First, a disclaimer: As some regular readers may know, I got married this summer. While I’m no longer single, the NAS community has been such a blessing in my life, I’m hopeful to stay involved as much as I can. You all are so welcoming, and I love the spirit of the group. Sometimes I do feel “alone” as a new wife, as many of my friends are either single/unmarried, and the women in my area are moms, that I don’t feel I have an exact community still. Though many topics may focus on single life issues, it really wasn’t that long ago (just two years!) I was right in the thick of it and may address some posts from that perspective. So, that’s me, and I’ll try not to go all wifey on this blog!
How are you still connected to your family of origin (that’s the one you grew up in: parents, siblings, and extended family) even as you are adulting (a.k.a. living as an independent adult, at home or on your own)? How has your relationship with your parents changed as you’ve grown up? How connected are you with your extended family? What aspects of these relationships do you think are affected by your being single? How do you think your family relationships would change after marriage or entering religious life? (Thanks for the topic suggestion, Bek!)
I am thirty years old and still do not feel like an adult most of the time. For example, right now I’m sitting in PJs and watching Boy Meets World. But I’m getting there–I have a marriage, a mortgage, and a marvelous relationship with my family. All three have the commonality that they are all possible, but you have to put in effort, investment, and well, adulting. My experience with family relationships is slightly different than what looked like to be the norm among most of my friends. After college, they stayed in areas not too too far from their families. Many had extended family live in their same state for most of their lives. I was the weirdo.
For college, I went the furthest away (but still in-state). For grad school, I did the hardest thing and moved a plane ride away to an entirely different region. And then I stayed. To stay connected to my parents and siblings, I called as much as I could. To nurture the relationship, I had to make adult choices like how to budget for airfare so I wasn’t depending on my parents for tickets, how to prioritize my vacation time so I could visit my friends, as well as my family. It meant sacrifice; I consider my family so important that I gave up dream fun trips like a cruise with friends or getting a travel buddy to go back to Europe.
But that effort and investment has paid off wonderfully. Though I’m not there for random Sunday cookouts, and it can be a bummer to hear about brunches on the beach while I’m calling from a snowy trolley stop, emotionally, I’m pretty close with my parents and brother and sister. In some respects, our relationships have improved. Rather than the “I’m the parent, you’re the child” dynamic, we have this new dimension in which to enjoy each other as fellow adults. To be sure, we’re not “equals,” persay, but we are bonding in new ways. My mom and I talk about the TV shows we watch; my much-older sister and I now share more because more is appropriate; and my brother and I are in a better place than when we were as kids when the sibling squabbles that come from two different people sharing too close a space. For me, my singlehood benefited the family dynamic, in that I had the freedom to travel to see my family so much, to have experiences like playing elf on Christmas Eve, helping my sister and brother-in-law with the kids’ presents.
The drawback to being on my own so far away was that it made it harder to keep up a close bond with my extended family. Both my parents’ sides live in a state in the Midwest, plane rides away for either group. Having grown up so far away, I never reached a level in which I felt comfortable visiting them on my own as a singleton. I did love the one time I flew out at the same time my family was visiting the relatives and hope we can do that again.
Finally, a word on marriage affecting family relationships. At only three months in, it’s too soon for me to comment on how the dynamic will change. Many aspects will remain the same: keeping up communication, certain shared things don’t have to change (still watching those same shows), and prioritizing visits. But I am aware there may be changes–both for the better and for the different. We were blessed to have many of my extended family come out for our wedding, so my husband and I have revived those contacts and it will feel less “weird” to me to visit independently of my family; and relationships could deepen given my mom and sister and I are all married women, and hopefully when we have kids, we’ll share in the “mom” journey, too. Being married means I gain another family with my husband. They’re great, and relatively close by. But we will have to be adults and balance time together, which will mean splitting or sharing holidays, prioritizing budget and vacation time to visit with family instead of romantic getaways, and making sure our children have the ability to develop loving relationships with all grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
No matter your state of life, one thing should not change: you are family.