Meet Kristen Smith.
She is a military spouse, but she is also the blog coordinator for Loving A Soldier, a mother, a professional photographer, a volunteer, a food blogger and an equestrian. Although very busy, she makes the most of her time and has much wisdom to share regarding all aspects of being a military wife.
She discusses her experiences with military life, work, deployment and relationships below.
Christiana Nielson: Can you tell me the idea behind your blog, Loving A Soldier, and how it works?
Kristen Smith: Loving A Soldier is the blog of Army Wife Network. We currently have 21 contributors from the Army spouse community: varying experience levels, years associated with the military and blogging from three countries at the moment. We are aiming to showcase the incredible diversity of experience found in the Army community and let spouses know that somewhere, someone else is feeling the same way.
CN: You’re also a photographer?
KS: I am a professional portrait photographer specializing in equestrian lifestyle portraiture, although I also love photographing our military events and families.
CN: Can you tell me a little more about yourself?
KS: I am married to Capt. Kevin Smith, U.S. Army, and we have one son who turned three last month. Originally, I am from Charleston, S.C. Between school, work, the military and my own wanderlust, I have lived, traveled through or visited every state in America except Alaska. I strongly believe that we are responsible for making our lives what we want and need them to be, which is a huge part of my blogging. I volunteer as much for my own personal development and education as to help others. When I’m not blogging, behind a camera or volunteering, I am usually in the kitchen playing with food (you can find most of the results of that at Authentic Plate) or working with my horse. My family is currently assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri about two hours southwest of St Louis.
CN: Is your husband currently deployed?
KS: My husband is home at the moment. We have been through deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq with the longest one being just over 12 months.
CN: Were you surprised by his deployment, or were you expecting it?
KS: We’ve dealt with both circumstances, having time to prepare and being surprised. One of my husband’s deployments, he volunteered to go with just under 28 days notice.
CN: What were the biggest adjustments you had to make regarding your relationship, family and schedule during deployment?
KS: Our biggest relationship adjustment was learning to prioritize our interaction. When Kevin is home, there is a lot of small talk; we talk about our day, about small things that annoy us, inconsequential things on TV or in current events. During a deployment, the time we have to talk/email is significantly reduced, so we both had to be more intentional and focused to make sure that our conversations and correspondence fostered a positive, loving relationship.
Family adjustments mainly revolved around making sure that my husband was still included. Some how, some way.
I am a big believer in schedules, so for the most part, our schedule does not hugely vary when my husband is away. My son and I are both early risers, and my husband is not a morning person, so the primary difference would be that our activities will shift earlier in the day when he is away. The primary change I had to make was to be insistent (especially with myself) about carving out ‘me time’. I needed time away from my son, time away from obligations and responsibilities, in order to maintain my positivity and well being. Finding that time is extra challenging when I am the sole person responsible for our home and family.
CN: What is the hardest thing about deployment?
KS: My husband really is my best friend, so a huge challenge for me during his times away has been the lack of that sounding board and missing the feedback. He is usually the first person I tell about any crazy ideas, ask questions about subjects I am not familiar with and generally vent to. I tend to internalize and not express myself as well or as easily when he is gone and that can take a tremendous toll on me emotionally.
CN: From whom do you get support while he is gone?
KS: I have a wonderfully supportive family and a network of friends and resources that I have developed throughout our time together that was a tremendous support. My barn friends, who are often not all military, are also a huge component of my support system.
CN: What have you learned about yourself and your relationship throughout the process of deployment? Do you think your relationship became stronger because of it?
KS: Deployment forced us to really learn to communicate. Spending time together wasn’t as simple as sitting on the couch watching TV. If we wanted to “spend time together,” we had to actually go back and forth. It revealed some very real gaps in our communication and forced us to deal with them. I think deployments also put us in a position where we have to consciously make the decision that our marriage is important enough to withstand the challenge because it requires us to work through it.
CN: Was deployment what you thought it would be, or was it different?
KS: Both. I never would have anticipated how agonizing R & R would be. The twin emotions of relief (that he was home) and despair (that he was leaving again so soon). I was surprised by just how capable I was of handling things while he was gone.
CN: What advice would you give other military spouses in your position?
KS: I think the most important thing to know is that you have to figure out what works for you. I needed to know more, so volunteering, being very involved in my local military community and making connections with the national military community were powerful instruments in my tool box. But that does not mean that every spouse should do the same.
CN: Is there anything else I should know about you, your work or military life?
KS: Military life offers us incredible opportunities to meet fascinating people from all walks of life, grow and develop personally and have a front row seat in the making of history. It is what you make of it.
Photo courtesy of Kristen Smith