I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for what it’s like raising a child without your own family around. For me, it’s the little things. Not being able to head over to my sister’s for a playdate with our babies and a quick catchup over coffee. Or call my mom to come over and babysit. My family (with whom I’m very close) is scattered around the country and globe and for my little family of three, it’s just us. I know there’s millions of people like us, my own parents (and my husband’s) also left their homelands and raised their families far away from their relatives. But for me personally, it’s been one of the hardest parts of motherhood.
It’s odd that somehow until I had my daughter, I missed my family of course but my husband and I were so busy with our work/travel/friends/etc that somehow the distance between us didn’t seem so great. We were also childless so flying to see family/friends on a whim was much more accessible ha!
As soon as she arrived that all changed in an instant. When your life revolves around caring for the needs of a young, helpless child, all of a sudden there’s nothing you want more than your mom. Ironic really. As a teen and in my early 20s, I wanted to “be on my own” and now it’s the exact opposite. I crave that community feeling of having close family and friends nearby as I raise my daughter. I have friends who do have this kind of support and it really is amazing. I hope to one day have that kind of support but for now, it is what is is.
I’m also raising my daughter in a totally different place than the one I grew up in (I know I know not exactly a novel concept) but it does make a difference! I’m trying to find my groove and create some sort of a community for my daughter and our family but it’s a work in progress. However, since I don’t want to make this post all depressing about how much I miss those closest to me (though I do very much) here are my tips for keeping connected with family that lives far when raising a child.
WhatsApp has been a lifesaver for me. I have a family chat with my immediate family members and since the moment my daughter arrived have kept them up to date on all her achievements, both big and small. In the early days, there were daily photos/videos (back when all she did was lay there and look cute lol). Nowadays, chasing after a very busy toddler the frequency of my photo/video sending has dwindled a bit but I still manage to send a ton of stuff. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber are easier for group chats and you’re also able to send much higher quality photos and videos.
This has kept my family connected to her, even from afar. Reading their responses and interactions always makes my day. Since we communicate so often through this medium, when we do see each other it feels like no time has passed because we are all up to date about what is going on in our lives.
I also have a group text with all my long distance besties (both mamas and friends without kiddos) and it really does keep us so connected. I love catching up with everyone and seeing what they’re doing and sending pics and videos. Of course, nothing can replace physically spending time with someone but honestly this is a pretty close second.
OK so texting is great but sometimes, Grandma and Grandpa just wants to see their granddaughter. Enter video chatting. One of my greatest fears about raising my daughter away from my own parents is that she wouldn’t get to know them and connect with them in a meaningful way since her physical contact with them is limited to a few trips a year. Luckily, video chatting has made that part so much easier. From a young age, I’d video chat as often as I could so that my daughter could see the faces of all these family members I spoke of. Things did get tricky once she got old enough to be interested in the phone (and figured out what the big red button does haha) but I usually manage to get at least a couple minutes in.
The digital age has brought many advances, but I’m also a huge fan of good old fashioned photos. I have photos of our families hung throughout our home and starting from a very young age, I pointed out family members and who they were to to my daughter. Basically, I was determined she get to know my family somehow even if she couldn’t physically see them. I think it definitely helps because now at 20 months when I point to pictures she rattles off names of family members and knows exactly who everyone is, which makes this mama very, very happy.
I also created a photo book with our closest family members and their names and read that to my daughter practically every day. It’s such a sweet, simple way to keep family and friends close to you and your little one. I got the board book of names and faces from Pinhole Press and have been very impressed with how its held up!
And of course, visit as often as you can.
My parents only live a state away so it’s not too far of a flight thank goodness. My siblings and close friends live in NY/NJ though so that’s a little tougher to get to, but I still do my best. My daughter has been on 20+ airplanes in her 20 months of life, all in the name of staying connected to the people I love (and for me to stay sane if I’m being honest!) I know not everyone has the ability to travel as much as we have and I’m insanely grateful for being able to do so. Now that she’ll be turning two soon and we’ll have to pay for her ticket as well, I know our travel will be drastically reduced so I’ll be relying on technology more than ever to stay close to my loved ones!
Again, I know raising children far from your own family is nothing new. The world we live in today has changed dramatically, people move away from their families for all sorts of reasons and many new parents are left without the proverbial village to help raise their children. But it doesn’t make it any less difficult. There are many lonely days in motherhood (along with countless amazing moments of course) but staying connected to those you love — both near and far — is incredibly important, both for yourself and your little one. <3
Photo by Margo Photography