What to do when your family isn’t together over the holidays
[I recently contributed a tip to Military Travel Mama on budgeting tips for families and I asked her to contribute something about what it’s like to create a family when often there are thousands of miles and many, many weeks between visits. While my family isn’t military, my partner works 9 hours (and three ferries) away and so I find myself having this in common with military families. And it’s not just me, there seem to be more and more couples living apart, sometimes for economic reasons, and sometimes for life quality reasons. There are even journal studies on the topic. So, what are strategies for those living apart for surviving the holidays… here is one family’s strategy.]
As it turns out, what you spend on gifts just can’t be outdone by quality time.
This proviso strictly applies to the children; not your spouse. If you don’t get your spouse that thing they’ve been low-key nagging you about for a few months, that’s going to cause some passive aggression no time will fix. Before you’re married, maybe time will be key. After the fact, that’s all you’ve got!
But if you’re in a military family, time may be in short supply. It’s not that you’re trying to buy off kids or spouses with expensive gifts, it’s that the collateral, non-monetary expenses of your job put you in a position where it isn’t possible for you to have that necessary quality time. What do you do? What are the solutions?
Well, you want to think outside the box. Firstly, consider alternatives to on-time holidays. If you’re going to be deployed during Christmas, when is the time when you won’t be deployed? Will you be with your family in early December? Put that military training to use and plan an operation.
Tactical Preparations For Non-Traditional Celebrations
Design a Christmas celebration that takes place in the middle of your time away from the service. Buy presents. Hang stockings. Sing songs. Put that tree up. Watch movies as a family, have some hot chocolate—the whole nine yards, essentially. Certainly, it won’t be exactly the same as Christmas on the 25th; but the quality time is the key.
And your young ones will really be lucky because you know their mother will put something together for them on Christmas Day. They get to have you spend some real time with them before you’re deployed, and they get to have an actual Christmas as well where, let’s face it, they miss you.
There are 24 hours in a day. What you do with them is up to you. When you’re not deployed, you want to maximize your time at home. Certainly, rest and relaxation are key, but the whole reason you’re in the military is to make a sustainable life for you and your family.
Well, most people. Certainly, there are some who like getting yelled at, waking up early, lugging a bunch of equipment around, and occasionally getting to blow things up. Some like the fight, some are truly in love with their country and want to defend her at all times.
The Importance Of Time And Family
All these things are good! But for many in the military, the family is the most important thing, and working in the service is their way of carving out a niche in their bountiful country. The difficulty is being an absent parent. Until your young ones are themselves adult, you need to maximize time with them at home. Being there when you can is absolutely key.
Though you’re away, this need not have the negative impact it could. If you realize the situation you’re in, and what your levels of flexibility are, this allows you to maximize what scant resources you can for greatest success.
Just keep in mind that money won’t buy you love, as the old song and the spin-off film point out. If you try and buy off your family with expensive gifts, don’t be surprised if they themselves have empty responses to your efforts. Your time is your most valuable thing.
Money is paper: they’re essentially an IOU note from the federal reserve. Time is and always have been more valuable than currency. So give your family all the time you can, and they’ll feel richer than those children in the most financially blessed situations.
Article by Stephanie Bates. Stephanie is the founder of Military Travel Mama; she is the wife of a military professional and mother to two children. Follow her blog for more about military life, military discounts, family trips, healthy eating, and parenthood.
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