There have been two significant times in my life when I was released from guilt for living so far away from family.
One time was when my mother told me to do whatever it took to get out of my small rural Indiana town. She has spent her entire life in that town and she knew it did not hold many opportunities.
The second was when I moved to Germany and my grandmother who was in her 90’s at the time said, “If anything should happen to me while you are gone, do not haul those babies back here because I won’t know if you are here or not.” I was traveling through Venice when she passed away and stopped at a small church and lit a candle for her. It made the grief of losing her a little easier to bare, but being released from the guilt of not being at her funeral helped even more.
You see I am married to a military man, but I live guilt-free because of these two women and the overwhelming understanding of my family for missing out on so much going on back home.
This article is a passionate and probably not a well-articulated response to the recent article “Why You Should Always Go Home for the Holidays.” I just feel that this would be easy to say if someone lived in the hometown. I felt that this article made a lot of people feel guilty. So, I wrote an article to release all of you from that guilt.
My husband and I met in high school and are on our twentieth year of active duty in the Air Force. We have spent five years overseas and moved thirteen times in total. And I love it! My kids love it! In fact, this year our college freshman who is 2500 miles away decided only to come home at Christmas. Am I okay with this? You bet I am. Why? Because I would be a hypocrite to insist he come home for Thanksgiving.
I released him from that guilt and in the meantime prepared myself for the future. I know as the mother of boys, I will spend holidays without them. My husband and I joke that those years will be spent traveling abroad or on some adventure. We have carved out a lifestyle that is indicative of creating new traditions and sometimes our holidays don’t look traditional.
So, let’s get rid of some of that guilt. Many times it is just not fathomable to return to your parent’s home for the holidays. Air travel, car rental, hotel stays, boarding of pets, food, the list goes on and on and before you know it, you are so in debt you cannot travel the rest of the year.
There is also the stress factor, the inability to get enough time off, and a plethora of other responsibilities that are affected. Let us not forget those that are deployed and there is no way they can be home for the holidays, even when we wish they could.
Here are some random thoughts, feel free to add your own.
1. If it is important for your extended family to be together, invite them to your place.
2. Delay holiday for cheaper times of the year or plan a destination holiday where you all gather in a central location. I dream of having Christmas in a cabin in the mountains one day surrounded by my boys and their families.
3. Talk to your extended family. Let them know how you feel. My hope is that your family is understanding and if not that is on them, not you.
4. Coordinate with local friends to gather for the holiday or serve in the community in some capacity. My family and I are serving dinner this year to former inmates that now are in a halfway program on a farm.
5. Create your own traditions. The day I married my husband, our own family was created and thus our own traditions.
6. Above all, release yourself from that guilt. Do what is right for you and your family. In the meantime, release your family from that same guilt. And do not judge other military families if their choices for the holidays are different than yours.
The holidays should not be stressful or filled with guilt. My kid is doing what I taught him to do; he is making a life of his own. If his adventures lead him far away at the holidays, I will survive just like my mother has done. She is a great example how a mother can release her children and adapt through the holidays. Listen, this military life is hard enough on good days so the last thing you need is to feel guilty for not being able or wanting to return home for the holidays. Instead, embrace your new home, make new traditions, and if someone tries to make you feel guilty, remind them that the Pilgrims didn’t go home for the holidays.