Should we go home for Christmas -- even if we can't afford it?

We lost our house in Katrina. The family is scattered but gathering. Should we go?

By Cary Tennis
Published December 15, 2006 11:07AM (EST)

Dear Cary:

So Christmas, the so-called happiest time of the year, fast approaches, and my little family is in a tough situation. Over the last year or so, my girlfriend and I have had many stressful, good and bad, life-changing events -- we lost our home in New Orleans due to Katrina, had our first child, and eventually, after a few stops along the way, relocated to New York City.

Were a pretty tough crew, and things are going well enough generally, but our Christmas plans are now a mangled mess and I am not sure how to handle it. We planned, months ago, to join my side of the family for Christmas for five days in the middle of the country. My family is scattered to the wind, so this is a big deal for everyone. The tickets are purchased, my folks, siblings, and other relatives are traveling long distances for the holiday, and our little girl is certainly a major reason everyone is getting together this year. But now my girlfriend believes it is a bad idea for us to go for financial reasons and wants us to cancel.

On a certain level, shes right. She has just started waiting tables after staying at home with the baby for year, and we dont have much money right now, so the extra bit helps. This visit would mean she would likely lose her job, so shed have to find another one immediately upon return. My income covers most of our expenses, which are quite numerous here in New York, but well soon need to start paying a babysitter or daycare, and we should probably start paying off some of our credit card debt. We could have Christmas with her family, who live nearby and we see often, and she could work extra holiday shifts.

On the other hand, we would survive if we were to keep our plans. She will begin a career track in February that will soon net her a much more sustainable wage than waiting tables, and combined with my full-time employment, well be on solid ground later this year. There are a million waiting gigs around here, so she could start working almost immediately post-Christmas. Were not broke, rent will get paid, and Christmas is an important holiday to us. I feel like we have an obligation to our family, as we were somewhat central in the planning of this, and the other parts of my family may have planned differently (like flying here or waiting until later to get together).

I just feel like this is a no-win situation, and our communication around this sucks -- we are both frustrated with each other and cant find any common ground. I feel like if we dont go, weve deprived our child from being with my seldom-seen relatives at an important juncture in her life. My girlfriend feels like if we do go, I am not accepting financial reality and pushing her to do something that means losing her job and us losing money. So I guess I have a few questions wrapped up in this dilemma... Should I keep pushing for us to go? Should I simply go by myself? Should I take the baby along and work through an unplanned weaning process over a holiday? Should I accept this makes some financial sense and cancel on my family? You have any other ideas for us to avoid a miserable holiday ?

Thanks so much.

Stuck in Indecision

Dear Stuck,

Go. Go because the tickets are bought. Go because everybody wants to see the little girl. You will be taken care of. Go. Go because no, you shouldn't go. Go because no, it may not be so smart. Go. Go because your family is getting together. Go because you can't choose the year your family gets together. Go.

Go because the holidays are not about sensible. Go because you belong there. Go because your family needs you and you need your family and this is how you're supposed to do it. Go because this is what a family is: A family is a group that just goes. It doesn't make the sensible decisions all the time. Go because people draw strength from each other. Go because it's good to do the right thing when it's difficult. Go because you're setting a good example.

Go because it is an act of faith to do what you feel you ought to do and trust that things will work out. Go because you don't want to show weakness and fear. Go because you want to act as if things are going to work out. Go because I just bought a dining room set and a pool table and I don't want to be the only one stupid enough to get carried away with the holidays and just do what he probably can't afford and shouldn't do but what brings some joy into the world. Go because my truck needs some body work. Go because my uncle is dying. Go because I'm going to miss my family when they're gone and so are you. Go because Katrina happened and you never know. Go because waitress jobs are a dime a dozen. Go because your family needs to see that you are OK.

Go because this is the land of freedom and open spaces and just going for it. Go because you want to. Go because string theory says there are probably 11 dimensions, and in at least one of those dimensions you would be going anyway. Go because if you don't go the terrorists win. Go because I'm getting increasingly desperate. Go because I'm really grasping at straws now. Go because if you don't go my writing is going to get worse and worse. Go because self-referentiality weakens the soul and is bad for the digestion. Go. Just go. Apologize to your wife. Say it's my fault. Blame it on me. Just go.

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