As I was trolling Facebook recently, I noticed a post in one of my (many) military spouse groups.
“We won’t be home for the holidays this year. We’ve always gone home in the past. How can we tell our families without causing hard feelings?”
Have you been there? I sure have! In almost a decade of military life, we’ve only been within a very far driving distance once. Even then, pregnancy, work and children complicated our ability to visit home for the holidays.
How do you tell your folks that you won’t be home for the holidays?
I bet you’ve been looking at plane tickets or your spouse’s duty schedule for a few months now. Those tickets are only getting more expensive. The holiday leave blocks are not getting any longer either.
Start to drop hints early. When you call or video chat, mention how busy you or your spouse are at work. Or talk about your struggle to find reasonably priced plane tickets for your whole family. The more subtle ways you can work these into conversations naturally the better. Your family will already be in the mindset that you might not make it home for the holidays.
If you’re not going to make it home, be very honest and upfront about why. If it’s a schedule thing, share that information. The needs of the military dictate your family life and ability to travel. Plane tickets are pricey during November and December. When your family’s budget just won’t stretch that far, be honest. Offer to video chat during Thanksgiving dinner, as you light the menorah or while your family opens presents.
When you’re honest about your reasons for staying home or doing something other than going home, it creates fewer complications down the road.
But Not Too Honest
What if you’re staying home because you cannot stand your in-laws? Maybe you can’t take another holiday of Aunt Martha asking when you’re going to have kids? Perhaps, after last year’s rough political season, you want to avoid arguments around the dinner table.
If you need to stay home because of personal conflicts, don’t start new ones. When you are on tenuous ground already, it is sometimes better to keep the peace with a small white lie. Blame your absence on the long drive or expensive tickets. Say that your schedules are just too crazy.
You’ll be with connected to these family members for quite some time. If you need a break or can’t swing long holiday visit, it’s better to skip it for your mental health.
Offer an Alternative
If your roadblock is mostly due to cost, scheduling or distance, try to find a different time to visit. You could schedule leave during the off-season or over summer vacation. Take a long weekend or longer to spend with extended family.
Open your home to family for the holidays. You could politely decline invitations elsewhere, but invite your parents, siblings or in-laws to stay with you. This could be a fun way to share your own family’s traditions with your far away loved ones.
Another fun idea could be to skip inviting your family or visiting them. Instead, float the idea of meeting somewhere else. You could find somewhere in the middle, rent a big house and spend your days sightseeing. Head to a fun resort that offers a military discount to enjoy days by the pool, at a theme park or on the beach.
Share Your Lives
If going home for the holidays, inviting your family to your house or meeting in another location isn’t possible, it’s important to find another way to include your families around the holidays.
Try writing a yearly letter sharing your major life events, exciting news and fun future plans. You could do this using a photo or card printing service. This way you could also include family photos.
Create yearly photo books are gifts for your parents and in-laws. You’ll be able to quickly and easily share pictures of your family throughout the year. As an added benefit, the grandparents will be able to look back whenever they want a quick dose of the grandkids.
How do you handle not going home for the holidays? Share your best advice in the comments.
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