I never really stuck around my "hometown" after I graduated high school. In fact, I left as soon as possible and never really looked back. Instead, I went far away to college and then moved a little closer (and back home for a year) when my parents divorced and then ended up clear across the country for work. On one hand, it's nice to live far away from my family, so that my new, immediate family can grow and bond and have our own experiences. On the other hand, there are struggles parents who live far away from their families understand; struggles that can make the decision to live far away from "grandpa" and "grandma," feel like nothing more than a gigantic mistake.
I'm about as far away from my mother as I could physically be while still living in the United States. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska, while my new family and I live in New York City, New York. While living in this specific city doing my specific job is one of my lifelong dreams (and something I wasn't going to give up just to be close to my mother), having a child and living far away from my own mom is difficult and stressful and exhausting and, honestly, a never-ending source of guilt. Sometimes, I just want my mom. Sometimes, it would be nice to have a built-in, free babysitter. Sometimes, I yearn for my son to be able to simply "hop on over to grandma's house" and have fun and play, instead of planning an elaborate, expensive trip clear across the country. There's a balance, to be sure, there are just days when I'm not sure I'm attaining it.
So, while it's nice to feel like it really is just my family of three and that we really are paving our own way and creating our own life, it's also stressful to feel like we're on our own. The following struggles are definitely something every parent who is far away from "grandma" and "grandpa" can relate to, because babysitters are expensive, you guys.
I envy my friends who live just a few minutes (or even hours) away from their parents, and can drop their kid off with "grandma" or "grandpa" whenever they want, so they can go off and do grown-up, adult things. I can't imagine how nice that must be. Instead, my partner and I have to either shell out a boatload of money for a babysitter (that's, honestly, difficult to find in the first place) or wait for my mom to visit, so she can stay home with the baby and we can have a well-deserved night out on the town. Yeah, that's mean we only get a night to ourselves about once every three months (at the earliest).
While I loved the space that my new family had, especially in the beginning, it was also difficult to not feel alone. I mean, it really was just the three of us, and when things were super stressful and my partner and I hadn't slept in god knows how long and we were at the end of our proverbial rope; it was hard not feel like we were on our own and without a lifeline to fall back on. That can be a scary, exhausting, debilitating feeling. In those moments, I would have given anything to have my mom just a few minutes away.
My mother lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and my partner's family lives in a small town in Wisconsin. I don't have a single, solitary desire to go back to Alaska and call that place home. Likewise, there's not even the smallest part of me that wants to live in Wisconsin. Still, when we're far away from family and we're missing them and we want them to experience something super awesome that our son has done (or help us out when he's been super frustrating), I can't help but feel homesick.
It. Is. Ridiculous. I mean, it truly is a privilege to be able to afford to visit family members during the holidays (or, really, any time at all). The price of airfare spikes at specific times during the year and, now that our son is two, we have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a small child to sit on a plane and then there's the extra money you end up forking over for the amount of bags we have to check (and when you travel with a child, you check a lot of bags).
When you're a small family, every penny truly does count (well, at least it does for my family). The ability to visit two sets of grandparents, costs an obscene amount of money that, really, very few people actually have.
Oh, the annual guilt trips that I know are just waiting for me during certain times of the year. If I haven't seen my mother in a while, I will hear a few choice words if we decide to visit my partner's parents for a few weeks in the summer. If my mother just visited, my partner will hear that one grandparent is getting to see our kid more than the other. You really, and truly, can't make everyone happy, and it's exhausting.
Because my partner and I have yet to find a money tree in the backyard we don't have, we have to decide who we'll be visiting in a year (and how many visits we can actually afford in said year). This means, as previously mentioned, that someone is going to get their feelings hurt and we're going to feel like garbage because of it. It's the worst, because you really just want to somehow transport everyone you love to the same town and make one visit to accommodate. Science, you're failing us.
On the one hand, holidays with a kid are the absolute best. Their excitement makes all the stress more than worth it. On the other hand, that stress is nothing short of overwhelming, and usually exacerbated by grandparents who are upset that you're not coming to visit. In fact, forking over a few thousand dollars in order to visit families during the holidays is essentially the default choice you're required to make. Your parents expect you to visit.
Like I said, it's the default choice. It's hardly ever a question of "when" you're going to visit, but more a question of "when" you're going to visit and for "how long" you're going to visit and if they should start planning meals now, or just a few weeks before you inevitably arrive because you're definitely visiting. No questions asked, my friend.
It's the one conversation I really don't like having, but have definitely forced myself to have because I want to spend time with my new, immediate family, too. It's not easy telling my mother that we won't be visiting for Christmas or that she will have to send presents; but, sometimes, my family needs the room and space to make our own memories and start our own traditions. To me, that's just as important as visiting family. Plus, it's expensive, you guys. So. Freakin'. Expensive.
This one's a big one, and one that gives me the most anxiety and make me feel the most guilt about deciding to live far away from my mother, after I became mother. I am acutely aware of how fast time flies, and I want my son to have experiences with my mother that I couldn't possibly provide for him. I want him to love visiting grandma and I want him to remember her and love her and look forward to seeing her. That can't happen if we don't see her on a regular basis. I worry that he will miss out on some grandparent-bonding time if I don't fork over the cash and visit regularly. However, with work and bills and travel and just daily responsibilities, it's impossible to visit as often as I (or my mother) would like.
I hear there's a balance to this whole parenthood thing. If you find it, please let me know.