Turning Deployment Into a Personal Growth Opportunity

Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

By Kristen Smith
Military Spouse Guest Writer and Founder of White Gloves, Optional


Looking back over my relationship with my husband, there are times it feels like there is a third-person deployment. Each stage was shaped in part by the plans the Army had for his career. It is easy, and completely understandable, for a spouse to resent the impact deployments can have on their lives, plans and relationships.


But there is another option, another perspective that is available.


We can choose to see deployment (or TDY trips, training, PCS moves) as an opportunity.


Does that sound crazy? Or like one of those really annoying, always cheerful, disgustingly optimistic bubbly people that make you want to bang you're head on something hard?


I promise I'm not one of those people (although the crazy part may be debatable if you ask my brothers!). However, I do believe that every day we make a decision about how we are going to approach the day - as a challenge or an opportunity. A deployment is the same way.


For a moment, think about your average day. How much of your day is spent on your service member? Laundry, cooking, cleaning up after them (if your house is like mine anyway!)? I'm willing to bet that your soldier takes up at least 30 minutes of your day. What could you do with 30 minutes a day? In thirty minutes a day you can walk a couple miles (or run even further!), you can learn a language with Rosetta Stone, or you could keep a blog of your family's adventures that your service member could read.


If you've been through a deployment, I'm sure you've heard this advice before. Something along the lines of "what are you going to do to keep yourself busy". I don't know about you, but that question always slightly offended me. I AM busy. Whether my husband is home or not, my days are filled with taking care of our home, our child and pursuing my own dreams and goals. THAT is not what I'm talking about here.


I'm talking about investing in yourself in a way that you don't normally take the time to. During my husband's second deployment, I volunteered to serve on the Board of our installation's Spouse's Club. That is NOT typical for me. My friends were actually a bit taken aback when I told them. At the time, I didn't have kids and I wasn't a stay at home mom like many of the spouses serving on the board. I worked full-time and was going to school. But I made time for that commitment. I formed some wonderful friendships. I learned a tremendous amount about the behind the scenes work that goes into many of the events hosted by Army installations. I had the opportunity to get to know a General's wife, who also served on the board. Four years later we happened to be at the same duty station again, and I was able to reach out to her for help when another friend had a medical emergency but wasn't getting any support from her FRG and Rear Detachment. This much more experienced and connected spouse was able to put my friend in touch with the right people to correct the problem. If I hadn't jumped in and tried something new years before, I would never have been able to help my friend in that way. The behind the scenes experience I gained motivated me to get involved with Army Family Team Building and now I am an AFTB instructor helping other spouses figure out this life. Embracing a new challenge during that deployment opened doors for me in ways that I could never have anticipated.


While I would never wish my husband away on a deployment, I can make the most of the opportunity it affords me. What have I done? I went back to school. I went on a trip with my family. I took a photography class. I pursued things I am passionate about, which made me a more interesting person to come home to. I learned more about the Army and volunteered to help my military community, which made me a better person all around. I developed wonderful friendships with other spouses who knew what it felt like to be in my shoes. Those friendships have continued to provide support and positivity even as we all moved on to other assignments and installations. Even the hard days, when I didn't think I could handle another day of military life, taught me a lesson. And now when I have a difficult day I can remind myself that my husband is home, we are all safe, and today is another opportunity to learn and grow.


About Kristen Smith:

In a world that thrives on convenience and expediency, Kristen Smith explores the value of bye-gone courtesies. Encouraging audiences to rediscover the joy of a shared meal or do-it-yourself project, Smith invites readers to discover the opportunity in a challenge.


On her website, White Gloves, Optional, Kristen offers a variety of downloadable tools, home management strategies and nutritional advice.


Kristen Smith did her undergraduate work in marketing, and has since completed her nutritionist certification and is currently working towards a degree in dietitics to become a Registered Dietitian through Eastern Michigan University. She is also a certified Family Manager Coach and committed to helping families through a balanced approach to a military home.