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On Family



My immediate family and the Professor's immediate family at our wedding. (Yes, there were fake mustaches. Yes, my dad grew an awesome handlebar mustache for the occassion. Yes, my family is an incredibly good sport to humor me and my love of mustaches!)

My immediate family and the Professor’s immediate family at our wedding. (Yes, there were fake mustaches. Yes, my dad grew an awesome handlebar mustache for the occasion. Yes, my husband refused to sport a faux ‘stache in the photo.  Yes, my family is an incredibly good sport to humor me and my love of mustaches!)

My parents came into town this weekend to help the Professor and I with our garage sale. They came in Friday late afternoon and left Monday after breakfast. It was nice to have them around and as we finished out toast Monday morning it occurred to me that the days of them gathering around my table for eggs and toast are very numbered. 

Despite a lot of tension and differing opinions, my mother and I strive to maintain a relationship. The relationship is not always good and can occasionally be detrimental to my mental well-being  I’ve had many a therapist tell me that I need to distance myself from my mother and approach our relationship more like an acquaintance than a family member. I try, but always fail. She is my mother and I can’t just cut her out like that. And so we struggle through the emotions, the differences, the baggage, the muck. 

My mom is not in great health and is unable to fly or travel long distances. The drive from north Alabama to northern Kentucky is pretty much her max, meaning coming to see me in NYC is not an option. In a few months maintaining a relationship will fall 100% onto my plate. This is something that I’m not sure I’m ready for emotionally and that I’m certain we can’t afford financially. In addition, travel dollars and days have to be split between my family and the Professor’s family.  As it is, we visit my family way more frequently than his. Once there is a grand-baby,  a grand-baby that they paid for no less, that will have to change. 

My father is mobile, active and loves to travel. Will he come visit me without my mom, though? I highly doubt it. So these last few months are sort of it. If I weren’t so close to my due date I’d go down south for a few weekends to soak up more family time but we all know it’s not a great idea to travel after 36 weeks pregnant, especially if said travel requires a 6-7 hour car ride. 

I’m surprised by how much this bothers me due to my mother’s and my tense relationship. I was shocked when I stood in the shower yesterday and sobbed after they left. Just because we have our differences does not mean I want to cut her out of my child’s life.

I have only seen my maternal grandparents a handful of times in my life. Honestly, if they were standing behind me in the grocery line, I don’t think I would know who they were. The only reason I saw my paternal grandparents frequently is because they moved to a town near ours in Florida. Sadly they had both passed before I made it to middle school. I have one brother who is moving to Chicago in July. The Professor is an only child, with no remaining grandparents and only one aunt who he is close to, and she never had children of her own. That is the extent of our family. All spread across the U.S., all with their own set of physical, emotional and financial issues that make it hard for them to travel. 

The thought of raising a child alone is overwhelming. The thought of not having my family around my table for toast is heartbreaking. The knowledge that my child could grow up to not recognize his or her grandparents in the supermarket, well, that is just unacceptable. 

How have you overcome health, geographic and emotional challenges with family? Were you close to your grandparents growing up? 




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  1. May 28, 2013

    I wasn’t close to any of my grandparents and my parents want to be a major part of our babies’ lives. It is actually really hard for me to figure out what their role should be, since if it were up to them they would be here almost every weekend and if it were up to me it would be every 6-8 weeks. I saw my grandparents twice a year so every 6-8 weeks is pretty huge for me. That’s just my side – my husband’s mom would be happy to be here every weekend, too. Both sides are quite a distance away but it doesn’t seem to matter to them (the distance, the fact that having visitors is stressful and we don’t want people here all the time, that we don’t need their physical presence to “help” us, or whatever). So I guess it is the opposite problem. My parents have toyed with the idea of literally moving to the city we end up in so that they can be here ALL THE TIME. … … …

    Having said all of that I would be sad if I felt like this was the last time I would see them, or that they would really not be able to come to visit the babies. However, even on the weekends my parents aren’t here, we have facetime / video chat with the babies every Sunday. Same with my husband’s parents. So maybe one day when the babies can understand what video chat is, they will actually notice that they see their grandparents every week through the internet. And even though that’s not the same as being in person, maybe that will be the best you can do for a while until money and travel issues work themselves out.

  2. May 28, 2013

    My paternal grandparents died young (gpa before I was born, gma when I was 3). However, my very first memory is of baking gingerbread men cookies with her when I was 3! My maternal grandparents (along with all aunts/uncles/cousins) all lived within 10 minutes of us growing up, so we were SUPER close with everyone, which I absolutely loved. My husband’s family is different – Dad is an only child, Mom’s fam has a couple of siblings and only a couple of cousins and only 1 grandparent left in the bunch. It was BIZARRE to me to realize that not everyone is close to their extended family like I am.

    Now days, my MIL/FIL live 15 minutes from us, and they would come over every day if we let them. However, they have respected our need for space, and they keep it to a few times a week. 😉 In all seriousness, they are a great help, and if we need anything, they are there for us. Thank God – I can’t imagine not enjoying my inlaws, and Nana & Papa are two of my daughter’s favorite people in the WORLD.

    My parents (whom I am very close to) live 1,100 miles away. We travel to see them a couple times a year and they come here 1-2x/year. It’s a lot of money/time, but she is the only grandchild thus far, so the effort is made. I’m not sure what will happen when my four younger siblings start spitting out children (and they all live closer to home still). However, the biggest thing that has helped us is Skype. Stella KNOWS her grandma/grandpa because of Skype, and when she sees them IRL 3-4x/year, she instantly recognizes them and goes to them, which is pretty darn cool. I’d guess we Skype with them probably 3 mornings/week while we’re eating breakfast, and it is totally awesome.

    My point I guess is to not forget that we live in a digital age, and our kids will grow up forming relationships from a very young age with people over the internet. It’s kinda cool, really. 🙂

    • May 29, 2013

      It’s funny, as people were mentioning Skype, I kept thinking of Josey’s family. They do this VERY well! My parents would NOT be into it, but I wish they would be because like she says, it really helps with the recognition and awareness of who Grandma and Grandpa are! This makes me want to start doing this with my sisters and their kids regularly!

      Thank you, Josey, for the reminder!

  3. karaleen #
    May 28, 2013

    I struggle with this. Not because I did not have a great relationship with my mom and my grandparents…but because my husband and I had our children late (40 and 43). By mother, maternal grandmother and both grandfather’s had passed. My husband’s father passed when I was pregnant with our first child…and his mother was not someone he wanted around his kids too much. She had left him to be raised by his grandparents at 11 years old to marry a man she had only known 3 weeks. She then moved to a different state. We only see her about twice a year for about an hour. AND…my father is a notorious loner who is a good man but not a warm fuzzy guy at all. We see him at Christmas and once over the summer every year and only live 25 miles from him. That pretty much leaves my kids with just my great grandmother, but she is 95 and they are germ factories, so our visits have to be carefully planned to make sure they are healthy. Bottom line…we are raising our children alone. And it is HARD!!! We are lucky in that our careers were established before we even met, so finanicially, we are stable and don’t have that added worry. But…even so….a babysitter at $12 an hour so we can have a date night means over $100 just to go out in addition to the $2k a month we pay in child care. We have found ways for our children to forge relationships with important people in our lives. They know and love the grandparents they have, even though they are not around……but what we do have is a good network of aunties and uncles. It helps that I still live pretty close to where I grew up. I have one sister about 50 miles away and My DH has one sister about 65 miles away. But they are all still working and busy with their own lives so we don’t have the luxury of an available grandparent when kids are sick or we want some time away. It takes extra planning and often is scary….but we are a team….we have found a network of good babysitters our kids really love and we make it work. You will too. I was incredibly close to my mom and my grandmother. My kids are named after my maternal grandparents. On the days I gave birth to my babies….it was bittersweet because I really wanted them to be there. But just like we did….you and the professor will build your own nucleus. You will become the center of Chicken’s world and how you present family members either close or afar will be how he/she forges those bonds. I often feel sad that my kids won’t get those long summer weeks away at grandma’s like I did with 3 or 4 cousins to get in trouble with…..but then I realize that every child gets his or her own experience and it will be just as cherished as a child with a different experience. So…to wrap up my totally verbose response….just give the Chicken the life you have in front of you. Enrich it with what you have available to you. And by all means….if a relationship is important to you, but you can’t be there in person…set them up with skype, set a weekly phone call. Do what you CAN….and know that the experience will be just as valid as if you were in the same town. Use your photography and crafts to send fun photos of how you are enjoying being a city mouse. I know you will end up loving it and realizing that living it is not quite as scary as anticipating it. Good luck. And have fun.

  4. ckatz201 #
    May 28, 2013

    I live on a different continent than my parents. My husband’s family lives here. 3/4 of my grandparents were gone by the time I was 12 and while I loved my grandmother (who passed last year), she was not a warm and fuzzy person so…I must say I dont feel too bad that my kids wont have great grandma in their lives.

    My parents however are very hands on with the grandkids, and this is a real loss for me b/c I dont have them here with me. They visit once, twice a year, and we will try to go back once a year but it is extremely expensive for us. Lots of people do the skype thing, but that’s just not how I roll. I’m not a phone talker, but I do send my parents videos of my girls often.

    My in-laws on the other hand live close and while they love their grandkids and get pleasure from them, they treat them like animals in a zoo. All watch, no participation. When you have twin babies, this is very annoying. And, my MIL, as Anne Lamont put it so eloquently recently, is about as fit to be a mother as a wire monkey, so I am not interested in her having an influence on my kids as they become older. I have no idea how my husband survived her.

    I feel a huge loss being away from my parents, my sister, and her kids, of whom are not too much older than me. I also feel a great loss at being away from my USA friends, as I would love our children to grow up together (I still have hope this will happen somehow…) I didnt see anyone once while I was pregnant. I grew up without closeness to my extended family and I dont want that for my kids. I was the absolute youngest in my generation and there was never anyone to play with my age. It was all a bunch of old people.

    My saving grace is are my husband’s nieces and nephews who are extremely involved with our kids over here. They love them dearly and help out often. He also has cousins here who we are close to with kids the same age. I know that my daughters will have a strong sense of love from their extended family bc of these folks.

    One plan that I have is snailmail. I’m hoping that my kids and their American cousins (and grandparents) can send each other little notes, gifts and artwork in the mail. We also have some close friends who are also expats with a daughter of a similar age who I hope will be my girls penpal. This way, when we DO get to see these folks, they feel like they know each other already.

    • ckatz201 #
      May 28, 2013

      Another thing- a tip I got from my sister, is to make photo albums for your kid, esp pictures of him/her WITH the far-away people you want him to feel connected to. This way, when you havent seen each other for a while, break out the photo album and flip through it with toddler so they remember and feel a familiarity.

  5. Arbrefleur #
    May 28, 2013

    Skype or Facetime! I live across a whole continent from both my parents and my husband’s parents 😦 Not that this digital interface (hello, Dr. telemed!) is any substitute for the real thing, but it does help the little ones (so I’m told) recognize and know their relatives. Same with photos. It seems to me that it’s more about the importance that you place on it, that will really matter to the Chicken. If you point to a photo every day and lovingly say “Grandma and Grandpa” and so on. He or she will know for sure that these people are loved and important, even if they aren’t around as much as you’d like. That’s what I’m hoping anyway. Who can afford to fly from Boston to Los Angeles????? (Not us. Or family.) Good luck – I know it’ll be ok!

  6. jak #
    May 28, 2013

    i wont go into family much but to say that some of our family have “familiopathy”. meaning that despite tense or unnatural relationships, divorces and addictions, intentional distance between some of us, etc. certain of my family want to make family their religion and get upset about sharing enough time and breaking from tradition. it is too much, really. family can become a mental illness. dont let that happen to you. take things in stride. accept space. keep in touch how and when it makes sense for you. dont do things out of any type of a sense of guilt.

    what i really want to say though is this: never forget that friends are the family that you choose.

    • faith #
      May 28, 2013

      YAY! YAY! YAY! I TOTALLY agree with this one…Family is bittersweet..sometimes a sacrifice..also a blessing. You will be able to raise your child EXACTLY how you want without guilt of “giving in to the family.” To appease so and so because of family dynamic or monetary obligation…you won’t have it living in a different state. I hope you can find some freedom in that. I get what you are saying though. You know my situation..if it weren’t for family I wouldn’t be where I am. That being said..what better place for me??? I love Jak’s advice…you will find the right road and the right people on it. Perhaps this two year period in NYC will open you to what is most important for your little family for when the next more permanent move. only wants Mom and a little of Dad for the first two years anyway 🙂

  7. May 28, 2013

    My family is 8 hours away. I Skype most days with my mom. They girls love it! However I appreciate the distance between us and my in-laws!

  8. SM #
    May 28, 2013

    I was raised by my mom and my dad had very little to do with me. I’ve never met my dad’s parents and I actually don’t know if they’re still alive. My mom’s parents disowned her when she took me and left their house after she graduated high school. I met my grandmother at Mom’s funeral. My grandfather refused to come so I have not spoken to him. K is insanely close to his mom and dad but they live in Florida.

    I want my kid(s) to have a good relationship with K’s parents. The only thing is, I don’t like K’s parents. But I’ll get over that for the sake of my kid(s).

  9. May 29, 2013

    I can’t really be of any help with your predicament because I’m in the same one myself. Living far away from my family, yet close by to my husband’s. It’s breaking my heart lately. I, too, want my son to know his grandma, aunts, and uncles and not feel completely detached from them like I did with my extended family. Anyway, you’re not alone.

  10. May 29, 2013

    This is hard stuff – really hard stuff. B and I just talked about this last night (prompted by your post, but he doesn’t know that!). I am in the process of sorting out my issues with my family in counseling, and he is not close to his family at all. The only reason I maintain any relationship with my mom is so that Matthew can know his grandparents, but I wonder why I do that because they (both of my parents) don’t really interact with the grandkids at all anyway. My dad is super fun (at times) but has a serious drinking problem, making him unbearable much of the time once dinner time rolls around.

    My parents live 2 hours away, and we see them only when we make the effort to go back. Sure, we see them as they pass through town to see my younger sister (who is better at insisting that they make an effort), but they never come up just to see us unless a baby is being born or celebrating a birthday. When we do make the effort to see them, my mom sits in her craft room the whole time complaining about everyone and everything, and my dad works or only wants to talk about work. It is so weird. And it’s infuriating. They pat Matthew on the head, tell him he’s cute, and then go on about their day as if he’s not there. The same happens with us. They just don’t care (or seem to).

    I was very close to my paternal grandparents growing up, and I was close to my maternal grandfather (but not grandmother). My grandparents tried very hard to have relationships with us kids and did a great job. We kids reciprocated because we enjoyed them so much, and felt so loved. With our kids, my parents don’t reach out at all and B’s parents (who live 40 MINUTES away) see us every month or so and they engage Matthew, but he doesn’t really know them that well because visits are short and consist of lunch or coffee. B grew up barely knowing his grandparents at all – and they each lived 20 miles away. I just don’t get it – but this is now happening with both sides of our family. It’s very upsetting, and honestly, I don’t have any advice on how to fix it. I can’t seem to fix it in my own family.

    I’m looking forward to reading the comments you get!

    As a side note, my mother is VERY toxic for me – no relationship since I was born, she’s frostier than Frosty the Snowman, and all she does is bitch about people. After an unforgiveable act last summer (even my therapist thinks what she did was awful), I have limited my exposure to her a great deal. She is like an incurable cancer in my life, and I’ve taken steps to limit my interactions with her. I am happier this way, and my therapist agrees with my approach, but I am sad for Matthew who has no idea who she is. My sisters say it’s the same way with their kids (their kids are older now and of course know who she is), but I do wonder if it’s as bad as it is with me/Matthew. I think it’s interesting that you and I both have therapists telling us to limit our exposure to our mothers. It’s sad that it has to be this way, but self-preservation is key. I do also know how my mother is with everyone (including children) and I refuse to expose my children to her critical ways and comments. I will not allow them to grow up feeling an ounce of what I felt growing up (and now) – and that thought does help me feel better about the limitations I’ve put on the relationship.

  11. Emz #
    October 5, 2013

    I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning and I love it- thank you. It’s made me feel better that a fit, slim, pretty woman such has yourself still harbours similar insecurities to my own.
    On the topic of family I moved to Thailand 3 years ago and married a Thai (woman). Since my marriage my mother has mostly stopped talking to me. I still have the odd email from my Dad and brother and extended family but it has been difficult. I haven’t told my parents that we’re doing IVF because their negativity about our wedding sucked the joy a lot.
    Amazingly my wife parents (especially mother) hav been great. I’ve decided to try and build a better relationship with thwn instead. But I rrally need to work on improving my Thai as they don’t speak English.
    Anyway I’m sorry this isn’t much of a help. I guess the message I want to share is that I understand how difficult it is to have a strained long distance relationship with your parents but I hope you are able to work something out. Thanks for your blog!

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