Deciding where to spend the holidays seems to be a popular struggle in the military community. And I’m here to tell you it is okay not to go visit family. I hope that takes some pressure off. Don’t get me wrong, we all miss our families and our hometowns – a lot. But it’s okay to choose your immediate family for the holidays. Here’s why:
- Being a part of the military means two things for almost everyone: being displaced from your hometown and your extended families. Being gone for years and missing special events and moments in our loved ones’ lives can really take a toll. However, if anyone knows how precious time is, it’s us. Long trainings, deployments and trips take plenty of time away from our immediate families and spouses. Sometimes we need time during the holidays to get reacquainted and make up for lost time.
- We move around a lot. You might get lucky and be stationed close to family – if so, that’s great! And if that’s the case then it is easier to get to see family that is close by. But, the trek to mom and dad’s or the in-laws’ isn’t just a quick trip for a lot of military families. Our lives are constantly changing. Our houses, duty stations and orders seem to be ever revolving. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is travel on the holidays, and that’s okay. Last year, we decided to stay home for Christmas. Not only because Dave had been deployed the previous Christmas, but because it would be our first Christmas and maybe our last Christmas in the first house we bought. I know someday soon we will have to move out, and we’ve had a lot of great memories here. Taking time to appreciate special places is a perfectly good reason to stay home for the holidays.
- Limited finances make traveling hard. The last couple months of the year are predictability tough for finances. And financial stress is a big hurdle a lot of military families face on a regular basis, not just around the holidays. Coming up with enough money for Thanksgiving and Christmas can put a big financial burden on families. Adding in travel is just not doable for a lot of families.
- One of the coolest things about the military is we get to live all over the world, literally! It’s a great opportunity for extended family to travel to a part of the world they’ve never been to before. Inviting family to come to you on holidays can completely eliminate the decision to travel on your end. And it can be a really fun adventure for everyone. While we were stationed at Fort Drum, my parents and in-laws came to New York for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The whole experience turned into a bit of a dramatic comedy when we were stuck traveling back on Thanksgiving without any places open to eat. But I’m thankful we were all able to spend the day together. Even if it wasn’t at anyone’s house.
Don’t feel compelled to go visit family when you need time with your immediate family or when finances are really tight. I know not all extended family is understanding, but it’s okay to choose your immediate family for the holidays. They can always come to you.