Eighth Year – The Emotional Arc

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.

Taking Oliver for his first pony ride
Seeing Gene and Eileen in Venice Florida when I flew down to visit my mom
Having lunch with my Mom, Uncle Don and Aunt Susie in Venice, FL
From Left: Kelly, Bill, Dave, Sharon, Greg, and Cori at the Center for Mental Wellness in Texas
Yellowstone
Seeing Casey and Julie
Deb, Steve, Lee, and I at Cathedral Gorge

Hanging out with Mom for her 75th birthday in Las Vegas and a fabulous birthday lunch at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse!!!!

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24 thoughts on “Eighth Year – The Emotional Arc

  1. I admire your strength, courage and mostly, your honesty! May your days ahead be filled with more exploration and adventures, but also a reconnection with the family you so lovingly raised. God Bless you all.

  2. Bravo my brave friend. I, once again, am in awe at your continued honesty. It leaves me pondering my own view of the “small world” we live in. Whether it’s discussed publicly or not – this post will be opening conversations all over the place. Love you!

    • That’s nice to hear. When Lee asked if I was sure I wanted to post this I said it wasn’t about making a statement but about starting a conversation. I am so glad you read it in the spirit it was intended. Love you my friend and thanks for all your advice and comfort this last year.

  3. Really brave of you to write this and I appreciate it. As a mother of four (now 3) kids who live all in different places, I can relate. I won’t jump on a soapbox here, but I will say that I think the selfishness is coming from your kids, no offense, please. Still, they are at a stage where they can be pretty selfish. It isn’t your job to conform to their life. My kids are in their 50’s now and have grown long past the hardest rifts that came during their 20s and 30s. It would probably happen whether you were full timing or doing the grandma thing with a big house. Time for them to get it, they need to separate and still actually care about YOUR needs not just theirs. The time when grandkids are small goes by in a flash and if you haven’t taken care of yourself you won’t have anything left to offer them as adults. I am glad you were strong enough to do what you knew was best for you.

  4. It’s true, time heals wounds. Your writing here about family problems caused by your traveling lifestyle is honest and balanced. May love between you, parents, and your offspring, children, grandchildren, and the older generation of your family, be nurtured by memories and God. Long-distance communication will help.

  5. Tracy, you are not alone.

    Hubby and I have two daughters and four grandchildren. We are a very close family. After hubby retired (10 years prior to my retirement), he cared for the grandkids – picking them up from school and taking them to basketball, soccer and ballet. He did this for many years. Before I retired, I told my kids that we were going to travel once I stopped working. After attending an RV Dreams Rally, we bought a 5th wheel and went full time.

    Our kids were angry at our decision to move away. After raising a family and having a professional career, I thought we deserved time for ourselves. You only get one chance at this life – and we chose to do what makes us happy. We have no regrets. In hindsight, I agree with Sue (above). Our kids were selfish. They were inconvenienced by the fact that we would no longer be there to help. But my belief is that our lifestyle forced them to learn to live on their own and become stronger individuals. We now see our children leaning on each other and extended family – and we are proud to see them succeeding in their lives. We have no regrets.

    Stay strong.

  6. I can totally relate to the emotions of feeling disappointed by family members who don’t consider how much time, effort and money we spend to go out of our way to visit. But for us, this was happening even before we went full time when we flew in for family visits and then had family members change their plans and expected us to also change our plans even though we had a short timeframe and had taken time to plan and carefully schedule time to get together. I’ve just had to learn to move on and realize that if a visit with us wasn’t important to those family members, even our daughter, then I just needed to move on and spend time with the family that made time for us. Taking this approach has resulted in several shorter “fly in” visits vs long visits/stays with the RV which allows us to spend more time where we would rather be, in the western US.
    One thing this full time lifestyle has done for us is allowed us to be there when we were really needed, 3 times in the last 9 years we have made a fast cross country trip due to a death in the family. Sad to say, those were the visits that were probably most appreciated despite being the absolute most stressful for us given that it always involves lots of rescheduling, lost deposits, taking either unexpected PTO time or canceling art shows, incurring more cost / lost income, etc. Even though our family doesn’t always think about the cost or inconvenience, those trips have always ended up meaning a lot to us, both as a couple, and to our extended family.
    So, live your life, plan your travels in a way that will bring you the most joy and quit trying to please everyone because that’s just never going to happen.

  7. It can be a difficult balancing act for sure at times. As much as I’d love it to be like I grew up and we all lived close together (extended family too) and spent a lot of time together, Steve and I are just very adventurous as are our kids. Each generation seems to be more mobile. Our kids are spread out in CA and no matter where we picked we’d probably only see them one a month or every other. And we don’t want to live back in CA. I’m sure they’ll face the same thing when their kids are grown. So, like you, we stay available as much as we can when we’re here and enjoy each other. I wish it were more but we worked hard to get here and we’re going to enjoy it until health becomes a hurdle. It’s tough. Stay strong and the tides will come and go. ♥️ I sure lived your pics. The smiles on your faces say it all.

  8. Your candor is something I admire. I can relate to your post, our situation is that we are rooted to our homes in Florida and N Georgia, and our son/daughter in law/grandbaby have made a life in Michigan. I do not want to move back there, as much as I wish I could be closer to the grand daughter. We are trying to navigate as best we can right now, but it never feels “just right”.

  9. It happens, even if you aren’t living a f/t lifestyle. I re-married, my spouse is military. I left one kid behind when he was posted, we moved 3 more times and I left my other behind somewhere else. We, as parents, can’t do it all or be everywhere and at some point, we matter too. We ALL have to adult. I hope you can heal the rift and lift that burden off your shoulders. Life is too short to not be happy.

  10. Not sure you will recognize the name…..this is Kelly’s.Mom.
    I believe you have made the right decisions for you and Lee…..I call that “SelfCare” and without that you are not living fully! Bless you both on the rest of your journey!!!

  11. Great blog post!!!

    I’m truly sorry that you both have experienced this family sadness!! So have I. I feel your pain.

    Live your life in the best way you can. Travel more if that’s what makes you smile!!

    After all, life is very short.

    Best wishes!

    Mike

  12. Thank you for your honesty…I have often wondered if your kids were still supportive of your lifestyle. I am confident that you both are on the right track 🙂

  13. I love your openness and honesty. We have been fortunate that so far our kids support our lifestyle but it can be challenging. We keep doing loops in the East as well mostly because of family. Had our first grandchild and two weddings this past year so we never headed west. Another grandchild due this spring. Maybe in another year we will finally cross the Mississippi. We have definitely experienced similar challenges when we are staying near family in Pittsburgh. They want us there but they are busy with their own lives so much of the time together is on their schedules not ours. I think you made the best decision and your family will come around to that realization.

  14. Tracy, I’ve said it before, but you have become quite the writer over the years. This is important stuff you are talking about, and your eloquence is moving. As the mother of two adults… I hear you. I see you.

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