I feel you, military spouse. I know the ache of being far from family, the guilt of missing another family event, and the frustration that money won’t cover cross-country plane tickets. I have been there so many times.
- I missed my cousin’s wedding when a hurricane prevented us from driving.
- A few years later, I missed that same cousin’s funeral because I was stationed overseas and couldn’t fly home in time.
- I missed my friend’s wedding when I was supposed to be her bridesmaid because my husband was called up to an emergency response team and I had no one to watch the kids.
- I missed the funeral for one of my best friends when she became a military widow. I was pregnant and unable to fly to her home town.
Those moments of regret still sit heavy on my heart, even after many years have passed.
When you have to miss family events…
Major life events are supposed to be a celebration, but for many military spouses they are a source of frustration and regret. Sometimes our families are understanding and brush off our apologies with a comforting, “Oh, we figured you wouldn’t be able to fly home, but we just wanted you to know that you were invited and welcome.” Other times, the families are less understanding.
- “Why aren’t you planning to visit? We were looking forward to seeing the kids.”
- “All of your cousins will be there. You will be the only one missing.”
- Ever since you married that military guy, we never see you anymore.”
Sound familiar? Major events can be a major pain and a source of family drama. If you are caught in the dilemma of whether or not to go home for family events, then here is advice from someone who has struggled this every year of our military marriage.
Should I stay or should I go (to family events)?
- If at all possible, make the trip. I know money is a huge concern, and sometimes there simply isn’t enough in the savings account to buy a cross-country ticket. But other times, we let the huge inconvenience and hassle of a major trip get in the way. I am here to tell you that the trip is almost always worth it. If you take the trip, you will only be tired and broke for a few days. But if you don’t go, that regret lasts a long time. Make the trip. Memories are much better than regret.
- Try sending just part of your family. Now that we have four kids, we sometimes have to use the divide and conquer strategy. This month, my parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with a final party at my childhood home before they sell it and move. Of course I want to be there! But getting plane tickets for our family of six was going to cost more than a month’s income and take up most of my husband’s pre-deployment leave. Instead, we opted to send just myself and oldest child for a quick weekend trip. My husband is able to stay home with the others and doesn’t have to request extra leave. It will be a short, rushed trip, but it will cost a lot less, allowing us to save money and leave days for our own family memories before deployment. It’s a great solution that no one will regret.
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone to watch the kids. I am always amazed by the generosity of the military spouse community. During our last deployment, my Grandfather died. I was on the opposite side of the country taking care of the kids by myself. I wanted to fly home, but knew it was impossible for me to travel alone with all four kids. I only had one day to make a decision and buy tickets. So, I started asking my friends if they would each watch one of my kids for the weekend. I was amazed that three out of four people said ‘yes’ without hesitation! We had only been stationed at our base a few months, but three families that we only knew casually were willing to watch a kid for a long weekend with very little notice. I was able to fly home with just the baby to attend a weekend full of family events. Of course I returned with gifts for those families, but I can never repay the kindness they showed my kids or the priceless memories they allowed me to make by flying home.
Are you invited to an upcoming family event? Will you be able to attend or not?
You may also like my post about whether or not to move ‘home’ during a deployment.