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Friday, April 01, 2005

There is a void that never goes out

It's good to be home with my own bed and a bigger variety of clothes. Traveling for four of the past five weeks sure makes me appreciate the simple pleasures of home. And since I've been back, I've done a lot of reflecting on one of the simple pleasures of life: being with family.

It was comforting to be with family. Between my family and Father in Chief's family, they were everywhere. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and their families. What an amazing network of people to know. I have never lived near my family as an adult. I moved away from home to go to college the day before my 18th birthday. There were no summers at home (my school was year-round), and I never moved back home after college to regroup while job-hunting. For the bulk of my youth, I couldn't wait to get away from my family. I think most teenagers feel that way. And as an adult, I've ached to be near them. There's been a longing that is prevalent everyday.

That void has been amplified by the fact that I have a child now.

My youth was surrounded by family. My paternal grandparents lived three blocks one way; my maternal grandmother lived six blocks the other way; my aunt/uncle/cousins lived five houses down the street. These people were a part of our everyday lives. We got together for every birthday, no matter what day of the week it was. We spent all the major holidays together. During the summer, days were spent in my cousins' backyard pool.

My son's closest relative (besides his parents) lives 2,000 miles away. He won't have that close relationship with his grandparents that I had with mine. Yes, he knows them. But when you only see each other a couple of times a year, you live on the highs. I can't and don't blame the family. We chose to move here. We are the ones who left. I do my best to convince family to move here, but they all have their own lives there.

Mostly, those weeks on the east coast were a glimpse of what life would be like if we lived near our families as I did when I was a kid. That support network does not exist elsewhere. Yes, we have friends near and dear to our hearts. Yes, we have a fabulous child-care person who works for us a couple of hours a week. Yes, our families come to visit. Yes, we go there for special occasions. But it just isn't the same.

These relatives wanted to be with us, to spend time with Toddler in Chief. They wanted him for whole days and overnights and as much time as he could be spared before the next relative's time slot started. I trusted them to feed, bathe, diaper, drive him. They wanted me to have a break. They did this all for free.

I can imagine how life would be different for my family if relatives lived nearby. I'm envious of people who have that, and I understand why people want to move closer to home when babies are born. Having that family network would make couple's night out easier, it would make going back to school easier. It would make going back to work easier. Here in California, I've got my village, but I sometimes wish I just had a family.

7 comments:

  1. Just discovered your blog. You are a GREAT writer. Wow. Glancing through some of your previous posts it sounds like you have go through some of the same thoughts about parenting and marriage that I do. I look forward to reading you more often.

    This post, about living away from family, really hit home. We just moved, with our two toddlers, about 1,000 miles away from both sets of grandparents. It's hard to know what's best to do.

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  2. My family is on the east coast and we moved away to the midwest 9 years ago. I agree - it is hard to raise children without family nearby. Very hard.

    But on the other hand, sometimes I think the reason I'm so wonderfully close to my parents is precisely because we live 842 miles apart. It's quite possible we would drive each other batty if we were neighbors.

    We talk or email every day. They are the only reason I do my little blog - so they can read the day-to-day stuff that they are missing. It's not the same as being here, but it's as close as we can get right now.

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  3. I can relate to this post as well. Though, count yourself lucky that your family *wants* to watch Toddler In Chief when you are visiting, and encourages you to have part of your freedom back when you are there.

    We don't live near our respective families either... but when we go to visit, no on even *thinks* to ask to take the little tyke. In fact, if he gets fussy, Mom is immediately called for assistance. Very frustration and disheartening. Aren't grandparents supposed to rush in to spend time with their grandchildren? Must be something in the water, we have to beg our parents to participate.

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  4. I'm the exact opposite: my family is all within a short drive. In fact, we recently moved just down the street from my aunt & uncle and two young (elementary and middle school) cousins. My mom stops by as often as she can and sometimes picks up my son from daycare. My dad (they're divorced) is retired and likes to spend entire days with him. I don't know how we'd make it work if we lived far from the crazy bunch of 'em. (I guess we'd find a way, though.)

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  5. You're right it is really nice. We're an hour from my family which to me seems like the perfect. Not too close, but close enough for backup support. It's been a lifesaver that family's been willing to take the kids sometimes. And the close relationships they have with their relatives is also a great plus.

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  6. sometimes i feel like family is everything to me. it's what makes my life worth while. especially now that i have a kid. plus, i think extended family is good for the babies and kids. i sure wish i lived closer to my family.

    i couldn't imagine having no family.

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  7. Anonymous7:31 PM

    I have very little family - what there is is 3 hours away, my husband's family is on the other side of the world. I hardly had any family growing up, and only when I had children did I want to have close extended relatives. The plus side is you learn to do more on your own and be indenpendent. Making the best of it, isn't that what so much of life is?

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