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I have written about hosting Thanksgiving while pregnant and while you are in the middle of a move, but I think most difficult of all is Thanksgiving when your spouse is away. Whether your family member is deployed or just away training, the idea of celebrating without your spouse can be daunting, disheartening and somewhat depressing. My husband has spent Thanksgiving (and his birthday) at sea, and the following advice is how may family made the most of it, despite his absence.
Try the following three things to keep you, and your family, happy this Thanksgiving:
Have a Plan:
Set expectations with your family about the big day explain that Mom or Dad will be away and ask for input from your kids on how they would like to celebrate.
Share Thanksgiving cooking with another family whose spouse is away. You share the burden of cooking, enjoy camaraderie, and the opportunity to taste another family’s favorite dishes.
Put together a special care package. That way you know that your spouse has a little holiday cheer where they are too.
2. Think outside of the Box:
Cook a dish you love but your spouse doesn’t. This is could be your chance to include a childhood favorite dish that your spouse might not prefer.
Celebrate in advance. There is no a rule you can only cook a turkey on Thanksgiving day - celebrate with your spouse before they leave or after they return.
Participate in something you might not otherwise. Some examples include, a fun-run turkey trot, volunteering at a soup kitchen, attending a command gathering. Find an activity to distract from the absence of spouse.
3. Try to Relax:
Holidays can be a time where we focus on everything being perfect and “just so”. Do not put this kind of pressure on yourself! Don't fret if you do not feel up for cooking a Thanksgiving meal. Make a pizza/soup/peanut butter sandwiches or order the full meal from the grocery store- really anything goes! You might be starting a new fun family tradition (Fast Food Fried Chicken sounds like a delicious option for Thanksgiving Dinner!).
Invite extended family to visit or a friend (and help with the meal!) - You may feel like being alone and low key is the easiest option, but I encourage you to spend time with others, specifically other families in your same situation. You will be so glad you did.
I encourage you to think of Thanksgiving without your spouse as an opportunity to do something a little different. This year try to remember how much you have to be thankful for (especially when your spouse is home safe and sound).
When my spouse was deployed, I asked my parents to come celebrate with me and my two young girls as well as another military family whose spouse was also be away. Surrounding ourselves with family with loved ones helped us focus more on what we have than who we are missing!
How are you handling Thanksgiving solo this year? Please share your family’s tips and plans below in the comments.
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