Submitted by an anonymous reader
As the seasons shift (unless you live in Hawaii or Guam) the pumpkin patch photos, cute kids trick or treating, and family merriment over Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, etcetera are coming! This always seems to be turbocharged amongst the submarine community where I feel there’s an unwritten rule of at least three gourds and one “it’s fall y’all” sign per base household. It’s meant to be a time of joy and gratitude and – don’t get me wrong – I’m already stocking up on recipes for leftover turkey. Yum!
However, the holiday season can be tough for many sub families; whether loved ones are deployed, you’re far from home, or have difficult family dynamics. They can be even harder for those who’ve been trying to grow their family to no avail. Halloween is a stream of cute kids in costumes knocking on your door for hours. For those that observe Christmas, it’s literally about the birth of Jesus. There is no avoiding the way kids and the holidays go hand in hand.
I’ve decided to list a few seasonal situations and solutions that I hope will help folks like me manage the months to come:
Someone asking when you’re going to have kids
Something about the holidays makes this question come up all the time, often from people you don’t even know that well. Your reaction really depends on your relationship with the person and whether it’s an innocent overstep or not. If I know the person well enough, I’ll share that we’ve been trying for a long time and it’s been much harder than we thought it would be. If you don’t know the person as well, you could say something more vague like, “We’re working on it”. If it’s someone that’s asked repeatedly or pushing too far, you can be more blunt like, “Talking about this is really bad for my mental health so I need to step away from this conversation.” While these questions can be really upsetting it might me helpful to remember people are generally asking because they think you’d make good parents. With that good intention in mind, you can still respond in a way that might help them think twice before asking in the future.
Feeling triggered by cute baby, kid, and pregnancy moments
As things continue to open up, there’ll be more trick or treating and holiday parties. Depending on the day, I might think it’s adorable or burst into tears… or both. You need to work out for yourself where you draw the line. On hard days, I’ve made a habit of sending a quick text ahead of catch ups with pregnant or mom friends just to let them know what’s going on and they’ve all been really understanding. For bigger events, like FRG events with kids, you can either decline or go but give yourself permission to leave early if it just isn’t a good space for you to be in. On the virtual side of things, you might also consider a social media break or at least limiting this on tougher days.
Sadness over missed milestones
This was definitely hard for me in 2020 as I really thought we’d be celebrating our baby’s first Christmas last year. The magnanimous thing to do is be grateful for what you do have. Maybe that’s easier travel to see friends and family without pregnancy discomfort or a crying baby. If you want to balance out that magnanimity with some gluttony, you can also enjoy things that might otherwise be off limits. Soft cheeses? Don’t mind if I do. Sushi? Yes please. New Years Eve champagne? Cheers! It may not be the healthiest approach but sometimes you have to make your own small victories.
Even though these might not feel like happy holidays as you go through the challenges of trying to grow your family, hopefully you feel less alone after reading this and are able to find joy and gratitude in other parts of your full life beyond parenthood. We’ve all made it through milestones during underways or submarine schedule changes so, if anyone can get through this it’s you!