Although Valli Vida Gideons, a mom of two, is no stranger to the military wife lifestyle, she admits that you never really get used to it. In a brutally honest Facebook post, Valli explained that although she's proud of her husband for serving in the Marines, keeping the household together can be positively draining — even after he comes home from deployment.
"The post-deployment story I have yet to tell. Because . . . if you rip the Band-aid off you will find it is still raw underneath," she wrote. "Even though I know how the game is played, being on the roster for over two decades, I am left feeling in shock and awe by it all. Every. Time."
While Valli is always over the moon to have her husband walk through the door, the reality of having him back in the house isn't always sunshine and roses at first.
Because the very nature of IT is hard and humbling. You try to forget. And to admit this seems sacrilegious; shouldn't everyone simply feel grateful to have the boots back on the ground, after all? But the truth is, that fact is not the whole story. It is not the reality of how this game plays out. I have been home doing all things and being all the things to everyone. He's been there. Being everything to everyone. Then, in the blink of an eye . . . we are back under one roof and the shift happens instantaneously. Only, it doesn't.
Valli explains that a shake-up in routine can be hard on her little ones — and that includes when their father returns after being away for months at a time.
"I call bullshit. On all of the misconceptions. Perpetuated by people like us."
"No one in the family is buying it. Because the little people test all the boundaries. They push back, proving a point," she said. "Once they have your attention, they make it clear the absence comes with a price."
Obviously, long periods of time without their dad around can take an emotional toll on kids. Valli will never forget some of the nights where she had to watch her children cry.
"As the Mama Bear, I instinctually protect them because I can't forget the times I soothed their broken hearts to sleep," explained Valli. "Night. After. Night. I have witnessed firsthand. The wreckage. Yet, the result is the Marine's heart hurts. "I've been gone for . . . This is the aftermath of all the absence for all the days. Weeks. Months. Every last one of them."
Getting into the swing of things as a family also is more difficult than people realise.
"Now we have to figure out how to include the entire unit again. It takes time. Patience. Grace. Forgiveness," she said. "All things [are] hard to give because of the dream of a Hollywood ending . . . People around us think it is just that. But it is NOT. I call bullshit. On all of the misconceptions. Perpetuated by people like us."
According to Valli, built up emotions — and even resentment — can take a toll on a couple's relationship.
"We pay the price for months to come," she said. "The missed moments you can't get back lead to the resentment, hitting like a MACK truck. Then we find ourselves fighting battles about the dishes in the sink. His version. And mine."
Valli is quick to add that just because her husband isn't always present, doesn't mean she doesn't admire him.
"This doesn't mean I wish he was not here; it isn't saying I don't want him to serve. It does not erase the fact that I am proud of him," she wrote. "But, this kind of service has left gaping wounds. Over time, the tiny scars solidifying into fractures and holes."
But there is definitely a transition period in which Valli and her kids need to get acclimated to him being around again:
"Pieces of us are broken and need to be glued back together. Bit by bit," she said. "The children have to trust this is not a temporary scenario. Believe he is here. To stay. I have to count on him. Again. Give up control, release the tight grip I have kept to survive."
Despite the setbacks, arguments, and ever-changing schedules, Valli knows all she and her partner can do is soldier on.
"We will survive, wading through the muck, coming out on the other side. We always have. Always do," she said. "This is a promise we made to one another, many years ago as we passed through that sword arch on our wedding day . . . And I will cry. Still. Mostly when the floodgates burst open in the moments when there is time to breathe . . . It's the cumulative effects of a life full of loneliness and missed moments; being left behind and asked to be strong and hold it together. It's all part of it."