Should In-Laws Attend Homecoming?


Picture it: Homecoming is tomorrow. You bought the perfect dress. You hired a photographer. Your house is spotless. The “Welcome Home” banner is positioned. You have a few saucy items from Victoria’s Secret tucked away. After missing your husband for the past however many months, you’re bursting at the seams to run into his arms and kiss him until you can’t see straight. This joyful phase of reuniting belongs to you and your man.

Or does it?

What happens if your in-laws want to be there to welcome their favorite servicemember home? Shouldn’t you include them in the homecoming festivities?

On one hand, you are the spouse. You are the one whose life was turned upside down by the deployment. You had to become a single parent. You had to do all the yard work. You had to sleep alone. You had to worry about whether or not the most important person in your life was coming home. Your title as spouse, your job on the homefront, your many sacrifices all earned you the right to keep this special time to yourself. In cases like this, it’s perfectly acceptable to be selfish.

You and your husband need time alone to get to know each other, to become a family again without the added stress of having to host other people. Reintegration is filled with overwhelming changes for everyone. Having extended family around would do nothing but add to the list of overwhelming adjustments.

And do I even need to mention that you probably want some privacy to get your money’s worth out those Victoria’s Secret goodies?

However, on the flip side, your in-laws love your husband too. Although they didn’t make as many sacrifices on a daily basis as you did during the deployment, they still lost sleep worrying. They’ve also missed him for however many months. They made the time and effort to send letters and care packages. They felt stressed and helpless. Don’t they deserve to be present at homecoming and share the days that follow too? What’s the big deal sharing a few days with his parents when you get him all to yourself once they leave?

We recently asked this very question about in-laws at homecomings on our Facebook page, and we got lots of mixed answers. While most of our readers seem to favor the “just us” homecoming approach, many readers prefer the inclusion of the whole clan of loved ones. Others advise asking the servicemember what he prefers, but still others warn that asking him to choose between you and his mother is too much pressure the poor guy just doesn’t need.

So what do you think? Should in-laws be a part of homecoming? Would you want your in-laws at homecoming?

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.

24 Comments on "Should In-Laws Attend Homecoming?"

  1. Absolutely NOT!

  2. I'd never be that selfish. S/he is their soldier too…. Geez, you have waited a long year, you can wait a few more hours to be alone with your soldier. Your in-laws have had a difficult year too. It is a magical, memorable moment to see your soldier walk through those "homecoming" gates, his/her parent's deserve to see it too. I do recommend that they do not stay in your home but at a hotel and only stay for a day after the homecoming. I have ALWAYS extended the invite to my in-laws when their only son returned. Out of the 5 or 6 deployments (i forget how many) they came to only one. We were all there to greet "OUR" soldier, then to the house for a "beer of cheer" and then they went to their hotel.. The next morning they came over for coffee and went on their way…. i do think most will base their decision on how they feel about their in-laws.. mine happen to be great, so i have NO problem with… I feel the Homecoming was not just about ME, but the entire family….

    • The parents should absolutely be there! Just because he is married doesn't mean that they don't want to see him. The wife should put herself in their shoes and think how she would feel when her son becomes the soldier and her daughter-in-law doesn't want her to share her son's homecoming. It really makes you see things in a different light!!!

  3. marmeedobbins | January 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

    For our first deployment together I surprised my husband at BWI with his family. We live west coast and his family lives two hours away from BWI. It was nice to be able to surprise him with everyone, including myself, but it was even nicer that we spent the night there and his family went home. The past two times, its just been our daughter and I at the gate. I love my in-laws, but homecomings are best when its just us. Especially with kids, homecoming should be about them reuniting, not having to share him with the world, again.

    • I agree to the extent that this is what the "COUPLE" wants-really, that works for my family because BOTH my hubby and I agree on it-but for other mil couples, they need to come to their conclusions together.

  4. Homecoming is about the soldier. When it comes to departures and arrivals, our soldier makes the decision.

    • agreed to an extent Sam, though the homecoming isn't just about the soldier. I have run this household and dealt with everything for 5 deployments and his year in Korea without so much as a phone call from the inlaws. I think it all boils down to the relationship everyone has with the in-laws. In my household, we're quite content, both of us, to not be hosting anyone when he first comes home. After 5 deployments, and the year in Korea, we're happy to have our family time and make future arrangements with extended family and friends. This works for both of us-we both agree on this.

      I don't think there's a cut and dry rule or etiquette on this-every family is different and every family and every service member has different needs during the homecoming and reintegration. And since the relationships between the SMs and extended family members differ-what's ok for one soldier is a hardship for another soldier, and vice versa. My hubby comes in and he wants to relax, absorb the household, focus on the dog, hang out with our boys, and make FUTURE plans for extended family, including inlaws.

  5. Wow this hard for me. My husband deployed twice and it was only me and the kids. My son just enlisted into the Marine Corp and I was at his graduation and brought his girlfriend who is now his fiance. He is now in MOS school but he will marry someday and deploy. I would not want to interfere with him and his future wife's plan but I would like to be there to welcome him. I will, however, not overstay my welcome.

  6. are you kidding? is this really an issue? are these spouses so alone in the deployment that they don't realize the parents and others want to share in the homecoming? when i got home my wife wanted everyone there… i'm talking cousins and nieces and nephews and… well everyone. and not just the first time but the second too. there is plenty of time to get to know each other again… and unless she's wearing the VS items they won't come into play at the airport anyhow… this is amazingly silly to discuss at all

  7. As the returning Soldier, parents have a place at homecoming. All the public events need to include the family unit, all of it, in my opinion. The seductive things are for private time and integration is better as a gentle process. Soldiers need to unwind and that does not happen right away. It takes time to turn off situational awareness, paranoia and all the other things. I spent moments wondering where my weapon was. I walked to the bathroom and counted the steps, with relish because it was close, at all hours because my body clock was half a world away. And I was freezing because the house was cold to my desert acclimatization.

    There is time to readjust to the home life again and trying too much, too fast, leads to disappointment and possibly hurt feelings. My spouse likes to know she is appreciated. Private time is a planned spontaneous event if I may link those words. Sometimes it is necessary to court again because lovers have become year long strangers and it is better to explore with fondness then push and seem to take for granted.
    To each their own but that is what I think.

  8. As hal of an active duty- to- active duty marriage, I like the parents/inlaws being there. They just have a room at a hotel. They understand, we need couple time. It also gives us some help with the kids. Seriously, quiet time with two kids running around? Nope, go spend the night with your grandparents at the Best Western. They get to swim in the pool, go out for breakfast, and generally get spoiled by everyone. The parents/inlaws get to be there, be with the family for a few days, and we get some much needed us time. Win-win-win.

  9. I asked my MIL to come from NY to Fort Campbell for dh's first homecoming. She said yes, then said no. I was pretty furious actually. I suppose there's more to it, she has a very difficult time leaving her home as it is. So, dh, while still deployed called her and pretty much told her she needed to be there or contact would be cut off all together (she'd done similar things like that in the past). So, her and my SIL came. It worked out well, we had no problems with the alone time thing, we had plenty of time for that considering he went on 30 days leave shortly after. Besides, he flew in at 2am. With this said, after that one he and I decided we didn't want any other extended family there for following homecomings. We felt it was more appropriate for just me and the kids. And like I said considering his mom has problems leaving her house it didn't bother her at all. I suppose if they were to have asked we would not say no, but they wouldn't do that. Heck, when dh was flown back to Fort Sam with a heart ailment in the middle of his last deployment his mom didn't even ask if she should come. My dad is the one who was on a plane to Fairbanks, AK (to watch the kids) from Ohio within 12 hours and me on a Mac flight to Kelly Air Force base. He watched the kids without question for a month. Anyway, got off topic. I think it is something each family needs to decide for themselves.

  10. For homecoming my mil and sil came and it worked out well. They came to the hanger then took my daughter and I went back to get my husband and we had time alone and saw them the next day. Then his dad and brother came about a week later. I think if done right and the in,was can respect your time that's great. My issue is when they actually deploy. There's way too much emotion and pain, the spouse shouldn't be responsible for making it ok for everyone else at that point.

  11. Your mil&fil are his parents. He is their baby. It would be very selfish to keep them away. You will change your tune when you are the mil.

  12. GraceMascorro | January 15, 2013 at 11:24 am |

    HELL NO… Depending on the length and the intensity of the deployment I might just go get him myself. He might need a few days before overwhelming him with everyone and everything. But if he invited his parents then I will adjust.

  13. I would have been most happy to have had her or my parents at return from many deployments! Never happened, they never lived close by. Don't be selfish, the next deployment might be the one you need HELP! Love every one!
    An old commander with 31 yrs Navy

  14. navybluemom | January 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

    I know what it's like to be the daughter, then the wife of a returning military man. Now I am the mother. I wouldn't think of being there when my son sees his family for the 1st time in 9 months or more. There will be time for us to see each other. Of course I have missed him & worried about him. I also know how desperately his children & wife have missed him & need some 'alone time' with him before sharing him with the world again. Just knowing that he's home safe & sound means the world to me.

    • AirForce/Navy Mom | January 16, 2013 at 8:43 am |

      Love this reply, NavyBlueMom. I am brand new to the military and the mom of AF and Navy sons. Their dad and I are their sole cheerleaders, now, but the likelihood that we will move into the in-law role during their careers looms large. Knowing and accepting how to take that role in advance seems the best defense against hurt feelings.

  15. I think that spouses need tonot be so selfish. You weren't the one worried about being blown up, you slept on a bed, had three meals a day, and lived your life. I dont buy the whole, "I sacrificed too, I was a single parent" yadayada no, you're NOT a single parent, your s/o is just overseas serving and it's an insult to insinuate that you were in in "alone." His biological family is just as much family as you are. It's not about you, if your s/o wanted their parents there, it is not your place to tell them "no." I can't stand my in-laws, but I would never deny my husband the right to see his parents, even if I had to grin and bear it. I'm mature about the situations and understand that it's not about ME, it's about HIM.

    • sabrinacking | March 25, 2013 at 7:32 am |

      I agree with your sentiment here. It is about HIM, and in our case…not onyl has he never wanted his in laws, siblings et all present…he hasn't wanted even our own kids present. All 5 times he has deployed and Korea, and every mid tour, he wants about 72 hours alone, with just me and then he is good to go with the plethora of family.
      I think in reading these responses this morning, some of that reasoning has been lost. I shutter to think peopel are looking at me stnading there alone, thinking I am too selfish to bring his family. Its important we all remember that every soldier is an individual. They all react differently to deployment, to homecomings, to departures, and allowing them to dictate how it all plays out is probaby the smartest decision.

  16. It is about the soldier! Everyone assumes that the spouse is the only one that had to make all the sacrifices, but this is NOT always the case! Don't have extended family come move in with you, but you should include them in the ceremonies! I understand that some in-laws can be over bearing but unless the soldier doesn't want to see them, ALL family and friends should be included!!

  17. My husband/soldier is redeploying in a few weeks and he immediately made the decision that he only wanted me to be at the homecoming. It was only after he voiced his feelings on the matter that I stated mine which were in agreement with his. I also questioned him quite a lot to make sure that he was positive of his decision before he announced it to his family because I knew that some feelings would be hurt. I am sure the blame will be put solely on my shoulders anyways. What I am getting at is that just because a military couple makes the decision to not have family at the ceremony does not mean it was a one-sided decision or that it was all because of the "selfish spouse". It is a selfish decision but the decision should be up to the soldier and the spouse. If they agree to have family there then great, if they decide not to then their wishes should be respected.

  18. ArmyMomGuest | February 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm |

    I feel very fortunate that I have such a wonderful daughter-in-law to be that this would never be an issue for her. She understands that my son is my only child, I raised him as a single mother, and as a result, we have a very strong bond. He hasn't been deployed yet, but you can be sure that if possible, I will be there at every departure and homecoming. I also have enough sense to stay in a hotel and leave the next day.

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