbook for this. In a way, this was
good. It gave us the chance to figure things out more organically, but in
other ways, it created a divide. I didn't want to push; he didn't know where to
jump in. We didn't have divided roles—I had adopted most of the "must-dos" as
he was constantly in and out. It never made sense for him to have chores or
major responsibilities, but now it made it more difficult for us to feel like
we were working together and instead felt more like we were working around each
Here we are three months after redeployment and while there
are still reminders of the months we spent apart, the brunt of the tough stuff
is over. There were a few really hard weeks, both for him and for me. More than
a few tears. Plenty of venting to the dog. But we've survived. While our recipe
may not work for everyone, there are a few things that helped.
When my husband came home to a new baby, it was hard to figure out how much he could handle
1. Find a new routine, together. Just like you
developed a new routine after your spouse was deployed, it is important to create a new routine once your spouse returns home. In our case that
meant finding time to be alone, carving out time for dad to spend with
daughter, and making it a priority to schedule date night. Even though we could
spend time together after the baby goes to bed, getting out of the house and
spending time doing new things really helped us connect and remember what life
was like pre-baby and pre-deployment. (It was pretty fabulous.)
2. Slow down. Even though you have figured out how
to go full-speed alone (or with some outside help from friends and family)
slowing down and focusing on the home front is key. I reorganized some work
projects and spent more time just hanging out and doing things together.
Cooking became our therapy. We ate after the little lady went to bed and spent
time preparing dinner together. There was enough going on to keep the pressure
out of conversation, but we were together and it allowed us to be a bit more
organic in spending time together. Want to talk? Sure. Want to focus on
chopping onions? No problem. Want to sit at the table and have a glass of wine? Great. Prefer to catch up on some TV? Love it.
3. Know when to take a break and when to push. Nine
times out of ten, pushing is a bad idea, but knowing when that one moment is
that you or he needs an extra push is key. There is
so much newness to absorb that it can quickly become overwhelming. Just between
you and your significant other so much has changed, but the chaos of adding a
little one (or ones) to the mix can be the straw that breaks you. When my husband came home to a new baby, it was hard to figure out how much he could
handle and was comfortable managing in the kid department. The fussing, the
neediness—it's a challenging juggle for anyone. Knowing the right moment to leave
them alone, even just for a short run, was hard. I don't think either of us were
totally ready, but showing him that he could be dad totally on his own, even
for just twenty minutes, went a long way.
Redeployment is hard. It feels like once things go back to
normal you'll get news to prepare for the next deployement, but it is worth
putting in the work. You spend months learning how to communicate by letters,
phone and video. So re-learning how to interact face-to-face won't happen overnight.
Experts say it is a six month process, so try not to be overwhelmed after a
month. Give each other a break and take things slowly.