Another Blue Star Families post…
Deployments get a bum rap. Military spouses, including myself, share endless stories of loneliness, exhaustion, sadness, and that evil Murphy’s Law that shoulders the blame for leaky faucets and flat tires. I’m not saying that deployments aren’t tough on the loved ones left behind. The word tough doesn’t come close to justifying the challenges we face. However, I’d like to take a moment to wax optimistic because I know that buried beneath the surface of those struggles hides a treasure of virtues. And when we take the time to recognize them, it may make some of those not-so-positive aspects a little more bearable.
As Commander in Chief of my household, I take pride in the manner in which I maintain it. Granted, I’m not the world’s most proficient housekeeper, but I have a system. That system works for me. It doesn’t quite work for my husband. When I plan my weekly grocery list, I spread my recipes across the coffee table. When I need reminders to tackle important tasks, I stick Post-It notes in random locations. And my desk? It’s covered with rough drafts, magazines, newspaper clippings, and yes, Post-It notes. To me, this is a system of organization. To my husband, this is clutter. But with Mr. Anti-Clutter gone, I can freely scatter my system wherever I choose.
I’m also a creature of habit, following routines and enforcing schedules with the ferocity of a drill sergeant. So you can imagine my frustration when I’m halfway through cooking my husband’s favorite dinner and he calls to tell me he’s going to be late. Or when he informs me that in two hours he has to report to an unspecified location for an unspecified period of time and I should sell the concert tickets I had surprised him with weeks earlier. But thanks to his deployment, I can follow my own routine. I wake up to my own alarm every morning (i.e., the kids) without listening to his. I serve dinner whenever I want to without conforming to his unpredictable time of arrival. I put the kids to bed at their usual bedtime without keeping them up so they can spend a few minutes with their dad. And I don’t have to cancel a baby-sitter I booked weeks in advance because of his unforeseen travel plans.
Overall, I feel the most significant upside to deployment is the strength and confidence it has given me. Do I enjoy being a single parent? No. But I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of handling it. Do I like taking responsibility for my husband’s designated chores? Not particularly. But I now realize he’s not the only handyman in the family. Throughout the deployment, I’ve tried to remember what another military spouse once told me: You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. During deployments, we don’t have another choice. I am a stronger, more independent woman for having endured this portion of military life. And those qualities will follow me wherever life (or the military) takes me.
The word deployment may be synonymous with a thesaurus full of negative terms, but I’d like to think it’s not all bad. Sometimes we just need to adjust our perspective and squint a little to bring those rose-colored glasses into focus. I may even miss those hidden treasures when my husband comes home. And at the end of the day, when I’m trying to ignore those pesky things like loneliness and Murphy’s Law, I remind myself of the best part of all about deployments: homecomings.
I promise I’m not the only one wearing rose-colored glasses! After conducting an informal survey of fellow military spouses, I’ve compiled the following top 10 list of good things about deployment:
10. No snoring
9. Sharing extra bonding time with my kids
8. Following my own routine and schedule
7. Spending time with friends
6. Eating whatever I want, whenever I want
5. Strengthening my marriage through a greater appreciation for my spouse and increased communication skills
4. Taking ownership of the television remote control (which includes free rein to watch chick flicks)
3. Saving money
2. Enjoying time to myself and focusing on work, personal projects, and hobbies
1. Feeling a sense of freedom and independence as well as gaining personal strength and self-confidence
(Other honorable mentions include: having the bed to myself, reading in bed without having to use a dinky book light, falling in love with my spouse all over again through letters, and my personal favorite: “Cleaning house…by which I mean throwing away clothes of his that are no longer fit for polite company.”)