The holidays can be stressful for anyone, but they are probably more stressful for a mom. And they are most stressful for a military spouse mom of several young children going through a deployment. (That would be me right now).
But this year, I am surprisingly not stressed. We’re still celebrating everything, but I am making sure to keep it easy and simple so the kids and I can all enjoy each other, instead of walking around like little snowballs of stress and anxiety.
The key to making it through a deployment holiday is to keep things simple. Focus on the activities you will all enjoy. Take shortcuts. Lower your expectations until they become realistic. Don’t run yourself ragged trying to recreate the magical holidays of your childhood. Instead, focus on the warmth and joy you can find in the present.
“The key to making it through a deployment holiday is to keep things simple.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
5 tips for keeping holidays simple during deployment:
Ever year after Thanksgiving, I sit down with my kids and ask them for their expectations of the Christmas season. Depending on their ages, we have made a list of top activities or we have discussed service opportunities at local churches. I was surprised Shannon thought this was such an original concept, since she has many children of her own. I think too many people go through the season saying they are doing things for the kids, but not stopping to ask for the children’s opinions. Sometimes, my children surprise me with a list that includes simple things like playing board games, or “hot chocolate and movie night.” If that’s what will bring them warmth and joy, why would I make us do anything else?
This year, we won’t make a gingerbread house, and I won’t be making as many cookies as usual. As a solo mom of four kids, I just can’t make ten batches of time-consuming recipes. When I asked my daughter to choose her one favorite cookie, she replied “chocolate chip.” So that’s what we made for Christmas. It wasn’t fancy, but it didn’t have to be. The whole point was for mother and daughter to spend some time together in the kitchen. Check.
Lower your expectations.
Your home may not look like your Pinterest board, and that’s ok. You may not send Christmas cards or have the most impressive house decorations on your block. Honestly, the only person who cares about any of that is you.
I didn’t grow up as a military child, so all my Christmas memories were in the same home, with both my parents present. My kids haven’t had that same experience. My husband has been deployed for about 1/3 of our married Christmases. So I can’t re-create my childhood for my kids. What I can do is spend time with them, read to them, let them wear pajamas, make them hot chocolate or cookies, and play games together. They still have warm and fuzzy Christmas memories, even though some years have been very un-traditional.
Celebrate with military “family.”
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t travel home to be with family. Remember that when you stay near base, you are close to your military family! Since we spent much of my kids’ childhood living overseas, Christmas to them doesn’t mean seeing Grandma and Grandpa. It means having a house full of Marines and families, enjoying good food, playing games together, and staying up late with friends. The holidays don’t have to be fancy or formal. A casual potluck meal or a get-together at a friend’s house can sometimes create the best memories.
I recently had the great pleasure to be a guest on The Semper Fi Household podcast, with Shannon of The Flying Kitchen. She is a military spouse and mom of 7 who has lived all over the world and been through quite a few holidays… and deployments. We had a great time sharing stories and talking about ways to keep holidays simple, especially when you are going through a deployment or a PCS move. You can listen to our fun discussion about the holidays here.
Sometimes, military life makes the holidays more challenging than they have to be. It’s easy for a military spouse to feel lonely and depressed during this season, especially if they are going through a deployment or have recently moved to a new area. But when you keep holidays simple, you take an invisible weight off your own shoulders, and allow your family to celebrate the simple joys of the season.
If you're going through a deployment, you can now download my free guide to Deployment Holidays. Fill out the email form below!