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Coming Home Isn't Always Easy

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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 again.

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.

I still 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?

RELATED: How a Military Mom Survives Deployment

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 other.

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.

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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.

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