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Not Without My Husband

By Amalah

I have a question that’s more a “what do other people do in this situation?”

Background – Spouse and I have family mostly in our state, but one of my parents lives several states away. In the past we’ve traveled there together for holidays, but I’ve occasionally gone by myself if his schedule doesn’t work with the planned visit. All fine and good – it’s my family after all.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesNow we have an 18 month old. Her first year we made a “no traveling for holidays” rule and it worked fine. This year, we’ve been planning a family trip for Thanksgiving. The original plan was for all three of us to travel with several other family members to my aunt’s house (which happens to be a short distance from my out of state parent.) Now it looks like spouse’s work schedule won’t allow for that trip. It’s not a matter of asking for time off – He has occasional big company events that he has to attend. We haven’t made a final decision about the trip, but he is (obviously) leaning towards us all staying home. He wouldn’t get angry if I insisted on going anyway, but I feel like I shouldn’t want to go if he can’t.

Am I selfish for wanting to go anyway? Of course I hate to have him spend the holiday without us, but he’ll be working all but Thanksgiving day. This means the majority of the holiday is me home alone with a toddler and no one else around while the rest of my family is off having fun. He has plenty of family in the area so it’s not like he’ll be alone on Thanksgiving day. I feel like a horrible person for even suggesting that he stay home and let us go, but I really want to go… Is this just one of those things that you have to do when you have a kid – stay home if both parents can’t travel? Our work schedules are such that this may come up again. We never travel to see any of his out of town family (his choice) so there’s not equivalent situation on his side.


Is staying home if both parents can’t travel just “one of those things that you have to when you have a kid”? Uhh, not that I’ve heard? Or done? In fact, I have indeed traveled to visit family with my child yet without my spouse.

I actually thought your question was going in a completely different direction — that your out-of-state family was putting pressure on you to make a trip you didn’t want to make because they wanted to see the baaaaaby, and you were going to ask if you had an obligation to leave your husband home alone and go supply the requested grandchild at Thanksgiving. To which I would have answered: Dude, it’s your family and your holiday, do whatever YOU want to do.

But then I read that you actually DO want to make the trip, which is really nice, and you know I’m a fan of fostering whatever extended family bonds you can after having kids, and…I’m not sure my answer is any different. You say your husband won’t get angry — I sense he might be a little bummed out at being alone, but this isn’t exactly a new thing with this job I take it? Just extra annoying timing? — and he won’t really be alone-alone on Thanksgiving, thanks to in-town family. I’d say what IS more of “one of those things” you do after having kids is…well, take the kid home for holidays, even when the situation isn’t 100% ideal, because that’s often the only time extended family gets to see them.

But that’s really not what’s going on here. It doesn’t sound like your family is putting pressure on you (YAY FAMILY!), and that you just want to spend Thanksgiving with them like you have in the past, but feel guilty about…taking your daughter away from her father for the holiday? Breaking the united three-person front of your household? Understandable, but…having a baby shouldn’t mean forfeiting all things beyond your new little family, especially if you don’t WANT to.

Talk to your husband and tell him how you feel. That you really want to make the trip anyway, for a lot of reasons. That while you know it will suck to not all be together on Thanksgiving day, you’re just not sure trading all those lonely days before and after Thanksgiving while he works non-stop is an even trade for you. Maybe work out a compromise of making the trip a little shorter? Promise to bring a laptop and webcam with you, so he can see and talk to his daughter? Work out a bargain involving where to spend the December holidays?

If he reacts by throwing his arms around your shins and wailing “don’t leeeeeeeeave meeee!” then maybe you might need to talk things over a little more and re-think just how badly you want to go. But I don’t sense that will happen. I sense you maybe just need to hear that traveling alone on Thanksgiving to see family is not some crazy unheard-of cardinal sin of new motherdom. Because it’s not. Really, just…not.

Published September 10, 2010. Last updated July 22, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kathleen

    September 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    This is a common issue in my household – my husband is a pilot, and regularly flies on holidays/holiday weeks. Two things that help us both feel better:
    1) Find a way for the “abandoned” spouse to spend the holiday with people so they’re not miserably alone and you’re not miserably guilty (sounds like that’s not a problem for you).
    2) Give the holiday a redo when you’re together, either just the three of your or with the in-town family. We hold at least two thanksgivings every year (weekend before, weekend after, whenever it fits), so we always get to hold one of them as a family. And we get extra turkey dinner (yum). 

  • NinaN

    September 10, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Yeah, what she said…. I don’t really see what the issue is here. You want to go, you’re hubby doesn’t mind if you go, you’re family wants you there……. so what’s the problem?
    What I found weird was an unstated issue perhaps with HIS in town family. Doesn’t sound as if you feel very welcome with them or perhaps don’t want to spend time with them. Did anyone else get that feeling or is it just my 37 weeks hormones making stuff up???

  • Diana

    September 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    My hudband honestly loves it when I take our son out of town to see his grandparents, while he stays home (and vice versa). The parent staying home feels like they are getting a mini-vacation from parenthood, with the added bonus of not being required to travel with a toddler or spend time making small talk with the inlaws.
    Your husband may feel differently, but if I told my husband that he was not required to show up at my family’s Thanksgiving this year, he would probably jump for joy.

  • Rachel

    September 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Can you spend Thanksgiving day with your husband at home and then use the rest of the holiday weekend to see your family? Seems like the best of both worlds; your husband isn’t lonely on Thanksgiving and your extended family still gets a long weekend with you and your daughter…

  • maresi

    September 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    My husband has not been able to travel to my parents’ home (3 hour flight away, 24 hour drive – not that we’ve done it because we treasure our sanity) since 2007. My kids and I have gone about 10 times without him, because if we felt like we needed to stay home to be with my husband (whose work schedule is erratic), we’d never ever ever see my family. I carry photos to make sure they know he still exists, and it’s all fine. I say go enjoy Thanksgiving with your family.

  • Bee

    September 12, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    My dad was a police officer when I was growing up. He worked shift work and only had weekends off every 3rd month, in addition to frequently having to work on holidays. If my mom wanted to do holidays with her family out of town, or just a visit and my dad had to work, we still went. As she said, if we had waited for him to be able to go, we would never have gon anywhere!

  • Therese

    September 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I so feel your guilt here. My husband is a pilot and gone a lot! He also works a lot of holidays. I always feel bad that he can’t always be with us for lots of important family functions (not just holidays). However, he is very supportive of me and (and now our son) doing as much as we can. There really is no reason for everyone to miss out on the family fun if it’s at all avoidable. I second the earlier commenter that said can you do an alternate day with him. I too have had multiple Thanksgiving/Christmas dinners with my husband’s crazy work schedule.

  • C

    September 15, 2010 at 4:05 am

    We live in Singapore. My husband is going to get a couple weeks around Thanksgiving to go home, but I want a longer trip. So E and I are flying out ahead of time and he’ll join us later. Sure I could just fly with him (which would be a billion times easier than flying 10k miles with a 2 year old by myself), but I’m going to be “selfish” and get some extra time with our families and our friends. And I’m really not feeling any guilt over it.