It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
I have a confession to make: I am a holiday enthusiast. Winter is my favorite season. Thanksgiving makes me gleeful. Santa cannot compete with my love of Christmas. I even enjoy stomping around in the snow and ice on New Year’s Eve and complaining about how uncomfortable my ill-advised high heels are. I have always felt that the last few weeks of the year are a pretty magical time, and my love of the holidays has only grown, as I’ve gotten older. That’s not to say I don’t experience the anxiety this time of year often brings. I worry about gifts, stress about travel, and struggle with trying to make everything perfect. One Thanksgiving I became pretty hysterical about pie crusts that did not turn out correctly. Not my best day.
This year, however, things are a little different. My husband is currently deployed and will be missing all of our holiday fun. While this isn’t our first Christmas apart, it is our first since we had a baby, which makes is harder on all of us. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to make sure that the holidays still feel special, and I’m sure there are many other military families in similar situations. I’m no Martha Stewart (see above for details on the pie debacle of 2012) and Pinterest makes me feel sick, so I won’t be dispensing any advice on how to have a perfect, sparkling holiday season. I do, however, have a few ideas for staying sane and enjoying the festivities when you find yourself far from people you love.
Prioritize what makes this time of year special for you. For some people it’s certain foods, for others it’s church services, or singing carols, or enjoying a cocktail while you watch Elf – I know I can’t be the only person who does this. Whatever your favorite holiday traditions are, make sure to make time for them. It’s a busy time of year, especially if your partner is away and you have children. It’s ok to say no to some things in order to focus on what’s important for your family.
Don’t worry about everything being flawless. We all want our holidays to look like the smug stock photo festivities on Christmas cards, but they probably never will. The kids in those photos are always wearing perfectly styled outerwear, but my kid rips off all her winter hats as if they are made of lava. The pets are usually wearing some tastefully silly holiday gear and lounging by a fire, but my cat would combust if I tried to put a jingle bell on him and he tries to murder my Christmas tree every year. As someone with vivid memories of holiday celebrations from my childhood, I don’t remember if every meal was perfect or all the decorations were coordinated, or if every card got mailed on time, but I do remember the excitement and joy of being together with loved ones, playing, laughing, and eating good food. I promise that’s what’s important to the people in your life as well. No one is looking for perfection.
Seek out friends and make new traditions. There are probably other spouses in your community who are experiencing the same thing and feeling a little lost as well. Hello Mamas or an InDependent Community would be a great place to track down other military moms who want to take their kids ice skating, or who need a holiday crafting buddy, or who want to host an Elf viewing party (please invite me).
Having a partner who is away for the holidays can make an already emotional time feel more stressful, busier, and lonely. This is especially true if you’re stationed far away from home. Don’t forget to stop and appreciate what makes this time of year special for you. And don’t forget to make time to take care of yourself!
Nina is a military spouse of four years and mom to a very serious one-year old. Living in Europe, Asia, and all over the US has given her a love of travel and eating great food. She’s a graduate of Boston University and the George Washington University with a background in international affairs. She loves coffee, politics, being outside in winter, and chatting with far-flung friends. When she’s not with her family or planning trips, you can find her reading or watching Netflix with her cat, Panda.
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