Hooray! Homecoming is rapidly approaching. But also, homecoming is coming and the world you’ve carefully crafted for survival is about to be rebuilt from the ground up.
It’s time to ask serious questions and tackle the tough topics, now, to ensure a smoother reintegration period later.
Be honest about your deployment life
Truth time: what has life looked like for you (and your kids and pets) since you last saw your spouse? How have you survived? What makes your deployment life different from your non-deployment routines?
When my spouse is gone, my entire life gets buttoned up and organized in a way that isn’t true when I have a second set of parental hands to support me and step in. When I’m the only parent around, I’m the only person my kids can rely on. So I need to be on 100% of the time.
Get started thinking about this by:
- writing down your daily and weekly schedule in detail
- explain your meal prep and planning strategy
- check out your weekly grocery shopping routines (and receipts)
- cross-reference everyone’s regular activities
Share this information with your partner before they arrive home.
Say: “This is the system that has worked for us while you’ve been gone. We are feeling stable and secure in how our house operates.”
Start the reintegration conversation with questions
After you’ve shared your schedule, routine, and strategies that have worked to create stability during the deployment, it’s time to focus on what reintegration looks like for your family.
Remember, your spouse has missed a lot while they’re been gone and might want to jump back in. Or they might feel hesitant about rocking the ship. Either way, you need a plan to make this work.
- Where do you want to commit to step in with this current schedule?
- What activities or chores can you commit to handling once you return?
- What gaps or conflicts with the schedule, as-is, do you anticipate with your job?
Homecoming logistics planning
You have one idea of how homecoming–and the next few hours and days–will play out. Your spouse might have a very different idea.
I learned this one the hard way. He suggested I play chauffeur to another family on the day of homecoming. I protested–and made him see sense. But that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had an honest conversation. It’s important to know what to expect for yourself and any children/extended family members involved.
- Who, specifically, do you want at the actual homecoming?
- Do you want signs? A photographer?
- What meal(s) are you craving when we get home?
- What are the first 3-5 things on your to-do list?
- Where are you planning to drop your gear?
- What’s the plan for cleaning, storing or returning this gear?
- Do you want to see anyone other than our immediate household? If so, who?
- If you don’t want to see anyone or specific people, we need to come up with language to put them off from visiting.
- Can I plan events and activities to do in the days after you get back? What’s off-limits?
- How can I support you getting back into our time zone smoothly?
- Any special food or beverages you want me to stock in advance of your return?
- Do you want to plan a surprise for our kids/parents?
Understanding what post-deployment life looks like
For the last however many months, you’ve operated on your schedule. You’ve been able to fit things in based on your job and your kids’ lives. Now, you’re going back to factoring in your spouse’s work schedule.
- How soon are you expected to return to business-as-usual with your job?
- How much leave are you planning to take?
- When will this leave happen?
- What hours are you expecting to work when you return to work as normal?
- Are there any field exercises or other trainings coming up that I need to be aware of?
- When is your next deployment anticipated?
- Where are we on the PCS cycle?
While military life doesn’t let us plan too much, there are still important milestones to consider in the months following homecoming. But unless you’re asking the hard questions, you won’t be able to make any plans or take any steps to make reintegration easier for everyone.
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Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!