By Danielle Jackola
Separation can be challenging for everyone, but service members and their families can respectively face unique situations that no one anticipates.
While the service member needs to focus on being mission-ready, their spouse juggles the myriad responsibilities of managing the home front, often including a job, parenting and taking care of the house. Both roles are essential, and it’s crucial to understand some of the challenges each person experiences in order to make the homecoming transition smooth.
As a military spouse who has a passion for serving other spouses and our military community, I have always been intrigued by which situations foster supportive communication and which ones seem to prompt reoccurring issues. A common problem that initially surprised me but, upon further reflection, makes sense is the conflict that can arise when a spouse redecorates during deployment. Who knew that some decorative pillows could be a source of contention?
Through many heart-to-heart talks with service members, I’ve learned that the stress of deployment is eased by the comfort of thinking about the people they love and their memories of home. They crave a domestic haven that looks the way they left it, where they walk in after a long day, sink into their couch and relax with a sense of comfort and security. They want to be surrounded by things that are familiar.
As a spouse, I also understand the need to stay busy and to find joy outside the reality of handling all of the responsibilities at home. The days of deployment seem to drag on endlessly, and time seems to move at a snail’s pace. Most of us have also experienced the certainty that the car will inevitably break down, the water heater will break then flood the garage and one of the kids will end up in urgent care, at least once during deployment. The natural desire to find distraction from the chaos via changing your home décor is understandable, for sure! However, what feels like a fun, needed upgrade to your home can actually cause your spouse distress, whether realized or unconsciously.
Perhaps the best compromise — a skill military families have mastered — is preserving the sacred space of home while making plans together for incorporating fresh and fun updates that you both enjoy. I encourage you to fill the deployment with activities that both make you happy and foster a sense of belonging and community, like volunteering with other spouses or trading playdates. Save the home revamp and HGTV binge watching, though, for post-deployment when you can update your home in a way that is reflective of you both, and you can enjoy the process as a team.