Monday, 21 November 2011

"Don't you miss your parents?"

This is a question that I get asked, generally with great anxiety in the eyes of the asker, somewhat regularly.  It's usually asked by people with grown children.  I'm sure I'm not the only expat that gets this question.  People, both in the UK and the US, say that they can't imagine living 5000 miles away from their loved ones.

My answer to this question is always 2 fold.  The first part is: "Sure", "Of course", "Yes".  I miss my family- especially as Thanksgiving draws near and as I think about my family not getting to meet my baby as soon as he's born.  My family is great and I love to be around them.  They are fun and love me and I love them.  (I once had a supervisor at a placement during my Master's Counseling program question my suitability and desire to be a counselor, as I didn't have any stories of how my family was screwed up.  Needless to say, she had issues.)  Obviously, I'd love to see my family more often and be with them whenever I want.

Me and mom on a cruise (2006)

But.  BUT!  I'm 32 years old.  I haven't lived with my parents (full-time) in 14 years.  I went home for holidays and the summer while I was in college, but by then my parents had moved from Dallas (which was an hour from where I went to college) to Washington, DC.  Not exactly close.  Then I went to graduate school.  In Dallas.  Eventually my parents did move back to Texas, but they were (and still are) in Houston- so a 1 hour flight or a 4 hour-ish drive.  Sure I could go visit for a weekend, but it wasn't like we were neighbors before I moved to England.

Me and my brother's trademark side-long suspicious glance 
with Greyfriar's Bobby (2007)

I still talk to my parents every Sunday night, just as I have done since I left home for college.  I occasionally email or chat online with my mom during the week.  Every once in awhile my dad will email me with some interesting news story that he thinks I'll enjoy.  We keep in touch plenty.  In an age of email, chat, and skype being in England isn't that different than being in a several hour drive away.  To be honest, this holiday season is the first time that it's really hitting me, since we went to Texas for both Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.  If something were really wrong, we're still only a plane ride away (albeit a long one) from my loved ones.

Me and Dad in front of the ancestral home (2011)

When I explain all that as the "on the other hand" part answer to the question, I'm frequently met with looks of horror and stammering and confusion.  The looks they give me seek reassurance that I do actually love my family.  Never fear.  I do.  A whole heapin' lot.

It's just that I also love my husband.   And our unborn son.  And the family that we are making.  Which just happens to be here- 5000 miles from my parents.  While it sucks sometimes, the love that Ross and I have makes it all worthwhile.  My family loved me and supported me while I was growing up so that I'd be free and confident to make my way in the world (even though none of us imagined that would involve me moving to England!), and that means the world to me.  I hope Ross and I can do the same for our kids.

Can you imagine living in a different country from your family?
My expats:  Do you get this question to?  What do you answer?


  1. I get the question all the time, and I have to admit that my answer usually involves some variation on "but we'll probably move to the States when we want to start a family." To be honest, though, I don't think we will - and I think it's going to be very hard! Totally worth it, but very hard.

  2. Roots and wings, Baby girl, roots and wings! Speaking for all those parents out there it is hard for us, too - especially at holiday time. BUT, proud to be parent of a daughter who takes courageous action and has the confidence to do so - and has found a soul mate to build a new chapter of her life with. Miss you, wish you were here, but.....

  3. I honestly think the people who are so shocked by that are looking for reinforcement for their own life. They're wanting reassurance that if their kids move away (or they already have) that they will REALLY miss the parents. If you're confident in your relationship with your family, this isn't really that shocking. My mom lives in Montana now and I've lived in a city with no family since I graduated college. I only see most of them a few times a year. Skype is a wonderful invention for people living abroad! Almost makes it like being there.

  4. I've actually never had anyone ask me that. I have been asked by many people about how my parents feel about me living in Kenya and travelling throughout Africa though. I just tell them that a) I'm an adult and my parents respect my life choices and b) my parents are very proud of the fact they raised such an independent daughter who takes her values (those same ones they instilled in me) seriously and is willing to move halfway across the world to do a job that she feels passionate about.