Raising a Family Across the Country from Your Parents

Raising your children when your own mom and dad are a quick 24-hour car ride away is not easy. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a far cry easier than in Oregon Trail days. It’s even better than when my husband’s grandmother picked up and moved from New York City to California upon getting married in the 1940s.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t get to complain.

If you know me, you have probably been lambasted by my “y’all” and a few of my {I hope} quaint Southernisms. Every once in a while I even have my twang back. I am a proud Native Texan who ran away to northwest Indiana for college and just kind of stayed up here when I fell for a Michigan boy.

That absolutely, 100% does not mean that I don’t miss it. I detest the heat and humidity of Houston, but I miss it with every fiber of my being. A lot of that is missing my family and friends who are still there.

Moving Cross-Country Isn’t Easy

In this age of globalization and FaceTime and {too-rare} $49 one-way flights, moving cross-country doesn’t mean saying goodbye permanently to everyone and everything you knew. In fact, living across the world for a little while is common these days. {Look at all of our amazing super-moms over at the Military Moms Blog!} It’s hard enough when it’s just you, but when you add little miracles to the mix, and grandparents are a thousand miles away, things get sticky {and emotional} really fast.

But raising your brood with Grandpa, Nanny, and beloved Aunt Anna across the country doesn’t have to mean that Samantha, Tanner, and Emmaline don’t grow up knowing them. Even if no one can jump on a plane or road-trip across the gap, there are ways to keep up.

Fresh off a red-eye flight to meet the newest baby!

Remember when long-distance was a thing?

Hallelujah for cell phones and free long-distance calling! {Can I get an AMEN?} As recently as when I was in college, dating my handsome Michigan boy, chatting on the phone was not cheap. {Sorry, Dad!}

Now, glory of glories, I talk to my mom on the phone almost every day. This enables me to keep up with the goings-on in Houston, as well as keep my family up-to-date on the current childhood escapades going on here. Even if they can’t be here to see with their own eyes, they can certainly hear my little people screeching in the background and discordantly chiming, “HI, NANNY!” whenever there’s a lull in the conversation.

That other thing the phones can do!

Whether you’re a loyal Apple customer or you use that cute little green guy, Android, there are loads of video-calling options. We Skype with my parents as often as we can, so they can see with their own eyes the shenanigans the critters get up to. This is perfect for opening presents on Christmas morning, presentation of new bicycles, and showing off new dance moves.

The drawback here is when the kiddos want to hold the technology, which leads to Grandpa and Nanny staring at the ceiling.

{Another fun option is taking videos and sending them to family. Then, they can watch them over and over!}

Fun in the snow with Aunt Anna!

Photo books – especially the less-destructible kind

I’m something of a Shutterfly photo book aficionado. Admittedly my chronicling of my brood has tapered off some {what, like I’m busy or something?!}, but we do have photo books. In addition to the kiddos loving to see pictures of themselves when they were little, they see pictures of their far-away loved ones holding them. Playing with them. Standing as godparents at their baptisms.

Our nice photo books are kept on a photo easel atop a cabinet, out of easy reach of toddlers. I try not to have panic attacks when I think how easily my wild animals could tear them apart, even just turning the pages too enthusiastically.

For more hands-on access to photos, especially for fat little dimpled-knuckle hands, there is this astonishing invention: the photo look book.


It’s soft and chew-proof, and you can add pictures to it. We received a few when Big Girl was a baby, and it has survived through six years and two other children. I make a concerted effort to include pictures of all my kids’ grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who live far away. That way, their faces are familiar when we see them in person.

Do you live far from your loved ones? What tried-and-true ways of staying in touch do you recommend?

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