When Your Loved One Works on a Holiday


We’re coming into the most exciting time of the year for most families. A time of togetherness. Gift giving. Seeing the joy of the holidays reflected in the eyes of grandparents and grandchildren alike. But for many families, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years are just another day of work. Sometimes with overtime benefits, sometimes not.

As a nurse turned stay at home mom with a spouse that still has those crazy hours, I have a few tips to support families with atypical work schedules, whether your own or others, through the holidays. Our first responders, health care workers, military, and countless others make our world run smoothly by giving up their normal schedules to keep our holidays jolly.

Stop Putting Pressure on the Actual Day

Most of the time there is little to no control on the part of the individual on whether or not they work a specific holiday. There is usually some sort of rotation or hierarchy in an attempt to keep things fair, so passive aggressive statements about spending Thanksgiving with family will only place further stress on your loved one even if your intent is to commiserate.

Instead, if celebrating with your loved one is truly important to you, pick another day! Go to a movie on Christmas Day and have your Santa celebration on the 26th. Save a gaggle and buy your turkey on Black Friday…come on. Who doesn’t love turkey humor?

Respect Rest

I spent one Thanksgiving with my now husband’s family…after being awake all night working in the ICU. They offered plenty of times for me to go and lie down, but being the new girl, I felt too guilty. I knew many coworkers who weren’t so lucky. Some nurses I knew got off work, just in time to host a twenty person feast, grab a quick nap and head back in to work that night.

I wish more families would understand that yes, being together is so important, but being on your A game when you have a high-stress job is vital. If your loved one needs police/fire/health on a federal holiday, I hope those responding didn’t get guilt-tripped into a missed nap. Of course, it’s primarily on the worker to get needed rest, but we all know how powerful a Grandma stare can be.

Make Extra Food

Sometimes the stars align and holiday shifts are slower than normal and the greatest things would happen…POTLUCKS! There is nothing better on a nursing unit than a potluck lunch. Sure it gets quickly put on the back burner when a new admission arrives or a code blue happens, but those moments of normal when working a holiday are indescribable. Sitting and eating Sarah’s aunt’s famous mashed potatoes with Anna’s cousin’s pie while chatting about normal things makes all the difference when you can’t be with family. Especially when a holiday falls in the middle of a long stretch of shifts, making extra of whatever yumminess says holiday in your home for your loved one to take to work will bring a little piece of your family love to everyone who has to be away from his or her family on the day.

In short, no one wants to be at work when they could be cozied up to a fire with hot chocolate and a movie marathon in the background. I am so thankful that so many people make the sacrifices that they do. I am proud to teach my children that some years Daddy will be working while we wait for Santa because people get sick every day of the year. I hope you will consider opening your table to a family with non-traditional work schedules. Please think of them over the holidays because they are on call just in case you should need them.


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