As a military spouse facing your first deployment -- or even your most recent deployment -- you may be wondering what to do about leave that is often called mid-tour leave or R&R, rest and recuperation leave.
More than anything else, it's important to remember that not all deployments have R&R opportunities. Also, as with everything in the military, it's subject to change.
But planning something fun during that leave is often what keeps us all going. Until, that is, someone else wants that time with your service member, like maybe your in-laws. Here's one example, a letter written by a spouse who wasn't quite sure what to do.
"My husband has been serving a 15-month tour in Iraq and has an 18-day R&R break in September when we will celebrate our first anniversary, as well as take the GMAT exam and fill out applications for graduate school.
"We had already discussed his R&R, and he said he just wanted to see me and was fine with not seeing family. But now his parents want to visit while he's here. His father talks incessantly and can be abrasive. He's a Vietnam vet and likes to express his reservations about the Iraq war. I just don't think that's what my husband needs, and others who have already had their R&R recommend spending all of it together and not trying to see others.
"What's the best plan here? Can I suggest they wait until February when he is (hopefully!) back for good, and we'll go visit them for a long weekend? Can I limit them to a four-day visit here? Or am I out of line for thinking a new wife has a say-so about familial guests at a sensitive time?"
It's hard, right? You want your in-laws to see their child and you also want him all to yourself. It's really kind of hard to decide what to do.
Remember, your in-laws miss your spouse too. They may be facing their first deployment, and they probably aren't getting the same support that you are as a spouse. You can share some time with them, but don't be afraid to put limits on that.
It's OK to say, "Why don't you come for the weekend?" Or, if you're working, they could come mid-week so you have your weekends with your spouse.
During my husband’s first deployment he got two weeks at home over Christmas. I have to admit that I would have rather had him all to myself, but, at the time, his father was ill and his mother was, understandably, anxious to see her son. I planned a surprise visit home on Christmas Day.
My husband's siblings knew we were coming, but my mother-in-law had resigned herself to a Christmas without her Army son. When she saw us come through the door, you should have seen the look on her face. I love that memory, and I love that my husband was surrounded by his family on that Christmas day, especially since he lost his father just one year later.
The leave time is going to go really, really fast. It's going to seem hectic and crazy and you may not enjoy the time. But even with all the packing and flurry of travel in such a short time span, I didn’t regret the decision to spend a few days of R&R with his family.
It is, however, completely normal to want to spend all the time with your spouse -- and without your in-laws. But think about how you may feel, 20 years from now when it's your child coming home on leave.
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