Last week I told my son to help me clean up quickly so we could eat and head to Aunty Iman’s house. He excitedly said “Yesss Mama then I can see Yusuf at Iman’s House!!” and did a little happy dance. This broke my heart. Why you may ask… Well, he has 2 Aunty Imans. One is my sister who lives in London, the UK about 5500 miles away, and one is my sister-in-law who is walking distance away. Does the broken heart make more sense now? To make it even more sad, a few days later Yusuf said something similar about seeing my daughter and asking his mom to bring him to our house so he could play!
Being a mother who lives on another continent between 11-24 hour flights away from immediately family is extremely hard. Some days are easier than others, but most times it’s very tough. I didn’t really understand how hard it could be until I had one child, and then another child. There is so much value in having your family around. Having them grow up getting to know their grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins.
For some mamas, this might not seem to be a really big deal because they are either not too close to their family, or are much stronger emotionally and like their space. Being the eldest, I was always the one who helped out at home. I joined my mother on family occasions and loved to socialize with family. Also, I made it a point to be at every occasion whether graduation, wedding, engagements etc even if it meant an 8-hour flight. Alhamdullilah back then I was not too far away so it was much easier and feasible as a single person.
My recommendations for mothers or moms to be who are far from family are as follows:
Save Save Save
Every penny counts. Save something every month from before/after you get pregnant towards a traveling stash. This will allow you to plan ahead for trips you might want to make back home, or maybe meet your siblings/parents halfway for a holiday. Because it might not seem expensive before kids, but once your child hits 2 years, that a whole new ticket. For my family, for example, it could cost anywhere from $900-$1300 per person off peak on a good deal day! And we are now reaching 4 full priced tickets!
Plan ahead for your mother to visit you when you have the baby or after the baby whichever works best for you. Some mamas I know would rather travel to their family when their baby is a few months old and spend time there. Both work, but it is also nice to have your mother to be around when you have the baby. The hardest part though is saying goodbye, and then going back to a home without mama, which leads me to the next suggestion.
Build a network of supportive friends, join motherhood groups in your area, play groups, make friends with people who have kids and those who will stick around even when you need to come along to the restaurant with 1/2/3 kids. I am blessed to have a group of very close friends who have kids older than mine. They also never complain when I bring my super active loud kids to an afternoon out. And many of us have families who live outside the US so we know each other’s struggles.
Keep busy with the children
The more occupied we are, the less time we have to miss family or think about how sad we are without them. This is easier said than done because even when busy I find myself yearning for family or wishing my little nephew and niece were here to share a fun moment with the kids. I could even be shopping and I will be thinking of things they would love!
Use technology to keep in touch
We are blessed in this day and age where everyone has skype, facetime or whats app. My family has a group chat where we chat on a daily basis and send pictures and videos. We also make use of Facetime and WhatsApp video calls but because there’s an 8-12 hour difference for different members of my family based on what part of the world they live. It gets difficult but I am sure you can always come up with a time that works for everyone! This also helps the kids know who their mama’s family is. For the longest time, my son didn’t know who my family was but now knows them by name and my daughter learns from him so she is catching on fast too. It really melts my heart when they ask me to speak to their grandma.
It might be that you have tried all the suggestions above but still feel lonely and miss family at times. That’s totally normal. I always have that feeling of emptiness and something missing a lot of the time. I think only until we are reunited with family can we really feel 100% complete. However like my mother always tells me, “Afra you chose this path and decided to live so far away, so be strong”. And she’s right for the most part. Whether it’s a job or marriage or new home that took us far away from family, it’s a decision we made at some point in our life. Of course, it’s also all in God’s hands, we have to pray for what’s best for us, and our family.
I will end with this story of a friend who moved to the US many years before I did. She lost many immediate family members along the way sadly, and rarely got to visit them. Whilst she is still adjusting to living far away from her family more than 15 years lateris still looking for peace. She is thankful for her friends who make it easier and lots of Dua (Prayer) and constant Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah).