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It's my turn to be Mommy - The kids just need time.

By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle | April 2011

It's my turn to be Mommy - The kids just need time.

“It’s my turn to be Mommy.”

Cathy says: I am so frustrated. I know Steve has had the bulk of child-rearing responsibility for our family while I was on active duty, but I am home now and eager to be Mommy. I wish Steve would just back off a little and tell the children to see me when they need something.”

"The kids just need time."

Steve says: Cathy is right – the kids are still young, and their relationship with her has been mostly through video calls and short leaves. They are not used to thinking of her as a parent, and it confuses them when she gets irritated with them for coming to me the way they always have. I just feel as if she needs to back off a little and give them, and all of us, some time to readjust to family life.”

What do they do? Cathy and Steve have certainly been through a tremendous experience. Single parenting and separation from spouse and family can be difficult enough without including a war. Praise the Lord that Cathy has come home safe and sound; what a blessing to be reunited!

Having Cathy going off to war is quite a role reversal from days and wars gone by, when it was usually the male member who fought and was away from home. Integrating back into a family unit will be an adjustment for everybody in the family – not just for Cathy and Steve.

In particular, it will require extensive communication between Cathy and Steve for every aspect of daily life, just as they did when Cathy was deployed overseas. Even with the technology that allows us to stay connected while living in a remote location, there is no substitution for actual face-to-face interactions between spouses and between parent and child.

Cathy and Steve should realize and accept the fact that family-life responsibilities have shifted and have been reversed for several months; consequently, it will take time to re-establish a new normal. Long separations within a family unit dictate the establishment of new norms for all; it is not a simple matter of “returning” to what used to be the norm.

This is a critical juncture for Cathy and Steve, who now need to re-invent their relationship by discussing the transition into a normal family routine. Many of their discussions should be held in private, away from the children.

However, do not forget this is as much about the children integrating back into the family unit as it is for Cathy and Steve, so they’ll need to talk with the children about how they can help with the transition by taking turns going to Mommy and Daddy for their questions and problems throughout the day. Including the children is a great way of getting the children used to going to both parents again and not just to Daddy. Because Steve has been both mother and father during Cathy’s deployment, he could help by encouraging the children to seek Cathy’s advice in different situations. When they do come to Cathy (and they will when they feel comfortable and assured that Mommy is not going to leave them again), she could show them her joy at being home and available to assist.

With two parents being supportive of each other, the children will get the message real quick; soon Steve, Cathy and the children will all find what works to become that loving supportive family unit again.

All of this takes time and, as St. Paul reminds us in Col 3:12-15, we should, “put on ... kindness, humility, gentleness ... bearing with one another and over all of these put on love and let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” Family life can be difficult because it involves the constant building and maintaining of relationships; family separation compounds it – but does not need to destroy it.