Moms With Annoying Parents Nearby Don't Know How Good They Have It

kid talking on tin can phone

My husband's family lives 3,000 miles away. Mine, just over a thousand. So holidays, weekends, and well, pretty much all "family time" usually boil down to my son, my daughter, my husband, and me.


Sometimes, being able to stay tucked away in our own little microcosm is awfully nice. We don't have to pull out the stops for every holiday or deal with constant pop-ins from relatives. But I can honestly say that raising your family without your extended family butting in isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Since high school graduation, the closest I've lived to my mom is a three-hour drive, but most of the time, it's been more like a six-hour flight. That's not because we don't get along. Just the opposite -- I tell her probably far more about my life than she cares to hear. But life simply landed me in different parts of the country than where she lived.

Phone conversations, emails, and the occasional visit were good enough until my kids came along. Suddenly, I didn't just want to tell my mom about my day. I wanted her involved in it -- whether helping to change diapers or feeling my daughter's forehead and agreeing that, yes, she was running a high fever but I didn't need to freak out. (You never appreciate how much your own mom knows until you become one yourself.)

Anyone in the same situation of living far away from family knows what it's like when relatives finally do come visit. You think you're going to hunker down and catch up, but that doesn't happen. You sightsee. You eat at restaurants where you either must keep your voice down or have to shout to be heard. You shop. You try to cram in seeing and doing so much in just a few days that you forget to relax and just enjoy each other's company. 

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Which is what happens to my mom and me. And which is why if there's one thing someone can say that will make me jealous, it's, "I'm running over to my mom's to borrow a cup of sugar." That incredibly small, boring, everyday stuff -- which matters most -- is lost to us.

To my kids, too.

They can't expect my mom to show up at school plays or help study for next week's spelling test. No sleepovers, like I used to have at my grandparents' house. Sure, my mom makes a point to see my son and daughter every few months, but the first two days are spent marvelling over just how much they've grown, then the rest of the time is spent getting re-acquainted with the two new kids in front of her.

The easy solution, of course, would be for either my mom or me to move. But aside from us not being there, my mom is perfectly happy being a Texan. And when my husband and I decided to move from the East Coast three years ago, we made a short list of all the qualities we wanted in a city and purposely ended up in Portland, Oregon.

In a stroke of sheer luck, we landed in a neighborhood that certainly feels like home, although neither of our families are nearby. We have neighbors on our block who take us in for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and let our dog out when we're away from home longer than expected. Others have taught my daughter to sew, taken my son to his first (and second) Blazers game, and helped us search for our lost cat. And when my daughter ran a shockingly high fever one day, a friend on the block came right over, felt her forehead, and reassured me not to worry.

Of course, I still miss being able to call my mom and ask to borrow a cup of brown sugar because I'm making cookies and just ran out. But I feel lucky that we've stumbled upon this extended family of friends -- that I can always call my mom and tell her about.

Did you move close to or far away from family on purpose?

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