Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Surviving Long-Distance Parenting

The closest relative to us is a 3 hour flight away.  This IS hard!  Like really really hard. There is no way to sugar coat how challenging long-distance parenting is.  I'm sure many of you are also parenting long distance from your family, and I'm going to guess that you feel very similar to me on this.  One might argue that if you don't like the long-distance parenting, then just move back home.  But it really isn't that black and white; it isn't always that easy.  Regardless, parenting without family is tough!  Not only do we not get to see family, but if we want to we have to save vacation time for trips home, which means we never get a vacation. 

We don't have help. We don't get breaks. We don't get free babysitters.

We don't have dates. We don't have holidays packed with family time.

Now the purpose of this post is NOT for pity (I promise), but instead to either a) remind you of how blessed you are if you live near family and to remind you to be grateful for your blessings (go say "thank you" to your family), OR to provide comfort by letting you know you're not alone.  I struggle with this too & I want to share a few tips with you for how we cope with parenting long-distance from our family.

Surviving Long Distance Parenting- Life with the Hawleys

1. REALIZE.  While long distance parenting might be incredibly exhausting challenging, this is a great opportunity to strengthen your marriage.  The Mr. & I only have each other.  We don't have any outside interference which is a +, but we also don't have anyone else lol  We HAVE to depend on each other.  We HAVE to have communication.  We HAVE to be authentic with each other.  We realize that not having any help has made our marriage & dependence on Christ very strong and that is something we are truly grateful for with our circumstances.  The Mr. & I have a standing weekly meeting with each other to make sure we are on the same page.  This might sound very scheduled or rigid, but if we don't schedule it, it's too easy to allow it to fall to the wayside.  Sometimes we just need to talk about stuff, other times we go through a book together, have a discussion topic, ask questions, and sometimes, honestly we don't have anything, but we have the space scheduled just in case.  For us with long-distance parenting we make sure we genuinely communicate, offer each other grace, & we give each other permission to zone out.

2. STRUCTURE.  Get a schedule & keep it.  Not only does this help with our kid's expectations of the day, but it also insures that our kids will go to their bedroom at night and allows us to relax in our evenings so that we are not waking up exhausted and disconnected.  Many times we treat our evenings on Friday night at home like a date night (no cell phones & hold hands even if we're just watching tv together on the couch).  This is just a season that we're in so we have to make it work for us right now.  And right now, date nights on the couch are working for us.

3. TALK.  Since our kids only see family for about 2 weeks all together a year, we make a HUGE effort to talk about grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins.  Every chance we get we talk about family (e.g. where they live, what jobs they do, what their favorite sports team is, what the weather is like there, what we did the last time we were together) and we show them pictures.  We bring them up every chance we can.  We want our kids to be familiar with family.

4. USE TECHNOLOGY. We're in an age of image so why not use that to our advantage?  We Skype and video chat with family as often as we can.  Sometimes that means my sister uses her lunch break to talk to the kids or my mom reads the kids a story on Skype.  And of course if you've followed me on any social media platform, you know that I post a lot of pictures.  While yes I enjoy taking pictures, I really do it for my family to see my kids and to know their daily lives even if we live so far apart.

5. SNAIL MAIL. While technology is fast & pretty, you really can't beat old school snail mail (at least that's what I believe).  Every other Sunday I send family a big envelop of projects the kids worked on.  I want family to see what we're learning, and what we're doing.  I want family to know that we are thinking about them often & that they are an active part of our lives even if we don't see them face-to-face.  The kids help collect their work and tell me who gets what.  They help me address the envelopes and put them in the mailbox.  They get excited to send A Happy to their loved ones.

6. VILLAGER.  You need one. Get one. Make one. People always say it takes a village.  I always kind of shrugged my shoulders at that phrase.  I'm a pretty independent person & don't like to rely on others.  I would also say that I'm pretty private person also.  And I know you might be thinking: well Darby you have a blog & you post a lot on social media, so you can't be that private.  You're right I do, but it takes me a long time before I'm ready to share what's happening in my heart, not just with you but even with my best friends, family, and husband.  Nothing has to be wrong, I just take a long time to process what I'm thinking.  Well, my dear friends, we are human and we need people.  We were not designed to live in isolation (I mean this is old news.... go back to Adam & Eve).  It's a pride thing for me to learn that I can't do everything on my own and that I need help.  Even before kids, the Mr. & I connected & developed a very strong church family that held us up in some of the darkest and most joyous moments of our lives.  The body of the church and our village have encouraged us with the loss of a child but have also celebrated with us as we brought new life into the world.  They brought us meals, they cry with us over coffee late at night because that's the only time we get, they invite us to their family functions for holidays, & they love us like family.  You need a village.  Our village IS our family; we need them, we want them, & we love them.

7. GREENER GRASS.  Occasionally I will speak with a friend who lives near family, & I get a sting of jealousy.  They have all the extra support, help for cleaning their house, free babysitters, DATE NIGHTS!, family dinners, hand-me-downs, and on and on I could go.  But admittedly, so often they are complaining of their family.  In my mind this is where bitterness can come into play, WHAT ON EARTH COULD THEY BE COMPLAINING ABOUT?!?! I WOULD LOVE SOMEONE TO COME PUT MY KID'S CLOTHES AWAY; WHO CARES IF THEY PUT THE PANTS IN THE DRAWERS WITH THE SHIRTS?! AT LEAST THEY AREN'T SITTING IN A BASKET ON THE FLOOR ANYMORE! IF I WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE I HAVE TO HIRE HELP!  But I also know that the grass is always greener on the other side and that I don't know all of the details of their family dynamic.  They could be struggling from NEEDING space or a million other things.  So when you have that friend who is complaining about living too close to family because they are always there, extend grace & encouragement because that is what you need too.  We all struggle, but in different ways.

Okay, so there are a few tips that we have implemented into our lives to help us cope with long-distance parenting.  I hope something here spoke to you; even if it was just one small take-home point for one reader that would be awesome! We're certainly not pros at this, & we still have a lot to learn.  If you have any suggestions for us, we're ALL ears!  Send us your tips!

xoxo Darby

1 comment :

Jessica said...

I find this so interesting! We live near family right now (and purposefully moved here before having kids) and we do get help with things sometimes... But I honestly have a hard time asking people for help (even family) and once my sister started having kids, it became SO much harder to get help from anyone. We see them a lot, so I am in no way saying it hasn't been helpful. It's been a HUGE blessing to be near my parents and my sister, BUT. Obviously nothing is ever perfect and as more babies come into our family, it makes us much more independent too. We have recently found ourselves in the position of living in a place we don't like to have help of family, but finding we mostly rely on ourselves anyway! We are now considering a "long distance" situation! This was so helpful to read!

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