The Surprising Pros and Cons of Living Far Away From Family

In 2013, I married my husband and moved from Wisconsin to Michigan. I had just graduated college so it was a summer of colossal changes. I suddenly found myself in a new state with a new degree and the new title of “wife” – but also no friends or family closer than six hours away and no job. I had a husband… and that was pretty much it. 

Six years and nearly three kids later, I can see both major positives and negatives to living so far away from our extended families:

  • Pro: Better marriage

    The first year of any marriage is a great undertaking as you learn to live in new roles as a husband or a wife. My husband and I are both Lutheran. In our church, it is commonly said that when you get married you “leave and cleave” – you “leave” your family of origin and “cleave” to your spouse, making a new family {based on Genesis 2:24}. In our case, we did this spiritually and geographically as well. Now that we are six years into marriage, I can see how living far away from family was good for us. Whenever I get upset with my husband, I can’t just stomp off to my parent’s house and sulk. Living totally on our own helped us rely completely on God and each other to figure out ways to communicate and to help our bond to grow exclusively with each other. 

  • Con: Fewer traditional date nights 

    That being said, when your parents live a minimum of six hours away… you don’t get to go on as many date nights! Going out can be pricey enough as it is, so when you add in the cost of a babysitter on a one-income household, a traditional date night can quickly become cost-prohibitive. When I am in dire need for some quality time away from the kids with my husband, I desperately wish we lived closer to some loving {and free!} grandparents. 

  • Pro: Less “advice” from family members

    Families are blessings and most people just want to be kind and useful to those in their family – but sometimes, well-meaning “advice” or opinions from others in your family can be hurtful. When you live far away, you are exposed to less of that kind of “advice” and get to raise your children largely uncontested; you get to mother the way you want. 

  • Con: Mothering without a village

    While you don’t have to deal with as much unsolicited advice when you are far away from family, sometimes you would like some advice. Independence is all well and good until, as a mom, you are faced with a situation that you don’t know how to handle and you wish you could have a little assistance. I feel this most acutely when either the kids or I am sick and all I want is my mom to be able to swoop in to help. When your biological “village” lives on the other side of a Great Lake, you just have to understand that you don’t have the support other moms enjoy sometimes. 

extended family on the beach

  • Pro: Visiting family is exciting!

    Since we live so far away, traveling to visit our parents is always an adventure! We eagerly anticipate an upcoming vacation. We take about three road trips a year as a family and there are always happy faces there to greet us when we arrive at our destination. Our visits are a blast because all the time we spend is quality time. Our parents are great and truly roll out the red carpet for us when we stay with them. 

  • Con: Travel is tough on kids

    While we have enjoyed learning how to take road trips with little people, children are just very routine-bound creatures and trips to see family can really derail sleeping and eating schedules. We often get sick while visiting and it takes us a while, once home, to “recover” and get back into our routine. While I cherish happy memories spent with grandparents, being stuck in gridlock traffic for over two hours in Indiana with a screaming toddler and a baby who needed to nurse is equally vivid in my mind. 

  • Pro: Make your own family culture

    When your extended family is far away, you have the unique opportunity to make your own family culture. If you liked your childhood, you can model your kids’ childhood after yours. If you want to raise your children differently, you get to do that, too. You get to control the dynamics, from discipline to how extravagant birthdays are. I believe our family has a tight bond because we have our own family culture – something I pray will continue through the rockiness of adolescence

family of 4 in the woods

  • Con: You miss out on events 

    This is the toughest con for me. The reality is that when you live far away, you miss things. Period. I continually battle feeling “left out,” even from events that I couldn’t possibly attend anyway. While I “like” pictures of birthday parties I can’t be at, I still shed a tear that we had to miss it. My heart feels a stab of pain when I think of my childhood friends hanging out with their children – without me. Social media really intensifies that “I wish I could be there” feeling and sometimes it’s just plain hard. 

On the whole, living in a place where I did not grow up has given me the chance to meet amazing, new people and I am so grateful. The love in my life has doubled. We now have friends and family in both the place we grew up and the place we live in. I am continually thankful that my kids have a wide range of people who love them. In the end, “grow where you are planted” – it is a beautiful blessing! 

Do you live close or far away from family? What pros or cons would you add to this list? 

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