Saturday, June 16, 2007

My 21st Century Family Jigsaw

My family is typical of many British families in the UK, where actually we live nowhere near each other and haven't done so in 20 years since I left the family to go off and do my degree.
If our family was a jigsaw puzzle you would have to travel many miles to collect all the pieces to make the whole, back to South Wales to pick up the Welsh contingent and off to Bristol for the in-laws. Scotland is the destination for my brother-in-law and Switzerland for my sister. Not to mention our extended family in France... So, what we're looking at here is a Continental jigsaw, not just British.

On the plus side, we have a great excuse to visit lovely locations for our holidays and there's always a friendly face and home-cooked food. On the downside, we don't have time to travel elsewhere on holiday, with the exception of the odd "meet-up", where everyone converges at an alternative destination. Also, family get-togethers mostly mean that we're doing the travelling, thanks to the shoulder of responsibility reminding us that it was us who moved away in the first place.

Even though there are many personal upsides to living an independent family life, these advantages gradually diminish in correlation to age and propensity for childbirth. Enjoying life, studying and clubbing in Nottingham is entirely different to a quiet family lifestyle in Bury St Edmunds, where we have settled due to my husband's work.

Living at least 5 hours away from immediate family means that both parties miss out on the development of our children. They don't get to see them developing and we don't get to see the joy of the developing relationships...and as for babysitting...we don't get that advantage either and have to depend on our newly made family, our friends who already have their own family commitments.

What frightens me more is not being there easily if our relatives fall ill or get frail with age.

It's not easy living apart from family, but what makes it easier is technology, highlighted by our Skype connection. Now I can speak to my sister and her family for free and even better, with our webcam enabled, it's like having them in our living room. Thank goodness for 21st Century technology.