The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year, but sometimes going home for the holidays just isn’t doable. Leave requests get denied, last-minute TDYs come out of nowhere or we realize it’s just too darn expensive to make the trip. Whatever the case may be, sometimes staying put for the holidays simply can’t be avoided.
As military spouses, we don't love that the military dictates our life and holidays this way, but we understand(ish). The mission comes first, we tell ourselves. But telling that to your family is a totally different story. So how do you break the news to them that they’ll have to open their Christmas presents with you over Skype this year?
Military Foul: Breaking the Bad Holiday News to FamilyTalk to your family as early as possible. I hate having to tell family and friends that we’ll be missing out on holidays and special occasions. In fact, I always try to put it off as long as possible so that I don’t have to hurt feelings. But it’s best to update your family as soon as you can and give them a heads up that you won’t be there. This gives them more time to make changes to their holiday plans so they’re not depending on you being there. Who knows? The earlier you tell them, the more time they have to possibly plan a surprise trip to visit you this year.
Make it personal. If you’re somehow able to let your family know in person or through a FaceTime or Skype then do it that way. Try not to tell them through text or email. It can come off as being insensitive and less sincere. They’ll appreciate it and be more understanding if you’re able to let them know face to face.
Send a card. I’m a huge fan of sending holiday cards, and I’ve made it a tradition to do so every year, regardless of where we’re spending the holidays. For the years that we’re away, our families appreciate these cards even more. I create a nice card with our photo on the front so that they always have an updated photo of us, and then I also take the time to type up a letter as well. In the letter we wish them all a Merry Christmas, apologize for not being able to be there, update them on our life and accomplishments from that year, and then finally, we thank them for all the love and support we get from them as well. They love getting these letters and feeling more included and updated on our life.
Send a holiday care package. If you’re the planning type, this is a lovely way to send a box of holiday happiness home when you can’t be there. We gather the gifts we bought for everyone, wrap them up, decorate the box and ship it off to our family members. It’s like we’re sending them Christmas. If you're going to do this, remember to ship them early in the month to avoid delays. We try to ship everything within the first 10 days of December and it’s always worked out for us. Check with the carrier you plan to use for the cut-off dates for holiday arrivals. If you're looking for the USPS cut-off dates, you can find them here.
Call them on the holiday. Last year when we couldn’t go home for Christmas we made it a priority to call everyone that afternoon. My dad and sisters spent the holidays with my grandparents, so I was able to talk to my entire family in a single phone call. We then ended up video chatting with my husband’s family while we opened gifts. Even though we couldn’t physically be there with them, we were still able to celebrate the holiday "together."
It can be tough to have to tell your family that you won’t be home for the holidays, but sometimes it has to be done. Rip the bandage off as quickly as possible, and use promises of video chats and later visits to soothe the pain of your absence. You’ll dodge the military lightning bolt and make it back to visit family ... eventually.