Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Transition Home

I have a friend guest posting on the blog today.  Heather is a beautiful friend I met in the Navy world whom I would say is an expert mommy.  Her and her husband have two biological and two adopted beauties, and I just love watching (through the internet) her family grow.  They are about to make a big move across the country with the Navy, so she has definitely got a lot on her plate right now.  She agreed to let me re-post an article she wrote on her blog about transitioning after a deployment.  There is great advice in here that I used many times in the last few years while Luke was deploying often.
This post was written 4 years ago and was a product of a season of “work ups” followed by a deployment. It was tough times in the Clement house hold, but boy did we learn a lot! I’m happy to say, but God’s grace and inspiration, the deployments and techniques we learned then strengthened our marriage! Since then we’ve enjoyed 4 years of non-deployment(which has also been awesome for our marriage!) but have just been assigned a new duty station, with a big fat deployment included. Only this time we have twice as many kids! Anyway, when Sarah asked me to guest post, deployment was on the brain and I dusted off this post and really wanted to share it—for others and for myself!!! I hope you find something helpful here to make your transitions home less turbulent! What else do you find helpful for when your sweetheart comes home? 


Ahh, the homecoming reunion...  I always well up a little looking at these, or any, homecoming pictures.  It is truely the brightest moment of a deployment...

But what might not be commonly known is that the days and weeks immediately following that moment can be one of the hardest, and darkest parts of a deployment.

And it doesn't matter how long they've been gone. Ten days, ten weeks, or ten months--there is always a transition time when they return.  And for for the Clement Crew, the transition home has always been a struggle.

This may be surprising to some readers, while others know first hand how difficult the transition from "Away" to "Home" can be.  There is such a "high" after seeing Sam for the first time in what feels like eternity that it seems like nothing could go wrong: He's home.  So it's heartbreaking when we have communication error after error when we get home(sometimes even ON the way home!) and then instead of everything going smoother and easier, it is rougher and more difficult.

So, when we looked ahead to Sam's homecoming this past July, it was with great joy but also trepidation. I looked online for information on how to make the transition smoother, and all I found were articles about why the transition is hard--and I knew that already!

But I/we were determined to have a better transition this time.  And I am happy to report: we did.  Much better than any we've had before.  Here's what we did differently:

1.  We talked at length about the reunion while he was gone.  We talked on the phone(when we could) and emailed regularly about our expectations, hopes, and fears about the reunion. We asked each other:
What are you looking forward to about being at home?
What have you enjoyed during the deployment?
What has been a highlight for you?
What has been the hardest part?
What things are you nervous or worried about when you think about being together?
What are you looking forward to about being together again?
How do you think the kids will respond to the reunion?

2. We talk about what had changed.  We asked each other:
How do you think this deployment has changed you, if at all?
Is there anything new in your life--a hobby, friend, or passion?(for example, while Sam was gone, dressing like an adult(both of us) became important to me.  As did purging out everything we didnt need or use.)
What is a normal day for you like?
How have the kids changed?

3. We talked about the Homecoming itself. We asked each other:
Who do you want there?
Who don't you want there?
Do you want a photographer?
Who gets the first hug?
Is there a specific photo you want captured?
What do you want to do the rest of that day?
Do you have concerns?(for example: I had concerns about bringing Eva to the ship to see Sam[11mo old, during nap time, in 100degree heat] .  I'm glad we talked about it, and I left her home for her own special homecoming with Daddy.)

4. We planned and scheduled.  Scheduled and planed.  I wrote out a detailed schedule for the first three days home and emailed it to Sam a few weeks before he arrived home.  This way, we both knew exactly what to expect and what we were supposed to do when.
Here is what it looked like blank:
This helped Sam learn our routine without having to ask questions that might make me feel like he isn't helping "When are the kids going to nap?" "What are we having for dinner?"  I taped each day up so they were easy to see and look ahead to.  We were able to stick to the schedule, and it was awesome.  In fact, we still use that format for the weekends.
I also made an extensive meal plan for every meal for the first week home and made sure we have all the ingredients before he came home.

5.  We bought paper plates and plastic forks.  Also paper/plastic cups.  We don't usually buy disposable dish ware, but not having to do dishes was a huge help to us during the transition.

6. We planned time to be alone with each other. We hired a sitter two out of the first three nights home, then twice more within the next ten days.  If we could've, we would have taken a mini-vacation shortly after his return--we still wish we could have!

7. We talked about things we wanted to change about our marriage and family.  This could be a whole blog in an of itself.  But basically the biggest blessing about the deployment was that it served as a kind of "reset button" for the course of our marriage.  It gave us time to reflect on the previous months before and the months to come and communicate ideas for improving the way we worked as a couple and as a family--redirecting us back towards our goal of a family centered life.  Taking the time to think and communicate about all that during the deployment has really helped us not only transition back to living together, but helps us transition into the kind of family we want to be.

So, that's what we did.  Maybe this is all basic stuff everybody knows, but we sure didn't, and I'm glad we do now--it made a big difference for us, making our reunion more smooth and much sweeter.  Of course, even two months after homecoming day, we still feel like we are adjusting and trying to balance our life together, but that's just life I suppose:)  We are just so thankful to be living it together again!

What do you do differently to prepare for a spouses return home?

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