The Pros and Cons of Living Far from Family

We live far away.

Far, far away from everyone.

My parents and siblings (+family) live on the East Coast and my husband’s family lives in the midwest. Relatively, they all live close to each other. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law, for instance, literally live across the street from each other. The cousins all get to play. The grandparents all get to be involved. People show-up to school plays and birthday parties. Thanksgiving is a lively rendezvous.

In so many ways, we miss out on this closeness with our family. We feel this everyday. We struggle with it. We were never trying to escape or get away from our wonderful families in our ventures to the West Coast – it is just what happened. Now, here we are, rooted in this area with a house, kids, jobs, commitments, friends – lives. Does anyone else struggle with this? 

My husband and I go through the “should we move?” exercise at least twice a year. Normally, I can count on it coming at least around the holidays, and once again when things get tough — we don’t have the support we need for the kids in super pinch, or something happens with someone else’s health or wellbeing in our extended family. The urge to pack up our bags and yell ‘adios!’ to this place surges over us before we come back down to the ground- this is our home, this is our place, this is our team. But, is it?

Our personal pros and cons of living far away from our family:

Pros

We Get to Choose to Live in a Place We Love

We live in a uniquely amazing place. This isn’t a humble brag. This is a legit brag. It’s nice (to straight-up wonderful) most of the year! But not too nice where you get totally bored with it – we have a variations of seasons to keep us happy. 

Overall, it is beautiful. I mean, freaking gorgeous. The mountains, the trees, the ocean, the views, the vegetation. Going on hikes or run (depending on your exact choice, I suppose) is a “pinch me! Is this f-ing real?” experience, in our backyards or close enough to. We are a hop, skip and jump from Redwood Forests, Tahoe for skiing, Yosemite National Park for a quick weekend jaunt, the Pacific Ocean for an afternoon! The Golden Gate Bridge? Breathtaking views of the Bay? Oh, just right over there. It’s just amazing. How do we live such a dream? People save up their whole lives to experience just a week of what we get to see and do on a weekly, monthly, basis. We have been lucky, blessed, to dig ourselves into this little nook of ours. 

There is a Lot Here For us 

There are tons of jobs. Tons of friends. Tons of opportunity for growth in many ways. For the kids – the possibilities for experience, learning, and development, are countless. This just happens to be an area with a strong focus on enrichment – people with energy, time, money and brain power behind that to keep it fueled. We are the appreciative benefactors here. 

We Bring Something Unique to the Table 

Being here offers us a unique perspective on the world and we “bring that to the table.” If we had just stayed where we were, we’d be potentially miss out on bringing something new and different to the discussion and experience. The same goes the other way around too. Being out here, away from our family, lends us to see and understand their views and experiences differently. We appreciate them and their lives in a greater way. It keeps all our conversations and relationships interesting and fresh in a way I never expected. 

We Go Out of Our Way to be Connected 

Being physically far from our families forces us to be close in other ways. I Facetime my parents with the kids at least 2-3 times a week. I call my parents, without the kiddos, at least once or twice a week. 

We text, we e-mail. 

I update our photostream of the kids and our lives (to our parents and siblings) on a daily basis.

We visit, they visit. For good, solid, quality visits. 

We do all sorts of other small things – like “family books” for the kids with pictures of all their grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles, and talk about everyone. We record videos of my parents reading children’s books so the kids can get “Papa” or “Ama” to read to them ‘anytime they want.’ We just recently send a digital photo frame to my parents to be placed smack dab in the middle of their house so they can see new photos of the kids every day. 

If we actually lived near them, I know this kind of effort would be different (uhmmm… like a huge reduction). Why would I post 20 pictures and videos of the kids and our little family for them to see if we live 20 minutes away? Would I really talk to them as much if I could just see them a couple times a month instead?  Family books? Who has time to make that. 

Sometimes I think – perhaps the hours of quality time we get on visits and connecting by phone and Facetime out number the hours I would actually have with them if we lived near each other. Maybe. 

We Design Lives We Like (not just those we might have fallen into)

People design their lives anywhere – whether that is their hometown or some galaxy far, far, away. But the box around what your life can be is most definitely defined by your place and environment to some degree – whether that means the people, opportunities, job market, experiences available, social structure or other. We got to pick this place, it was an active choice to be here and make it into what we want. Perhaps moving “home” would just be a new design – a great design – but is it exactly what we want it to be? It’s hard to know. 

We Have Roots Here

Our friends are here. Great, great friends. Our professional networks. Our social networks. We are in the know. We have roots that reach far out in so many aspects of our lives. We have spent over 10 years building this up. 

Cons

We Are Missing Out 

We are missing out huge on family. On our nieces and nephews growing up. We are the aunt and uncle who live far away. Perhaps these are the last 10-20 really good years of our parents lives and we are missing them. We are surely missing the family get togethers, trading favors and helping out our brothers and sisters. 

The Kids are Missing Out

Our kids? They aren’t in on the tight knit cousins crew. They don’t get that same closeness with their grandparents. No one is showing up to their soccer games and school plays anytime soon. Not unless Facetime counts. The people who take care of them in a pinch? We pay those people to care. 

It’s Tough. It’s Painful. 

See above. Heartbreak

We Sense Future Regret 

For now, it all seems “fine” to be far away – but what happens when our parents can’t take long plane rides to see us anymore? What happens when their health is failing them and we never got that time to enjoy together on a normal basis as adults? Ya know, these year as active and healthy grandparents – when we live thousands of miles away. 

Our nieces and nephews who we simply adore from afar – we are going to miss their growing up and then soon enough they are going to be in high school, college, and they aren’t our little nieces and nephews anymore. They will be adults who we barely know. 

Our kids – are they going to feel bitter about not getting to be close with their extended family? How will their memories be of their childhood? I for one remember spending gobs of time with my own grandparents and miss them everyday. 

It’s a Rat Race

We are on a treadmill we can’t get off, and frankly it is just going faster and faster.

Everything I said about this place being amazing? Beautiful, growing, developing? With jobs growing on trees? Fun, exciting interesting things to do for the kids and for us?

It all comes with a price tag. A huge, gigantic, stressful, daunting price tag. An actual real money price tag – and all that goes along with that – anxiety in making sure ends meet,  a sense of never ending competition, a sense of excessive luxury that is always out of grasp, a lack of time as energy and hours are sucked away into just affording to be here, to fit in, to stay put, to make it all work. Sometimes when I am talking to someone who is looking to move to the Bay Area, I want to scream, don’t do it!! You’ll love it too much and get stuck and it’s all very hard in the end! Go somewhere else! Rat race, as they say.

Sorry folks – there is no exciting conclusion here. Like, hey ya’ll, here we go! Moving day! We are bound to have this discussion a hundred more time and decisions feel like that are always out of grasp. Does anyone else struggle with this? Has anyone else make the decision to move home or move away and have advise? I’d love to hear it!

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