I fell in love with Michelle's blog The Annoyed Army Wife the minute I stumbled into her little piece of blogland not so long ago! A lot of the blogs I had read so far painted a perfect picture of life as a military spouse, and it wasn't that way for me. The first time I read her blog and she said " I always read bulletin board posts signed by a woman who has "Proud Army/Navy/Marine/Air Force Wife" as a tag line in her signature (I have never seen a Proud Coast Guard Wife, however, I must not be looking very hard). Every single time I think 'Ugh! That is just not me.' I hope I don't offend, as that is not my intention, and I am very supportive of other troops - just not the one I'm married to." I was like....AMEN SISTER! Skunky works hard, and I support HIM in EVERYTHING he does...particularly his job because it's a struggle for both of us. But, am I a 'Proud' Navy wife? I'm proud of my husband...not the Navy. I can't wait to be rid of the Navy!
I asked Michelle to blog about reintegration. She's going through her first reintegration herself, so we're both kind of in the 'same boat' but it was important for me to hear what she had learned so far. So thanks, Michelle, for being willing to share!
When Jenn asked me to guest post for her I was all for it. You see I owe her a favor/dinner. As MilSpouses (Military Spouses) we know better than to make plans and write things in pen as those plans will change. A little over a month ago Jenn and I had planned to meet out for dinner; we had lunch a few days prior so I was really looking forward to our second ‘date’. My husband, OccDoc, was due back from his 7 month deployment to Afghanistan in a week or so, but since I made plans OccDoc was ahead of schedule. I had to cancel dinner with Jenn and go pick up OccDoc instead. Naturally, when Jenn asked me to put something together about reintegration I was a bit nervous considering OccDoc’s only been home for a month and I haven’t made all my mistakes just yet.
For further reading on reintegration I suggest you check out Sarah and Jessica’s guest posts. I’m just going to list some things that I think I’ve done right (and wrong) to help you along. And that being said we don’t have kids, so I don’t have any advice on that subject. When I asked OccDoc about his suggestions for reintegration he gave me two tips: 1. Don’t kill your spouse and 2. Let him do whatever he wants. Um, OccDoc is obviously suffering from some undiagnosed brain trauma. Let him do whatever he wants? I think not. That’s bad advice, don’t follow that.
Here are some things I recommend to you:
I assumed an alien was coming home for the first few days. My mom travels to China twice a year for her job and when she comes home she is completely jet lagged. She can’t think and is in this haze for a day or so. OccDoc was no different. Of course if he stayed on schedule and took a week or two to get home instead of rushing home in 3 days he probably won’t have had this problem, but I digress. I’m not sure if Skunky will be affected quite so much, but to be on the safe side for the first couple of days be prepared to talk slowly and repeat yourself a lot. Have patience, the fog will lift and your husband’s brain will be back in a few days.
I tried really hard to have no expectations. The actual homecoming for me was pretty anti-climatic. I think it was due to the fact that OccDoc was the only soldier on his plane, so it was just like picking him up from the airport after any other TDY (‘business’ trip). Well, kind of, I guess a really long trip, but there was no running or screaming or really even crying. We just unceremoniously closed that chapter of our lives and opened a new one.
For the first week I did let OccDoc do whatever he wanted. If he wanted to sleep in, I was quiet in the morning. If he wanted to eat out, I asked where. If he wanted to drive, I said ‘No way, Jose, wait until you’re home to drive your own car.’ Yeah, I didn’t let him drive for a few days. After a couple of days of me observing him in the car I determined he was okay to drive, but he was out of practice so I let him drive around a parking lot and a neighborhood to ‘practice’ before we ventured onto big roads. Even then I kept him off the highway for a few days. I also asked him how he wanted our first few days together to be like. Did he want my family to welcome him home? Did he want a party? I’m so happy he said no to both of those, since I’m selfish and wanted him all to myself. Again, don’t do a ton of planning, just let your schedule erupt organically and be flexible. I started questioning OccDoc about 2 weeks before he arrived home, so we both laid out our hopes and desires for the first few days and tried to accommodate each other. So, I guess my advice is hand over the reins to Skunky for a week or so before wrenching them back and getting back in control.
I tried to keep the house pretty much the same; I know this might be tough with little ones, but it really helped OccDoc. We spent just over a week at a hotel near the Army post about 600 miles from our house so OccDoc could in-process; he didn’t actually see the house for over a week after he returned. When he got home, OccDoc said the house felt familiar, but it still took him awhile to readjust and find his way around. The first thing I did was take him on a ‘Home Tour’ to show him what had changed. I showed him the new pillows on the bed, how I arranged my dresser drawers, where I moved the dog food, how I rearranged the family room furniture, etc. I was pretty much like a 3 year old running around and showing him everything. We’ve lived in this house for about 2 years, but OccDoc did forget a few things while he was gone. He asked to be reminded where some weird light switches were and where we kept the mugs. Again, have patience with Skunky, if he asks a question that catches you off guard just take a breath and give him the answer. This reorienting will only take a few days, unless you moved the house all around or moved entirely.
I would be remissed if I didn’t mention anything about bedroom activities. Since it was just me and OccDoc, this was pretty simple, I’m sure with kids thrown into the mix it could complicate matters. The first thing I did once we got back to the hotel room was force OccDoc into the shower so he could enjoy some privacy, hot water, and cleanliness. While he was in there I did my best to be romantic (I have never been accused of being romantic) I put on music, lit candles, and changing into something decidedly more uncomfortable. When OccDoc got out of the shower and saw me in this getup, well, how do we put this so it’s acceptable for a family blog, um, yeah, let’s just say I got a full salute but it was over in a flash. I’m not saying OccDoc’s an old guy – he’s just in his upper 30’s, but that night we both remembered what it was like as teenagers. Just be prepared for anything that first night and don’t blink because it might be over as quickly as it came on. And don’t worry, sex is like riding a bike, maybe a bit wobbly at first, but you figure it out pretty quickly.
I think I’ve only messed up this reintegration thing a few times. I made the mistake of calling our dishes my dishes. I didn’t mean anything by it, but OccDoc was pouty after I did that nonetheless. And I like interject my insight to his war stories because I’ve heard them a couple dozen times by now. People ask the same questions over and over again. Pretty soon you’ll be able to tell the story better than your husband, but try not to.
Lastly, I’ll tell you what I told OccDoc the day he came back. “OccDoc, I want to hear all about your deployment, but I want you to tell me when you’re ready. I’m not going to ask questions or pry, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know. If and when you’re ready to talk I’m all ears.” OccDoc appreciated the fact that I was interested, but that he didn’t have to tell me everything right then and there in the first few days we were together. It’s been a slow trickle of information over the past few weeks.
I know Jenn and Skunky will be just fine if they practice patience, remain flexible, and try not to have any expectations of pretty much anything. I also highly recommend a weekend away or vacation if you can swing it. Take your time, get to know each other all over again, and fall in love with those little quirks you forgot about. Good luck you two!!!