As amazing as this year has been from a “seeing new things” perspective, there has been an emotional impact on our family. I am going to be really honest in this post, because I think family relationships are something most people in this lifestyle don’t talk about much, and I would just ask that in return for that honesty you try to judge me as little as possible. Trust me, I am already judging myself, and I really don’t need anyone else piling on.
After spending so much time in the past two years traveling from one kid to another we were at a crossroads. Should we head back out west and see our kids and grandkids less, or should we forgo the west and continue with the loop. Lee and I had multiple conversations about how we could find more balance in our lives, and then we had a couple of family incidents that helped make things clearer.
I should start by saying that during that time we were pretty disappointed with some of our visits to family members. We understand that folks have lives to live and our coming into town shouldn’t completely upend those lives, but we also found ourselves being really hurt by how little people seemed to want to go out of their way to spend time with us. In order to make it easier on people we tried to extend our stays to a month at a time, so folks didn’t have to cram our visits in, but oddly this made it worse. Having your parents as “guests” can put pressure on people, I get that, but we hoped by being as flexible as possible we could mitigate that. Unfortunately we found that these visits were unsatisfying for both us and our kids and put strain on the relationships.
In all fairness those relationships were already strained as the last eight years had taken their toll. At first our kids were very supportive of the fulltime lifestyle, but as time dragged on I think they are somewhat over it. It’s tough not to have a home base where kids can gather and holidays can be celebrated and we were definitely not able to provide the grandchild assistance that many adult children can count on. We tried as much as possible to be available remotely, but physical separation can have an impact on any relationship and ours were no different.
To be clear I don’t think these relationships were perfect to begin with when we went on the road, but the problems that existed before were exacerbated by the separation. They haven’t come right out and said it, but I imagine our lifestyle can look selfish from the outside and breezing into town occasionally and expecting them to drop everything didn’t help. The problem was we could see what the alternative looked like and it wasn’t great. If all three kids lived in the same place it might have been a harder decision, but they live in three separate states and none of those states are places we want to permanently settle. Trust me, we talked about it, a LOT.
So we settled on a compromise where we spent time with each kid in succession, but as I stated earlier that left everyone unsatisfied. And what no one seemed to realize was it actually cost us quite a bit to do that. We love the west and there were so many places we hadn’t explored yet that spending time on the east coast involved some sacrifice on our part. When that sacrifice wasn’t even acknowledged things hit a breaking point and there was a pretty big family fight. I raised my girls to stand up for themselves and have each others back but what I didn’t expect was that they would point that solidarity against us. The end result was incredibly painful for all of us and resulted in some major family rifts that may never be completely mended.
I didn’t write about this as it was happening, heck I could barely talk about it, but as I look back over this year it has to be colored by what was happening within our larger family unit. If you would have asked me eight years ago I would have said my family always comes first no matter what, but my answer now would be a little different. Lee’s heart attack, the places we have seen, and just getting older have changed my perspective. We got married very young (21 and 23), had three kids right away, and spent over 25 years doing the best we could to raise a family. Objectively we certainly could have done a better job, but we also could have done much worse, and the bulk of our lifetime has been focused on other people. This may be a natural transition which might have happened if we would have stayed in one place, I’ll never know, but this lifestyle has opened us up to so many things and changes in us personally that our priorities have shifted.
My goals when we started were to strengthen my marriage and find a place we could eventually settle permanently. Our marriage has certainly been tested in the last several years but for better or worse we are closer than we have ever been. Living in 400 square feet will do that to you! We still haven’t found our place, but we do know clearly what we don’t want, which I suppose is some progress. What I didn’t expect was the richness of the life itself and the impact it has had on my own personal growth.
To some this all probably sounds pretty selfish and honestly maybe it is. All I can say is it seems like the time for some selfishness. The trick will be as always finding the balance. Lee and I can only trust ourselves and each other to figure out what that looks like for us. And we can only hope our children will ultimately forgive us for taking this time for ourselves. As we have learned over the last year other people have choices, but so do we. To sum it up we have the right to live our lives. That’s what everyone else is doing, after all.
It seems kind of weird after all that to end on pictures of who we met over the last year, but I always end the emotional arc posts that way, and want to be consistent. I am also going to add some pictures of just us.
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