Living far away from your family can be difficult for everyone no matter what stage of life you are in. However, once you become a parent that absence becomes more obvious and difficult to bear.
I have aways been a very independent person. If I need to do something I will do it and will rarely ask anyone for help, even if I need it. That is just a part of who I am, something I am trying to improve but with some difficulty. However, since becoming a mother I have found myself more than once wishing that I had my family closer. That I had the support that I needed at times of crisis. (Read my post about how Parenthood makes you appreciate your parents)
"There were times when I felt like I was going to break"
It is no secret that parenthood has its rewards and challenges. To the never-ending kisses you receive before bedtime, to the times I felt like I was at breaking point. I am the first person to say that if you choose to have a child then it is your responsibility to look after them and work your life around your child. I would never expect any one of our family members to take on that responsibility and commitment. They have their own lives to live however sometimes you just need that little extra support to help you get back on your feet.
There were times when I felt like I was going to break. Back when Gabriel was a few months old and he just wouldn't stop crying. He was tired, probably overly tired. But despite him being tired he just would not sleep. I remember standing over the crib rocking him and patting him desperately trying to soothe my crying baby for what felt like hours.
The constant sound of the crying was sending me overboard until I finally cracked. For a split second I lost control of my temper. For a split second I wanted to scream and throw him across the room. It was only a split second. But that split second sent me into an emotional spiral of guilt. I left him to cry while I went to my room and cried myself.
At that moment. I needed my mum. I needed someone that understood me and that I knew wouldn't judge me. Someone that would sweep in and help no questions asked and reassure me that I was not the worst mother on the planet. I needed my own family.
"I needed someone that understood me"
Having family nearby has its obvious perks (babysitting and home cooked meals). But one thing that comes along with it is family influence. When I see Gabriel with his grandparents from my partner's side. It is a lovely thing to watch. He loves his grandparents and he knows who they are and what they represent. He is growing up with the same influence his father grew up with. But what influence does he have from my side of the family?
My partner's side of the family are all very sporty. They love their sports and I can see this influence rubbing off on my son already. My side however are very musical, a trait that my partner's side do not posses. My brother and I grew up with the Burmese culture and some of my most treasured memories are from our big family dinners with lots of traditional burmese food. Singing and sharing stories with all of my uncles, aunties and cousins. Music and food was the essence of my childhood. How do I give that essence to Gabriel when there is only one person around to represent it?
Steps to Survive
As difficult as it can be, I think the first step to surviving without your family is to remember why there is distance in the first place and to learn to accept it. Besides moving back to Australia there is nothing I can do to change it. And the reason I live so far is because I chose to live in Europe. The next step is to do everything you can to keep in touch with your family and implement their influence and culture. We are lucky that we live in a day when technology is at its best. I am able to video call my folks whenever possible, and though it is not the same as being face to face. My family get to see Gabriel as he grows up and learns new things.
And finally, know that even though your family are not close by, you probably do have a lot people that are more the willing to help if you ask them. I know that my partner's family as well as some of my friends would have helped me if I had reached out. That was just my own pride getting in the way. Sometimes being away from your own family gives you the opportunity to become closer to others. Family doesn't always mean blood. It is a bond that you can have with anyone if you are willing.
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