I never imagined that on the day I became a mother, I’d be living 9,928 miles away from family.
We live in Australia, and we have a one-year-old daughter. We love our life here—my husband and I both have great jobs, and mine has even given me a year off to spend with our daughter. She is happy, healthy, smiley and beautiful. We love our city and the network of wonderful friends here too.
But most of our family are more than 24 hours away—by plane. Add in the cost of approximately $2000 per person in airfare for a cuddle with grandma, and you get the picture. The guilt of this reality can be overwhelming.
Sometimes I feel like I’m depriving my parents of their granddaughter—and I can’t help but think about all of the lost time and missed moments we might have had together if we lived closer.
So many of my own favorite memories as a child involve my extended family; spending time with my grandparents, aunts and uncles was such a gift. While my husband and I are always present and creating memories with our daughter, we want to show her the importance of extended family relationships as well.
I can’t help but think about all of the lost time and missed moments we might have had together if we lived closer.
Sure, I’ve captured the first crawl and the first taste of solid foods on video to send back home, but it doesn’t compare to seeing it in person. If we were living closer, the reality is that while maybe they wouldn’t have been there for the very moment of the first crawl, they definitely would be able to see it with their own two eyes a few hours or a few days later.
But for the immediate future, this is our life. So rather than dwell on the distance, we have made consistent plans to ensure that, despite the distance, our daughter knows and feels connected to her grandparents. And, that they feel connected to her, even though they can’t give her a hug and kiss every day.
Like most parents, we try to limit screen-time, but in order to build a strong connection this way, screens are essential. We’ve chosen to embrace the fact that our firsts will be shared via text messages and FaceTime calls on a screen that is approximately five by two inches.
But for the immediate future, this is our life. So rather than dwell on the distance, we have made consistent plans to ensure that, despite the distance, our daughter knows and feels connected to her grandparents.
Having the opportunity to interact with loved ones and family members from so far away isn’t something we take for granted: we are so grateful that we can still build these important relationships regardless of the distance.
Here’s how we stay connected:
We take dozens of photos everyday, so I’m constantly sending photos back home so they can see her grow. But I also make it a point to show our daughter pictures of her overseas friends and family so she remembers who they are, too.
2. Catch up calls
Every Saturday morning, we have a FaceTime call with my family while they eat their Friday night dinner. We time it so my daughter is awake and they can see what she is up to. The camera is usually fixed on her for the entire hour while we talk in the background. I hope to keep this tradition for as long as we live apart.
To make the call even more interactive when she is older, even though our days and nights are swapped, we can get creative— perhaps my family can have breakfast for dinner and we can all make pancakes together and enjoy a meal. I envision her saying, “Ok Grandma, now add a cup of flour to the bowl and stir.”
3. Bedtime stories
When my daughter is old enough to engage fully in bed time stories, we plan to have duplicate books both here and at her grandparents’ home. This way, we can set up a routine a few nights a week to call Grandma and Grandpa on FaceTime for a bedtime story..
4. Games, puzzles, and art projects
As she gets a little older, we plan that each house can have some of the same games and puzzles. That way we can play the game together over FaceTime. We can also have a race to see who can complete the puzzle faster! And, why not try a painting project or craft together sometimes too, and mail the creation to each other.
5. Planning visits ahead
At the end of every holiday, we plan when the next visit will be and when that hug and kiss will be in person and not through the screen. Parting ways is easier when you know when the next visit will be.
Yes it’s costly, and it means all of our vacation time is spent traveling between Australia and New Jersey, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We may not be able to explore other cities right now, but for us the quality family time is far better than checking a new location off the list.
Really, I think the trick of creating a solid bond is to try and do the same things that a family does when they live five minutes from the grandparents. We just have to be committed to making the time for it, and we have to get creative and do it over a screen. Since our daughter doesn’t know anything different, this will be her normal.
If you’re missing your family and wishing they were closer, I know it’s hard. But your relationship with them doesn’t have to suffer because of the distance.
With a little effort on both sides, you can implement some of these ideas into your own weekly routine and see what works for you. At the end of the day, we just want our daughter to know that family is a gift — and that putting in the extra time and effort to connect, no matter how far away, will always be worth it.