The new trend for the holiday season in my family is the absence of my spouse. The last two years my husband is away on some sort of training or detachment and misses the build up to the holidays (thankfully he will be home for Christmas day!). I would say he is upset about this, but that would be a stretch! I am the one who cannot wait to go pick out a tree, set up all of the decorations, send Christmas cards, wrap gifts, and drink hot chocolate by the fire while watching Christmas movies- starting in November. He would be happy without any holiday pomp and circumstance.

Last December, in an effort to avoid heading to a Christmas tree farm to pick out a tree, or in my spouse’s words “make things easier for you”, he arranged for a Christmas tree to be delivered to the house BEFORE HE LEFT. As Murphy’s Law dictates, the tree was delayed, leaving myself and my very helpful two year old daughter to handle the tree delivery. The five foot tree we ordered was almost TEN FEET and was delivered at 8pm on a cold Wednesday evening. The poor delivery man was not expecting to assist heaving the GIANT tree into the home- but when I answered the door with a freshly bathed toddler and an obviously pregnant belly- he kindly acquiesced to dragging the giant boxed tree inside. I then realized I at least needed to give the tree a fresh cut and some water so it wouldn’t die. I proceeded to wrangle the box off, saw a fresh cut on the trunk (through much cursing ,rumblings and the blossoming of an irrational annoyance towards my spouse), used our dining room chairs as a leverage to prop the tree up in the stand, and commenced with a victory dance to celebrate the solo tree assembly.

The next morning, as I am preparing to wow my toddler with the vision that is the gigantic tree in our living room, I hear a crash followed by the cacophony of glass shattering as the said tree swipes everything off the mantle on its way down. This is where the anger towards my spouse really takes a turn- HOW COULD HE GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME TO DECORATE AND TO SET THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT TONE IN THIS HOUSE!? It took some quiet reflection (and coffee) to realize that I needed to have different expectations of the holidays and holiday set up when my spouse is away.

    1. Take a deep Breath: The phrase “this too shall pass” helped me cool off from our tree fiasco and with some reflection (and rational thinking) I remembered the wonderful people in my life who would come over to help set up the tree with a simple phone call.

    2. Manage expectations: In hindsight, choosing to set up a small fake tree or an alternative decorating method would have been the best option that year. You have the opportunity to change or create new traditions for the holidays when your spouse is away, look at it as a chance to try something new.

    3. See the positive. In the end, we had a stunning and HUGE tree and we have a good story! It makes me chuckle this year each time my toddler asks if our very small (I learned my lesson) tree is going to fall down.

If you are spending the holidays without your spouse this year, I hope Santa can bring you some holiday cheer, a dose of good humor and a sprinkling of patience. I am going to take my own advice and focus on what is not missing, the love and support of a wonderful military community and extended family. Hope you can do the same. Happy holidays to you all!


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About the Blogger: Briana Hartzell is a Navy spouse, mother to two beautiful girls (3 years and 8 months), a former full time USAA employee and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Briana writes at Being Briana, a blog focused on the joys that military life and parenthood can bring.