I am originally from a small town in Tennessee and when it came time for college, this baby bird wanted to fly the coop. Christian education was important to my family so when I became interested in one located here, my parents said OKC was as far as they would like me to go….so that’s where I went! Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but this small town girl was ready to see more of the world! I met my husband in college and he was even further from home that I was. Oregon was his home state and despite having some cousins that came to school here, most of his family was hours and hours away.
We graduated, got married, and both found jobs conveniently here so we stayed. We didn’t give moving back to one of our former states much thought. Then we had a kid. And I realized how important it just might be to be near my mommy!! What do I do with my baby when I’m sick?! Where is our free babysitter for date nights?! We really have to pack the house and shlep across the country for every major holiday?! Almost 5 years later, we are still here and still happy with our decision even though it comes with sadness at times. These are some ways we have managed to get through life being far away from our biological family.
Holidays. Our family is blessed to not have the jealous tension about who goes where on what holiday. I know not every family is this way, but it really works well to be flexible and forgiving. Our families are both genuinely happy to see us when they can see us. We try to split up bigger holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas between the families, but some years it doesn’t work. And it’s also ok if we have to stay here! It felt really weird the first Christmas that it was just the 3 of us, but we found ways to make it fun and new traditions that belong just to us were ok too. Friends often invite us over to join their family holiday meals if they know we will be in town and we always enjoy that. My husband’s family had a reunion last year in July and we celebrated different various holidays all weekend long (Halloween and Christmas in July were fun!) and my family will often celebrate Christmas early if we are there for Thanksgiving. If holidays are about family then you can celebrate them whenever you are together regardless of what the calendar says!
Sickness. I have been through some rough patches with my health since my daughter was born. My parents have dropped their plans to come help me in my time of need, but 10 hours is a long way to drive on short notice. What about when we get the flu or mastitis or RSV or need teeth pulled and have to take high doses of pain pills and/or anxiety drugs to get the image of the doctor bearing down to rip a tooth from your skull out of your brain?! I need my mommy! I can’t be a mommy very well when I’m down and out and if my mom can’t come and my husband can’t take off work, I’ve learned to suck it up and ask for help. It sounds easy, but it’s not. But I often will ask myself, “Katie, (I have to use the third person) if your friend called you up to say they needed babysitting during a root canal, would you really mind?” My answer is always “Of course not!” So I should probably cut myself some slack and call a friend. You can even return the favor sometime to them or offer to pay, but none of my friends have ever wanted money from helping me out and I have never felt they owed me anything either! Most people are willing and happy to help…you just have to swallow your pride and ask!
Babysitting/date nights. My marriage is important, but it is hard to put it first sometimes. By the time I’ve come home from work, meal planned, volunteered at church, folded laundry, played with a child, fed and fetched with the dog, etc I sometimes forget….oh yeah have I even talked to my husband today?! Date nights are important and although we don’t have a scheduled weekly one like some couples, we do take time for ourselves often. It would be SO handy to have a grandma in town whose house we can drop our child off at for a night…or two…or three. But instead we’ve had to rely on other sources. Offering to swap date night babysitting with friends or asking people from church are the main sources we use. Occasionally my in-laws have been to see family in Branson and they happily have taken our daughter for an extended amount of time so we get a little stay-cation here. My mother-in-law loves that time with the granddaughter that she rarely gets to see and we enjoy kid free evenings to have multiple date nights in a row!
Maintaining that bond. I was often worried that my daughter wouldn’t be close with our parents because she would only get to see them a few times a year but boy was I wrong! She loves her grandparents dearly and has never hesitated to run into their arms in the airport or storm into the house yelling “GRAMMY, I’M HERE!” as soon as we pull into the driveway. We maintain that bond through a few ways. Thanks to technology we often Skype with them. Even as a baby my mom would sing songs with hand motions to her over Skype. Now that she’s older she can show them her school work, crafts, costumes, talents, etc over the world wide web. They’ve shared in birthday parties and milestones from miles away. I also have a personal blog that I regularly update so they can see pictures of what all we are doing and how she is growing. They send letters, stickers, get well cards through the mail and she colors pictures and paints portraits to mail them. Yes it may look like a piece of trash with beads and popsicle sticks glued on it but she made it for Grandma and by golly I’m gonna send it to Grandma! I no longer worry about their bond but I worry about the grandparent detox when we leave!
Yes there are times the distance is hard to bear but we are happy in OKC and have found ways to remain close to our families even through the miles apart!
How do you keep up with your families through the distance? What ways does your child bond through the miles? What do you do for holidays?