You just made it through six (or more) months of your spouse being on another continent — months of sleepless nights, screaming kids, household chores, flat tires, and so much more. Finally, your spouse is home from deployment! Now what? Toss the kids to them and jet off to Bali? Wouldn’t that be nice! What should you really do to help your spouse transition back into parenting after deployment?
A huge factor to a successful transition back to parenting after deployment is having your spouse prepare before coming home. One way he can do this is by talking to his family physician. Numerous active-duty members come home, having missed many milestones, such as the birth of a baby, or a child going off to college. A family doctor can help your spouse mentally prepare for the new dynamic.
Communication prior to coming home can also help tremendously. You can send your spouse videos, texts, and emails about your new routines. This way, she can be involved in and prepared for all the changes she’s about to walk in to.
We know, you’re burned out and have visions of your spouse jumping back into parenting after deployment — you’ve dreamed of returning to tag-team parenting. But, the truth of the matter is, for the past several months, he’s lived a very quiet, mellow lifestyle, at least in comparison to the crazy of home. The sounds of children laughing and screaming throughout the house could be quite overwhelming to him. He also hasn’t been actively disciplining children and could be a little rusty. So, give him two weeks to be an intern. Allow him to observe how you run the house now, narrating and explaining what you’re doing along the way. Then, with grace, slowly reintroduce responsibilities with the kids and around the house.
Learning to Share
You’re used to being the sole decision maker and problem solver, but now your spouse is back, and she’s going to have her own ideas of how things should be done. Listen to her ideas and honor them. Will you feel like her ideas aren’t applicable? Maybe. After all, she remembers things being a certain way. But the children grew while she was gone and the ways in which you do things have changed. Accept her ideas and patiently explain to her your new system, working her suggestions in when possible.
Parenting After Deployment Takes Patience
You will not only have to be patient with your spouse, but ask him to be patient with you, too. Be understanding if his senses are overloaded and he needs a break. There are going to be times when both of you are extremely frustrated with one another. That’s normal! It’s OK to ask for a timeout. If you just feel off with your spouse; don’t be afraid to push the reset button. Stop and ask, “What’s not working, and what can we do to fix it?”
Ask for Help
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. If you are giving your best effort to ease your spouse back into parenting after deployment, and (after a couple of months) it isn’t working, seek help. One or both of you may be stressed and struggling for reasons the other cannot understand. Don’t wait. Seek help from a counselor, pastor, rabbi, or psychiatrist. There’s no shame in getting extra help! With love, communication, patience, and understanding you’ll soon find your new normal.