Holidays With a RailRoader

Holidays With a RailRoader

So it is one of my favorite past times every year to explain our family Christmas situation to everyone. For those with family down the street, it could be easier. But for those traveling for the holidays farther than 2 hours, it gets pretty sticky.

Railroad women are a rare animal that solo-parent roughly 80-100% of the time. We are not SINGLE, but nonetheless could very well find ourselves alone during the holidays. When my RR (railroader) and I were in the military, we were able to anticipate when we would be apart. The railroad is very different and very spontaneous.

For ease of everyone, here is a quick and easy way to share with your family and friends why you cannot accurately answer their holiday invitation:

  1. Unless we say no, the answer will be “I don’t know” consistently until about 2 hours before your event. Until that 2 hour window, it is impossible to give even a  “maybe yes” or “maybe no” as to if my spouse will be able to attend. We are just as frustrated as you might be. The reason is because…
  2. There is not a schedule. If there is a schedule, it could change at a moment’s notice and is completely out of our hands. The above mentioned 2 hours is being generous. Other circumstances nullify that 2 hour window. Bottom line is, it is a game day decision if I have to strong arm the kids by myself or if I will have help.
  3. If you are farther than one hour away, its either all of us or none of us on Christmas Day. The big kicker is that I don’t want my RR home alone, without his family on Christmas Day. Whether that is waiting for a call to go to work, coming home to an empty house, or us leaving him to go to another Christmas without him. I don’t want that.
  4. We would be happy to compromise but without set dates. I know this is nearly impossible for most people, but this is our life. As much as we love and appreciate you, our priorities our different because the RR is our livelihood.
  5. We WANT TO GO TO YOUR EVENT! But because of number one we don’t want you to count on us being there or not make enough food in case we are able to come.

In some cases, we can make it but it’s just us (myself and the kids). Please understand our spouse wishes they could spend time with you and us during this time of year (or birthday or anniversaries or anything else for that matter). It is hard on them as it is hard on us doing these things alone.

If anything, what we want for the holidays is understanding. Send us home with an extra plate of food, or be available when we are together. It is not easy, but it is especially not easy having to come up with colorful analogies to help you understand why we cannot give you a solid answer.

For more RR wife stories, you can check out these 6 Facts, The Condition of the Railroad Wife and A Snap Shot of Life on the Extra Board.

Share as needed with friends and family and have a Happy Holiday Season.


Dacia Arnold is an author that struggles to find a balance of work, motherhood, marriage, writing, and the occasional craft. Her first full length novel, Apparent Power, is in the works to be released December 2018. Dacia served 10 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and deployed twice to Iraq and often incorporates these experiences into her writings both fiction and non-fiction. She currently lives in Denver, Co with her husband, two children, and a fat beagle named Watson.

Reader Comments

    1. This one rings so true with me. It’s very hard when you live life according to the RR. My family is 5 hours away, it has taken many years for them to understand I can’t plan my trip to come for Christmas. Like you, I am not willing to leave my RR at home on the holiday. Although we have spent Christmas waiting on him to get home. We’ve had to make a 10 hour round trip in spend a few hours with my family after Christmas because the boards went crazy and he was going to be called in…. Holidays with the railroad are tough!!

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