They have returned from deployment, safely out of harm’s way and back into your arms just in time for the holidays. Having them back is the best Christmas gift of all and you are ready to celebrate the holidays with your military member in a big way!
As a mom who has welcomed home her Marine from Afghanistan recently, I know that I’m thrilled that we will get to celebrate together. I don’t take that for granted. But as a wife of a 27-year career fighter pilot I also know that there are some cautions that are wise to put into place so that the holiday can remain joyful.
Manage Your Expectations – Last Christmas, I spoke to a huge group of special forces operators who had just come home in time for the holidays. Their spouses were so joyful and there were smiles everywhere. You may have certain expectations that your Christmas will be memorable, your kids happy and your spouse fully integrated into the family again. But don’t put extra pressure on your military member by setting those expectations so high that they feel constrained. If you manage your expectations, then you won’t be disappointed and you’ll be more likely to keep on an even keel.
Manage Your Money – My Marine got lots of extra duty pay—so I should expect a huge Christmas present from him, right? Wrong. Post deployments are part of the feast-or-famine cycle that happens in most military families. You are feasting with lots of extra dough after a deployment or you are overextended because you kept spending when you should have been saving. I recommend that you use combat pay to fully fund your ROTH TSP, fund a Roth IRA, pay down credit card debt and build up a 6 to 9 month rainy day account. Don’t buy that truck.
Manage your Munchkins – Whether you just met your baby when you came home from deployment or you have a house full of teenagers—your kids are your greatest gift during any season. Yesterday, I saw a Marine in our local coffee shop with his 4-year-old daughter and he had just purchased her a pastry. “You need to finish that here, I don’t want crumbs in my truck.” He was being as tender as a Marine can be—that gentle warrior side that many dads have when it comes to their little princesses. He walked up next to me and took his macchiato from the barista, “Thanks, this caffeine will determine whether I have a productive day or not.” Before I knew that words were coming out of my mouth, I found myself saying, “Every day is a productive day when you spend time with your daughter.” He looked a little startled—then smiled and agreed.
More than anything this year, your kids want love spelled with four letters, T-I-M-E. So don’t give into the temptation to spoil them with expensive gifts that go way over the top. Instead, buy them some board games you can play with them or a ball you can throw in the yard. Go for walks and to the park and realize that you are making memories to fill the void in their lives that was there during your deployment.
Manage Your Marriage – The base chapel will often sponsor A Weekend to Remember for military couples after deployments. Try to get one of these on your calendar so that you can schedule your parents to come out and watch the kids. Or, if your branch sponsors a free conference such as Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program or a NSW retreat—then take advantage of it. Your spouse missed you and needs to know you missed her too. She needs to know that she is still the only woman for you and that missing her was the hardest part of the deployment. So, date your wife by taking her out to eat, to the movies and do it inexpensively by reading my blog, “De-stress for Less, Part 2 – Going Out”. My hubby and I have been married almost three decades and with seven children to show for it. We did it by dating on a regular basis—especially post deployment.
Manage Your Mama – LOL! Ok, as the mom of three military sons, I have to give a shout out to remind you that your mom missed you during deployment as well as your spouse and kids. If she’s like me, then she probably prayed for you day and night and never felt quite settled until you were home safely. She may “know her place” in your life but she also needs to be reminded of her place in your heart. So be sure to call her and say, “I love my Mama.”
If you manage these key areas during the upcoming holidays, then your days will certainly be merry and bright.