I soon realized when Pete arrived home last June from a year in Iraq, even though this was our second deployment, that there was a part of the deployment process that I was still unprepared for – namely, what happens when the welcome home vacation is over, the posters have been taken down, and the helium balloons lay deflated on the floor.
As I’m sure you all the feel the same way, I could not wait for Pete to get home. I missed him and I was tired of single parenting, tired of being lonely, and tired of having to make EVERY decision. But what I didn’t consider was how much I had changed in a year, how much we all had changed, and how independent I had become.
After the first few honeymoon weeks had passed, I found myself getting very defensive and frustrated about almost everything from the “correct” way to parent and discipline the kids to the “right” way to load the dishwasher. There were times when I felt Pete and I were not only not on the same page but were not even in the same book. What is happening to us? It wasn’t supposed to be this way!
I felt very frustrated and alone. Who could I talk to about this? When your spouse is deployed, everyone understands your need to vent, rant, or cry. But your spouse is home now. Everything is supposed to be great. But it wasn’t.
Pete and I were not the same people that we were when he left. There were times when I had to fight through my tears and my anger to be able to honestly communicate what I needed from him and him from me.
I realized that this wasn’t going to be easy. I needed to dig down deep and keep communicating. What are my needs/his needs? What are our expectations? What is making me frustrated/defensive? What are the roles and responsibilities that we will each resume now that he is home? How can he slowly and gently re-assume being dad and reconnect with the kids?
Through much patience, perseverance, and prayer, 8 months later, we are usually at least in the same chapter, and sometimes even on the same page again!
I pray that all of you would have a wonderful reintegration, and be able to just jump back in where you left off. But if reintegration turns out to be a lot more difficult than you anticipated, know that you are not alone. I needed friends to talk to who had been there and understood what I was going through as much if not more after Pete got home then when he was deployed. We are still here, no matter what stage of the process you find yourself in – to stand with you, to encourage you, and to be a sounding board as you reconnect again as a family.