Don’t Let Holiday Travel Become a Guilt Trip with No Travel Insurance
Your first holiday season as a military spouse is approaching and the expectations are building. Expectations you fear you cannot possibly fulfill. It becomes the one thing many extended families just can’t get past - the hurt feelings from their holiday plan that may not fit into your current logistics. If you are newly married, the argument might be which family to visit and how to respectfully handle the competition between in-laws and extended family. Finally, if your military member is deployed, the challenge is to create a holiday season you can happily remember, not one you try to forget. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the storm.
The shark-infested waters you don’t want to dip your toes into.
The first holiday season away can be hard for anyone, but when you throw the military element into it, it almost becomes more dramatic as if the normal family discourse wasn’t enough. This is a tough one for even the most experienced military spouses and there is really only ONE way to handle it... a well-developed sense of humor. Remember that guilt is a very expensive trip for which there is no travel insurance. Set expectations early. Generally, not everyone in a unit can be on leave at the same time, so educate yourself and explain your military member’s limitations to your family. Some family members may not understand, but remember that if you can’t change it, you shouldn't feel guilty.
You are an expert on YOUR opinion.
That same first holiday season away from family can also seem overwhelming and sad. There is nothing wrong with feeling loss over missing out on traditions you hold dear. Just don’t let that sadness cause you to lament a holiday season rather than making this season a time you will look back on fondly. The most optimistic military spouses stick to the bloom-where-you-are-planted theory and realize they have the unique opportunity to do exactly what they want for the holidays rather than feeling gloomy over dashed expectations. Over the years I have collected an absurdly large Christmas village that takes up a huge portion of our house and has become a wonderful tradition in our family. When we moved past the idea that we should do things exactly like our parents, we gave ourselves permission to get creative and come up with our perfect traditions. Only you are the expert on the traditions you want to create and celebrate.
Add a deployment to the mix and watch the pot boil over…
Compliment the already sensitive subject of holiday traditions with a deployment and now you have a potential hornet’s nest. When your spouse is gone, the traditions in your household are tested. Additionally, sometimes expectations come from extended family about how they think you should navigate the holidays without your spouse. The most important thing to remember is that expectations you did not agree to or set for yourself are not obligations. Generally, families mean well but in the end, your options are your own. I like to remind people that families celebrate in different ways all over the world so don’t think your family’s way is the only way to spend a holiday. Every family must eventually venture into uncharted waters. Hopefully, you will find supportive family members who want to be a wonderful asset to your plans. If you have children, show them you can make the most of a holiday, no matter the circumstances. It isn’t dishonoring to the absent parent to make your holiday season a fun one instead, it teaches kids a valuable life lesson. In fact, most military members want their spouse and children to have happy memories, whether they are present or not. There is no ONE right answer, and now is the time to embrace that. You aren’t being unkind to anyone by doing what you want and enjoying yourself. The ability to adjust traditions by turning them into experiences that fit your current lifestyle is the very essence of resilience.
One day someone will come up with insurance to cover the losses from holiday stress, but until then, don’t feel guilty about making your holiday season your own!