We hope you had the opportunity to read and reflect on the first installment of this four-part blog series on reintegration. This second blog, Establishing New Routines, features the reflections of our “30-Day Couple” during days 6-14. The family experiences multiple ups and downs as the Service member navigates reintegration into the family routine. He is trying to identify “What is the new norm in the family?” She attempts to maintain balance within the family while dealing with her own emotions. The kids seek quality time with their father. Communication is identified as a key component of negotiating the reintegration process. Think about the resources and strategies that might benefit families during this reintegration phase.
Day 6 – Her
Today I didn’t do much. It’s nice coming downstairs to see the dishwasher unloaded and coffee made. Another day where hubby had to go to work. Just a little longer until he is off on leave. Kids are adjusting very well. But we have had a lot of practice with daddy coming in and out.
Day 6 – Him
I’m almost done earning my two weeks off! I had a busy day at work, falling into the pitfall of performing day-to-day duties that aren’t really what I should be focusing on. Despite these distractions, I still decided to pitch in because I really believe the importance of helping others, which I consider one of my strong suits. Well, it could also be considered a positive to a fault when it also leads me to come home later than I probably should have. I had enough time to change out of uniform and get dressed to take the older two to their school’s book fair. I enjoyed watching them get excited about their education and treated them to ice cream afterwards. The night was perfectly ended when my wife and I was able to watch one of our favorite shows together to fall asleep to. Only one more work day until my time off!
Day 7 – Her
Last night I slept in my youngest’s bed. Because she had come in to sleep with daddy in the middle of the night and suddenly there was no room for me. She has been all about her daddy lately. He seems to be enjoying it a lot. I am more than ok with that. I still feel like my arms are recovering from holding her for several months straight.
Day 7 – Him
Today was the last day I will have to go into work for the next two weeks. Before leaving work, I was asked to sit in on a very high visibility teleconference as the experience on the topic of discussion which made me feel important. It felt great having an influence at the Command level and clearly articulating the intent of my Group on their behalf. Due to this late afternoon teleconference, I had to turn right around and hop into civvies and take the older two to Taekwondo. They had fun and I enjoyed watching them. Didn’t really do anything afterward.
Day 8 – Her
Yesterday I got a special treat. It was mom’s day at my kids’ school. Because my husband was home and didn’t have to go to work I was able to come. He kept our two year old while I got to hang out with my 6 and 8 year all day at school. This is something I don’t get to do. I have never been on any field trip or school day before. I got to go because I had my husband home and I could fully rely on him. We also got to go to a Wing function in the evening. The Wing commander welcomed hubby home and we got to meet other couples. It was a busy day but very rewarding.
Day 8 – Him
Today I got the chance to be at the house alone with our youngest. The older two had Mom’s day at school, so my wife was invited to the school for the day while they celebrated Mothers and everything that they do for their children. The youngest and I had a great time running around the house, playing hide and go seek, as well as wrestling with each other. She even had me marching around the house like we were in a marching band. These activities concluded with a much needed nap. I’m pretty sure she got one too. My wife and I participated in a Group function tonight that was geared toward recognizing spouses. She brought me along since she just got me back from my deployment and didn’t want to spend any time apart if she could help it. I was totally fine with this mindset too. We ended up having a great time and hope there’s another opportunity soon for a similar outing experience.
Day 9 – Her
I had to ask hubby to be a little nicer to me. Not sure if he forgot he was talking to his spouse and not his subordinate, but he was having a hard time talking to me in a way that I could stand. But thinking about it more I might be talking down to him too. Having only kids to talk to for a while made me have the habit of telling them exactly what I want and when I want it. My older two have noticed that hubby plays more with our youngest and have gotten jealous. I’m sure that it’s hard to get use to dividing out equal time to each child if you’re out of practice.
Day 9 – Him
As my wife and I have started to get back into a routine together, there seems to have been a change in how each of us communicates with respect to the new environments we’ve found ourselves in over the past few months. We had a disagreement about sleeping arrangements that led to us going to bed irritated at one another. We both wanted to hold our ground on the subject, but of course for relationships to work there needs to be compromise and understanding. At that particular moment, I possessed neither. A “Golden Rule”, if you will, for us is to not go to bed angry at each other, but once again, we each felt the other should have changed their mind and apologize. The whole thing ended up being a very small thing that was allowed to spill over into the next morning, which is never good. I should have given my wife’s opinion about our spat more thought and consideration from her perspective since, at the core of the dispute, was her getting uninterrupted rest from the kids. We’ve talked it out and will approach future disagreements head on so that nothing more manifests from an otherwise minor difference of opinion.
Day 10 – Her
Mother’s Day was such an amazing day. I was showered with flowers and hand written cards! We went on a small trip to a water park for the night. Hubby made special time for our older kids. While I got plenty of cuddles with each kid.
Day 10 – Him
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, so I wanted to make sure my wife knew just how appreciative I was of her and everything she’s done while I was gone. I got her nice flowers, the kids and I gave her each a card, and I made her breakfast in bed. I had a good bit of direction from her, so I was able to make a very nice one! We decided together that we’d also start one of our family vacations that night by visiting an in-door swim park. It was fun for the whole family. My wife and I took turns taking the older children on the bigger rides while the other stayed with the youngest. We knew how important it was to trade off so that we both are able to more enjoy ourselves. We spent the night and will be doing this again every year from now on.
Day 11 – Her
We took our time driving home from our little getaway. I like to do this funny thing where I force my family to talk instead of zoning out on an electronic device. They played along this time. Mainly consisted of me jabbering on for two and a half hours. Which of course I felt it was a very productive ride. Organized schedules, made to do lists, and figured out what’s for dinner. We decided to do couple’s therapy. Not because we feel like we are struggling, but more like a checkup. It was offered to us as a part of hubby’s reintegration so we wanted to take advantage of it. I’m so grateful to have hubby home.
Day 11 – Him
It was nice waking up at the swim park since the younger two couldn’t wait to swim some more. Mommy and our oldest had some one-on-one girl time that they couldn’t quite get while I was gone. I took this opportunity to try and strengthen the younger two’s bond with one another. While he pretended to be a puppy, our youngest decided to give commands and they played great with each other. I was also able to get our little two year old to swim all by herself! That was such a huge parent moment for me that will stay with me forever. The girls, on the other hand, indulged in pedicures in the spa. These have been a great two days, having spent them together as a family. Outings like these are at the core of what these two weeks off represent. Being able to reconnect with your loved ones and creating a new family dynamic that best fits the changes that have occurred over the past few months is definitely a great goal that every family should strive toward who experience a deployment. My wife had done an amazing job at reminding me the importance of family and quality time since I used to make excuses and would worry about work while at home. Here lately, we’ve talked more than we have in recent memory and we’ve even agreed to start marriage counseling. Many people only attach a negative connotation to counseling, but in our case we merely want to make sure that a mediator is available to help us navigate that new dynamic that we’re going through right now.
Day 12 – Her
The to-do list and menu that we were able to nail down yesterday came into play. I raced my husband on who could unpack first, me unpack the whole family from our trip or him finally from his deployment. I won. But his big camo bag needs to GO! Tomorrow I have to go back to reality and attend meetings. Excited and nervous about an upcoming luncheon with someone I feel is important and several other Key Spouses from our base later this week. I also need to get back in to the swing of making baby baskets and welcoming baskets for our Group. I was able to keep up with newsletters, baskets, and our fun spouse get-togethers while hubby was deployed but I haven’t done anything this month yet. Even though it’s strictly volunteer I feel like I should be keeping up with it better. All of it feels a little daunting at times but it is very rewarding. The Commander and I recently sent out thank you cards to all the spouses of my husband’s Group for Military Spouse Appreciation Day and I handmade some bracelets. All the thank you’s I got back were beyond rewarding. Very worth it. My hubby has been a part of a lot of squadrons but this Group is by far the best.
Day 12 – Him
I had a very enjoyable day today. Wife and I put together a to-do list that actually got done on the same day it was written! I always enjoy productive days since they give me a sense of accomplishment. I was also in full on daddy mode when I made sure the older two kids were fed, dressed, teeth brushed, hair fixed and book bags ready. I was even fortunate enough to drop them off at school this morning. I more than had this….today, but I can certainly see how much my wife had to deal with while I was gone. After I got back home, the three of us went to run a few errands on that to-do list I mentioned. It was relatively uneventful and not really particularly special, but it was important to me that I was spending time with my wife. I’ve also been trying to spend quality time separately with each child to make sure they each know how important they are to me. Admittedly, it’s been a little harder this go around to give the same attention to the older two as it seems I’m giving to the youngest since she’s been impacted by this latest deployment the hardest. She’s constantly stayed by my side since being back home. It’s a natural habit, but once again, I’ve got to try that much harder to convince the older two that daddy loves them just as much. I’m prepared to take as long as it needs because these kiddos are the loves of my life.
Day 13 – Her
I went to my meeting today and learned how to do a hop, sort of. I mostly texted my hubby wishing he would of come with me even if he wasn’t invited. I could of used a translator…N-CS, EML, CAT…I didn’t find out all of those meanings. This class was set up because while hubby was deployed my Grandmother was put in hospice. I was told this was my last chance to see her. The Commander and First Shirt did everything possible to get me on a hop. It was a gray area because my hubby was not deployed for 180 days. I cannot say I learned a lot from this. There was a lot I didn’t understand. But I did find a new volunteer opportunity with the USO at the Pax Terminal. A funny thing that finally happened at home was the light bulbs got changed. I can be stubborn at times and it showed this deployment. Before my husband left I asked him to replace all the lights. I didn’t want to think about those. But he didn’t. So when 10 lights went out I refused to change them. I feel like I was living in the dark this whole time. I think I was the loser in this situation.
Day 13 – Him
I’m extremely proud of my wife. She has taken on several functions and raised a great amount of money for my work and has recently been getting asked to lunches with prominent figures in the military community. This is certainly no coincidence. She’s earned the recognition and then some. I have slowly become my spouses spouse and I’m perfectly okay with it. I’ve come back home to see her social calendar filled with Wing get-togethers, events, fundraisers, or meetings. She went to one of these meetings today while I straightened up around the house. Once again, I didn’t mind this since I know how much she has worked to get to this point. Today went pretty smoothly until we found out later that night that our kitchen ceiling started to leak with the water from our upstairs bathroom. This, of course, was one of the last things we wanted to deal with tonight. After a little while, the slow drip stopped and we cleaned up the water in both rooms. We’ll just have to see what the outcome is once we discuss this issue with our landlord tomorrow. My wife and I are hopeful that we can resolve this quickly and somewhat painlessly.
Day 14 – Her
Last night out ceiling started to leak, because our son got a little too rambunctious in the tub. Hubby instantly got mad. Stomping upstairs and pulling my son out of the tub, cussing and throwing towels. I quickly got in his face to tell him to go take a walk. I didn’t like how hot headed he got so fast. I do feel like he was disciplining our son in a way I do not like but I do feel like I was in the wrong in the way I pointed it out. Things got cleaned up and fixed and we went bed it was over and done with. In the morning the crank attitude came out. I felt like every time we spoke I had to asking him to stop talking to me so condescendingly. He even got to a point today where he started making fun of me knowing I was not enjoying it he continued to do it. To the point I turned off my phone Then was shocked when I refused to answer his phone calls. Eventually I did get a “yeah I’m sorry” from him and I expected it because I figured that was probably the best I was going to get from him. Needless to say we are still learning how to be around each other 24/7 again. And not just taking on the role of super fun dad but also disciplinarian. Today might’ve been a little bit of a wonky day but we always have tomorrow and we learn from each other every day. We always do our best and till we know better.
Day 14 – Him
Another productive day! I want to keep this momentum going and would love nothing more than to keep impressing my wife with all that I do around the house and for the family. I almost feel as though I’m playing catch up with how much she has done for this family while I was away. The thing I love about my wife though is that she didn’t just handle business during this deployment, but consistently amazes me every single day. We did, however, have a bit of a miscommunication issue today when I decided to immediately respond to text saying she was nervous about her meeting with a laugh. Of course, since you lose context with text (ironic) you also lose the emotional side of how one feels at the other end of the phone. I should have known better than to make light of the situation, but fell into my usual habit of playing things down. She was rightfully reserved from talking to me while she was out, so I focused more on what else I could do to make up for my insensitivity. We were back on speaking terms as soon as she got home, but I’m sure she still felt hurt by my reaction. I acknowledged to her that it was wrong what I did and would work on that aspect of myself. I need to grow with her and understand her better and perhaps slow down and think of each response I give her. It’s easy to lose someone’s trust or respect. It’s an entirely different story when it comes to earning them back. I believe we’re still in a good place in our marriage and feel that we have gone through a lot together, but perhaps that counseling we were considering could help set us on the right direction to truly recognizing each other’s self-worth.
What were your thoughts as you read about this family’s efforts to establish new routines following the deployment? What implications are there for you as a Military Family Service Professional? What resources and strategies might be helpful for families? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Watch for Part 3 of 4 of this reintegration blog series, Working on Relationships, which will be posted one week from now.
If you didn’t get a chance, check out this archived webinar, “The Experience of Reintegration for Military Families and Implications for DoD” held mid-May. It highlights current research related to reintegration, identifies issues military families face during reintegration, and discusses how these findings may impact programs and policies.
MFLN Family Transitions Development provides education, resources and networking opportunities for professionals working with military families to build resilience and navigate life cycle transitions. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.