Living away from family is hard, but living away from family once you’ve started raising a family of your own is… Well, really hard.
It’s not just the shortage of babysitters for random date nights or the holiday celebrations that are lacking family hugs and big meals shared. In fact, that’s not even half the struggle. More than those big things, it’s the day-to-day experiences like trips to the park that are missed, clothes that are outgrown before even seen worn, and new words being constantly added to their vocabulary but not heard that crush our spirits.
Us “geographically family-less” most definitely appreciate the benefits that technology affords us, but short of being on FaceTime 24/7 (and isn’t it illegal to FaceTime and drive?), there is nothing that modern day amenities can do to combat the struggle we are up against when distance separates us from our families.
Maybe those most sensitive to the challenge of raising a family without our own family nearby are delicate because of our own upbringing. It could be that we shared the good fortune of being short drives from our grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles at any given moment, and that is what causes us to struggle with distance a little more than the rest, and possibly a little more than we should. Yes, home is where the heart is, but sometimes your heart can be a little bit split between here and there.
Everytime we recall what it was like to spend the night with our grandparents, watch cartoons and eat really good toast with really fake butter with our cousins on a Saturday morning, or look into the audience from the stage during school play and see many onlookers there to support us...maybe those memories are what make the distance suck the most for us.
When family is nearby, it isn’t often that typical days or holidays are spent with just Mom or Dad. Instead, memories are created because of the quality and quantity of the time shared with the whole clan. But when you don’t have family close enough for the daily visits or weekly sleepovers, there becomes a deep a void that is hard to fill, and the feeling of somehow depriving our children of those memories is one that hits us hard.
The other piece of this that strikes an emotional cord, and can feel like a major slap in the face, is hearing other people “complain” about having too much family around, as if the presence of helping hands creates a constant dilemma for them. As humans, we naturally explore what life would be like on the other side of the fence, but when the shortest drive to get to your family is ten hours (one way), it can be heart wrenching to listen to the neighbor complain about how many family members they HAD to host for Easter dinner and how they simply will never have enough seats at any T-ball game because their entire family demands to come, every week.
But just because our families aren’t physically with us all the time, doesn’t mean we spend our days sitting around alone. In fact, it’s quite the opposite… To the local friends who stand in as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for each of our little ones when our own families can’t constantly be around, thank you! We appreciate your presence, the park trips and neighborhood walks with you, your hugs, the babysitting services you provide so that we can take a date night, and you sitting through T-ball games filling up seats for us. You make us feel loved, cared for and supported, and even though we are not related by blood, we are connected in deep and meaningful ways.
As hard as it is to do this whole parenting gig without the nearby support of our own families, there is a silver lining to this scenario (or at least we will fake it until we make it), and that’s this… Since we don’t have family nearby to help us get through the “normal” days and celebrate the exceptional ones, we MAKE a family. When a major piece is missing in our life, our friends become our family because that is exactly what friends are for.
And the added bonus… We will never have to worry about having too many people over for Easter dinner.
Brittney Stefanic is a pediatric sleep consultant and mother of one. She gets that when you don't sleep, you don't function -- even if you do have family nearby. You can find out more about what she does here.