Homecoming and Going

I look forward to Air Force Guy being home when he is deployed. Not necessarily the homecoming, that's fraught with anxiety on my part. But the being home part. I'm pretty sure we all do. I mean, I'm his wife – if I want him to stay away from home there's obviously an issue I need to work on.

However, I'm not the only woman in AFG's life. He's got a mother as well, and since AFG is an only child the responsibility for that falls entirely on us. So when he gets home we have to begin the dance that so many military families are familiar with – how to include the in-laws.

I'm torn on this one. As a mother I know that worry in the gut that accompanies your child's foray into the dangerous. I've made a lot of sacrifices to raise my children, and I consider those sacrifices a good trade for the adults I'm hoping to unleash upon the world. And in the future, should my children choose a career in the military that takes them on Exotic Vacations on Uncle Sam's Dime (copyright pending on that phrase), I'm going to want to see them to release the tension and worry when they get back.

So I get that one.

On the other hand, I'm also a wife. Quite frankly, I don't want to share my husband when he comes home. Not even with my kids (I'll admit that, even though I know it makes me a bad parent). I want some time to savor going to sleep and waking up with my husband next to me – the way normal people do every night. I want some time to take walks in the evening, time to cook his favorite dinners, and time to talk about everything under the sky that we couldn't talk about while he was gone. I want to get this all in before the real world intrudes and he has to go back to work and he no longer belongs to just me anymore.

This is something I never get. Well, beyond about three days, anyway.

Because my Mother-in-Law has dementia and needs 24 hour care, she cannot leave her home to come visit when AFG comes home. Air Force Guy must go to her. And because she is on the opposite coast, it makes no sense to have a visit of anything less than 5 days (including travel, which as we all know takes one full day no matter where you are flying. And sometimes more). So now AFG is visiting his mother and I'm at home by myself again.

And I resent it. Which I shouldn't, because she is his mother. And he needs to visit his mother. But I do.

Part of the issue is the relationship we've always had with my MIL, which has never been good. She's not exactly a peach among women. She's an angry Russian woman with an indomitable sense of being owed obeisance by all who come in contact with her. I promise you I'm not mis-interpreting this, I can provide sworn affidavits. And she bites.

But she is my husband's mother. He would not be here were it not for her. She raised him and educated him, and he owes her respect and a visit when he gets back from a deployment. I know that, and I'm the one that made all his reservations and dropped him off at the airport. I get it.


I still don't feel like sharing right now.

I don't think that this is unusual, either. I think that homecoming, by its very nature, is fraught with emotions that we can't quite control – even if we tamp them down and behave in a socially appropriate manner. I can put myself in a mother's shoes: seeing her child come home and only being on the fringes of that event has got to sting. I'm sure I will experience it myself someday.

Emotions tend to run high on this issue, and horror stories abound. From wives who cut off all contact with the husband's family to mothers who push past the wife to run out and get the first homecoming hug when a service-member comes home. We all have a delicate dance when our loved ones come home.

I think that strong feelings and even situational resentment is natural, and we probably can't do much about it during homecoming. I'm not going to resent my MIL's "taking my husband away" for half his time off any less because I know I shouldn't resent it. But I will get over it. At least I know that I tried to facilitate the right thing – his visit – even as I didn't want him to go.

Maybe that's the place to start.

About the Author


airforcewife started her military journey as an Army National Guard wife, but upon experiencing base housing decided to aim high and made the switch to the Air Force. That's worked pretty well for Air Force Family so far, even though airforcewife holds the spouse world record for Come to Jesus talks with various members of the command.

Air Force Family has four children, two pit bulls, and a Mother-in-Law who lost her mind eight years ago. Despite the reputation of pit bulls, airforcewife would like to assure you that her Mother-in-Law is truly the most dangerous of the group, and is banned in more places than the dogs.

airforcewife gets through Air Force Guy's frequent deployments and TDY's by frequently attending her boxing gym, after the chance discovery last deployment that hitting things really does make life better. She also volunteers as the Ambassador for Sew Much Comfort to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and in a variety of other causes throughout the year.

airforcewife has no idea what the future holds, but decided five years ago that she wants to be Andi when she grows up.

  • tankerswife

    You are most definitely not alone in this. Guess I’m a bad parent too, because I don’t want to share him at times with the kids either. Although I don’t have to worry about the MIL (Tank doesn’t have much of a relationship with his mother), I have seen the horror stories you mentioned as well. I can only hope that I am respectful of my children’s marriages/relationships when they get old enough to have them.

  • Tad’s tibbit

    Oh you can count me in on that bad parent thing. I rarely get to see hubby let alone have some “US” time. But when he gets back the boys will all go with me the 17hr drive to welcome him home, and they are excited!
    The MIL situation here is that she doesn’t want to come with us to the homecoming… but will want him to come up as soon as he get back into our state, and she will talk him into coming up for a couple different days in a row. It does take him away from us most of the time, but she is alone now and I think she gets bored and lonely so I try not to say much, but boy do I sometimes wish I could.

  • OK Ladies, LISTEN UP!!!! You are NOT a bad parent (or in-law) because you want your husband to yourself! Jeez Louise! Get a grip. You would be a BAD parent, wife, mother, in-law if you didn’t need this time with your husbands and I hope you noticed the word NEED. Not WANT. NEED. And even though we ALL feel guilty and selfish for having what we perceive as a flaw in our character, REALLY try to fight that guilt and shame because it is NOT your children, nor parents/in-laws who is HIS anchor. YOU ARE. Just as he is YOUR anchor. Kids grow up and eventually find their own anchors.
    Parents who rely on their children to be their anchors are the ones who should get counseling. The same goes for spouses who are not anchors for each other.
    The thing is, when your spouse DOES come home you BOTH need to figure out HOW to be the anchor your spouse NEEDS and vice versa. Some spouses need a little space and downtime and quiet. Some just need to find the closest hotel room with room service.
    It is NOT going to be perfect but YOU will live with your spouse FAR LONGER than your children or the spousal parents. If you don’t tend to and take care of the one relationship that needs to be strong for the rest of the family FIRST in whatever way works for you, then you can NOT take care of everyone else’s needs. You can’t be a support to ANYONE until you are solidly anchored in home harbor again.
    So for the sake of the parents, children, family friends, FEED your anchor relationship FIRST or you WILL be a bad mother, spouse etc because the support is not their for either of you.
    I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. YES, you WILL have to share him but really start looking at HOW and WHEN is a compromise YOU BOTH can live with. Everyone else will get their turn.
    And for some of you, and you know who you are, you DO have the willpower to walk by the coat closet and find yourselves a room… You REALLY do. Nuff said.

    • spouse2000

      I would never put myself before the kids. They are children and I am an adult. They need him much more than I do. Plus, he misses so much of their growing up that when he is home he should spend as much time as possible with the kids. There will be more us time when they are grown and move out.

  • angela

    Me and my husband are already talking about what to do about his next R&R and his family. During the last deployment they ruined his R&R and we don’t want it to happen again. Last time his family was up in our faces the whole time. We got fed up, grabbed the kids and went camping. They called around all the campgrounds till they found us and then showed up there. He is trying to find a way to sneak into town without them knowing but thats easier said than done!

  • cheryl

    Ok, I am a MIL.
    When my son came home,he didnt want us to come visit. He wanted his time with his wife and 2 sons (ages 6&7) but my DIL insisted that as his mother I needed to be there. (Did i mention she is AWESOME) so we went. We arrived a week before he was due home and spent time with my DIL and the boys. So now we are at Camp LeJeune and he gets off that bus, gets hugged by his wife then both the boys. We waited, I cried, happy, relief tears, then got my hug. Since my grandson had a soccer game the next morning, we met for breakfast then went to the game. After the game we went our separte ways. My husband and I saw the sites around Jacksonville and surrounding area for about a week. Then we caught up with the family again for a few days before we headed back home to Illinois.
    I think when there is a service member in the family EVERYONE needs to remember that he or she is NOT the only one who cares about that person and if that person has a family of their own…thats the family that takes presedence. As a mom, my need to see my son was strong, but his happiness and well-being comes first. So if mom needs to take a back seat to the wife and kids so be it. This too will be remembered later in life by all parties concerned. Just one moms opinion.

  • Ashley

    I just wanted to say I think you are an awesome MIL! My in-laws are the same way. They come, but they let me have the first hug, my son the second, and then my mother-in-law. The only problem I have when he comes home is they usually stay with us. I would feel absolutely terrible asking them to get a hotel. Any advice on how to handle this next time?

  • Cheryl – YOU ARE AWESOME! What a wonderful way to share your family. I was actually thinking of this from the perspective that while in-laws spent some quality time with the kids, some spouses need to clean like mad, go get a haircut or maybe buy a new dress. Maybe asking family to help out ahead of time with a definite departure date like yours may help with THEIR anxiety as well as giving everyone the gift of reducing stress for all involved.
    I hope you don’t mind my asking but do you think being able to use the audio/visual of the internet (I think it’s called Skype) something that is easily learned? I obviously don’t know how to skype yet but I know my FIL refuses to have anything to do with a computer. I was hoping to get your point of view because one of my husband’s brothers is deploying again and if we could convince my FIL that it won’t be hard for him to use, he’ll relent and give it a try. The two of them are very close and unfortunately my MIL passed away last time he was deployed and he didn’t make it back in time. I think it would ease my FILs mind. What do you think? (please feel free to email me lemonademadedaily@gmail.com since I guess this is kinda off topic)

  • cheryl

    if I didnt know better I’d say I was talking to my DIL :-).
    Anyway we won’t stay with them. When we go to see them we treat it as a vacation and not focus on them. We (my husband myself and our dog) have stayed in hotels till the last trip when we purchased an inexpensive used pop-up camper. We found a campground close to base that catered to military families. I also found out on our last trip that there is facilities on base families can rent for short visits…
    As I said we won’t stay with them for several reason. First being, it puts too much pressure on EVERYONE. For you, this is adding to your household expenses as well as the need to entertain. It’s much easier for us to treat it as a vacation, then we can come and go as we please, no strings, no hurt feelings.

  • cheryl

    Lemon Stand…
    First, I love the name!
    My son is not big on communications. He knows mom is a worrier and we have found it best to keep it simple. I get an occasional email or out of nowhere phone call but other than that, he keeps in touch with his family and I hear from them. I think if you can get FIL to see how easy it is to use Skype BEFORE the next deployment it might be easier. I have a friend who is very close to her single son and they skype once a week. She says it is a Godsend!

  • cheryl

    and for all you family members and friends, PLEASE next time you see that loved one give them an extra big hug from the members of the Warriors Watch Riders, http://www.warriorswatch.org
    We do welcome home and deployment escorts as well as meet n greets, where we just show up someplace and hug ’em and say THANK YOU!
    you can check us out at the site or contact me directly (southernpride24@hotmail.com and use escort as subject) and since I am an asst state coordinator, I can try to help you. We have chapters in most states and we would be HONORED to thank your loved one. Whether they are currently serving or if they are veterans from past conflicts, if they signed their name on that paper, we are here to say thanks….

  • spouse2000

    Don’t want to share with your kids? Guess what, your kids didn’t get to choose this life – you did. Maybe he doesn’t want to share himself with you. Hope one of your children sign up so you can see the shoe on the other foot. Get over yourself.

    • SKiM88

      I believe that homecoming is about a family coming together again vs. lovers coming together again once there are children in the picture. However, to say something like “I hope your children sign up…” so on and so forth is a bit harsh, don’t you think? Especially since the military life is not a punishment but a choice…an honorable one at that. I think most of us would agree that we’d support our children joining if that was what they wanted to do. And having been there, we know a great deal going into it so hopefully we can provide the proper support for them and their families along the way.

  • shawn Kirsten

    At first my husband and I were both torn on what we wanted for our upcoming homecoming. His first deployment was a year long and it was just the two of us and that was a great and uncomplicated moment. Taking it easy and adjusting went smoothly because we didn’t have to worry about the aspect of entertaining family or “sharing that time”. Part of us wanted the same thing again, especially now that we have an eleven month old. Who to me takes center stage in all of this. I don’t want “alone time” I want family time. The difference is that we’re closer to family this time around so we both know how selfish it would be to exclude them. Going into it, they’ve been very understanding and respectful so far. Staying in a hotel, offering any help to prepare they can. I hope they understand how much I need that first hug with my son and husband. But really, with my family at least, I’d be silly to worry about such a thing. Respect goes both ways and everyone’s feelings need to be considered. We waited 9 sometimes 12 months to welcome our spouses home. We can share him for a few days. It’s a far cry from not having him at all.