When I moved away from my family 10 years ago, I didn’t just move down the street, I moved to another country. As a single 25-year-old with minimal responsibilities, I didn’t consider how that would affect my relationship with my family down the road. I could just hop on a plane and see them! Easy enough, right? . . . Wrong.
To be fair, the first five years were that easy.
My husband (fiancé at the time) and I enjoyed our kid-free lifestyle living in our uptown Dallas apartment. We made the quick flight to Toronto whenever we wanted to see my very large (and I might add, very fun) family. We could easily afford the direct flight and truly looked forward to our visits for holidays and special occasions.
The next five years were quite different.
We got married, moved to Albuquerque, and had two children. While Albuquerque is a city I’ve grown to love so much, traveling to Toronto is unfortunately a much longer journey. Now, the trip to see my family always includes a layover, and it is an entire day’s endeavor. It is also a much more expensive flight, especially since we have a two and a four-year-old to tow along with us. Instead of seeing my family three or four times a year, we are lucky to get there once.
Our trips are quite different than before. Our once blissful, carefree, vacation-like experience in Toronto is now all about the girls. Instead of planning fun adult outings, we organize the kids’ sleeping arrangements and attempt to keep them from getting sick and ruining the whole thing!
I will admit, there are pros to this situation.
Namely: I can do whatever I want without certain family members having opinions (ahem . . . insert over-opinionated British grandmother). And I don’t have to deal with family members just “dropping by” unannounced. But mostly, I feel guilty we aren’t there more, that my girls don’t see their extended family on a regular basis, and our visits can sometimes be stressful for everyone.
I know it will get easier as the girls get older. They will need less “stuff” to be comfortable on the flight and when we stay at my parents’ house. If they get a runny nose, it won’t be the end of the world. But right now, it’s tough.
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We have numerous plans for the future and have thought long and hard about how we will involve our families more in our lives. I’ve spent many moments trying to problem-solve this for us.
If you are living far from family, I hope these tips will help you with the “living-far-away guilt”:
- Always have a plan of when you will see each other next before you say goodbye.
- Focus on holidays–try your best to be around each other when you know you’ll miss family the most.
- Keep constant communication via text/email/socials–ensure they feel involved in your life.
- Video chats are a great way to help the kids put a face to a family member’s name.
- Have an open-door policy of “come visit whenever you want!” Make all family members feel welcome.
- Don’t feel bad if certain trips aren’t the best–focus on the positive moments from every trip and learn for the next one!
- Make a “plane ticket fund,” a separate savings account that automatically takes a small amount out of every paycheck, perfect for an unexpected trip or when you really miss family and need that last-minute flight.
- Make it your mission to find a job that will allow longer periods away from the office or a remote working situation. Being able to stay longer has always helped us tremendously.
- Use a photo-printing service such as Chatbooks to regularly send printed photos to older family members who don’t use social media. These are also great for kids to read and remember their time with the family.
And most of all: If you are happy where you live, make sure your family knows that. If they love you, they’ll be happy if you are happy. As a mom myself, I already know all I want for my girls is for them to be safe, happy, fulfilled, and excited about life.
For me, even though I grew up in a beautiful place, I knew from a young age that I would probably move away. Personally, living in the US has provided me with more opportunities and flexibility than I would have had in my hometown. Beyond that, our home in Albuquerque was extremely affordable, and being a homeowner was one of my biggest goals.
This quote always brings meaning to my situation living far from family:
Life takes us to unexpected places, but love brings us home again.
Do you live far from family? If so, what would you add to this list?
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.