Raising Your Kid Far from Family

One premise of my blog is that I’m a New Yorker exploring life in Vienna—both what this area has to offer and what life is like being away from New York and my family. The Washington area is known for being a place of transplants. People come from all over the US and the world. I’m not alone in being far from family.

Since middle school I wanted to live in Washington. I visited as a teenager and still remember the marble buildings glistening in the sun and thinking that there were opportunities to change things for the better—to help children achieve their potential by working on education policy issues.

I arrived in DC, master’s degree in hand, in 2002. In 10 years I have tried to leverage opportunities to work in different jobs, learn new skills, network, and forge professional and personal adventures.

Yet, when I became a mom in 2010, I started wondering if perhaps it’s time to move closer to New York—to family.

We see our family a few days at a time several times a the year. Our moms have been super about visiting us regularly. Our siblings have also made the journey to see us since becoming aunts and uncles. We have tried to visit New York often, first taking Bug on the plane and later driving late at night when she was too big to sit on our lap for the free plane ticket.

But these nighttime car journeys with Bug leave us with nerves frayed and minds tired. And several consecutive days with family is intense, despite all of our collective love.

Yet even more importantly, I have felt sad (guilty?) about Bug and her grandmothers not being able to spend more time together. She can’t just “run away to grandma’s” for the afternoon. I have also felt sad for some time that our families are missing out on the ordinary miracles Bug brings to the world (she starting saying, “daffodil”, can sing along with Old MacDonald and requests Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!). She also has a cousin on Long Island her age with whom she could be pals.

Recently Drew and I spent a weekend exploring Brooklyn, thinking this was the contender neighborhood should we return. Neither of us had spent much time there, so we walked about eight miles around Park Slope and Bay Ridge. At $1 million for a two-bedroom apartment, I don’t think we’re headed to Park Slope, despite the young community and amazing restaurants (spiced fried chick peas!). We left feeling less like New Yorkers than we thought we were.

I have written before about having a community when you raise a child. I think Vienna has many networks, and I do feel connected in some ways. We certainly have some great friends that we really enjoy. But there’s nothing like grandma. It remains to be seen if we’ll make the leap.

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7 thoughts on “Raising Your Kid Far from Family

  1. You’ve been talking about this for a while, can practically see those gears turning in your head! Look forward to seeing what you end up doing, though selfishly I hope you stay in the DC area :)

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  2. Running to grandma’s house may be an event of the past, but this grandma will try her best to keep up the relationship. Skype and ipads, phones will help.

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  3. (Annie’s Dad posting here – Mum is playing with her before bedtime.)

    Interesting take. As you know, we’re even further away from Annie’s grandparents and it’s never occurred to me to feel guilty about it. I’d like to think that this lack of guilt is because we thought through the choices, weighed the options and did what was best for all of me, my wife and Annie at the time – so what’s the point of feeling guilty? I felt bad when one of her grandmothers starting crying when we said we were moving to the US, but even then, with the sensation of feeling sorry for her and understanding why she was upset, I didn’t seriously challenge the choice we’d made or feel guilty.

    I think you are too harsh on yourself. Every decision one takes has at least one alternative (ie not taking it), often plenty more alternatives. Yes, maybe you could have stayed in NYC and been close to your folks. But as it sounds like it wouldn’t have been in a $1mill 2-bed apartment, let alone a pretty house with a yard, what other compromises would have had to have made that now you’d be posting about feeling guilty about in your ‘Utterly NYC’ blog?

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    • I am not sure if I should chime in, but there might be a difference in making this decision once you have your child or moving away from family and THEN having a child. I moved to the US (German by birth) 13 years ago, but I only started feeling that guilt once my daughter was born. I think it is very important for her to have a relation ship with my part of the family, but being the only one that moved here … it’s hard. the good thing about NY – DC is that it is not THAT far away. You can just jump into the car and go visit – even for a 3 day trip. I miss having my mom/family around and not having the support I am/was used to while in Germany.

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      • Thanks for the international perspectives. I think both of you are in a different boat than I am, both in different ways. I’m not sure I want to go deeper in this venue about motivations for moving abroad and the differences of living a whole different country, likely isolated from family.
        But the guilt thing, I think that remains to be explored further. Certainly, Annie’s Dad, you know me well, and know that I am often too hard on myself. So that is helpful tough love to hear from a friend. Yet I’m not sure what the next step is. It seems that some people feel guilty (me) and others don’t (you). Not right or wrong, but I am curious about the motivation for the guilt and lack thereof. Thanks for sharing your perspective – it’s helpful.

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