Being an auntie from abroad
I’m going to be an aunt times two! Whoa!
My sister is about 3 months along with baby number 2! She is due in March 2016. This means I’ll have to plan a trip to go home to New York around that time. But this also means another little person is going to be in the back of my mind, nagging me to go home more often.
This is a recent photo of me and my nephew in New York:
I’m pretty terrible at being away from my family. I miss them a lot, but deal with it by making myself busy, or watching a lot of TV shows, and not calling home. If I don’t hear or see them, I can’t feel sad, right?
But I do get lonely, and I often am not aware of the reason why until it has already settled in. It’s not like my family would keep me on the phone for hours. The longest phone call would be probably half an hour, and if it’s video maybe 1 to 1.5 hours. It’s really not that much time in my week. But I still forget.
If you notice yourself drifting away like this, try to catch yourself and do something about it. It might make you feel sad for a short while, but you won’t regret taking a few minutes to get back in touch with family.
I don’t get to spend as much time with my nephew L as I would like, that’s for sure. But, I could honestly try harder to video chat with them or even just call them more often. I just need to stop selfishly avoiding these activities because they may trigger feelings of sadness or homesickness.
Sometimes I feel conflicted about being abroad for so long and missing a lot of my nephew’s life. I want to be there for him, and I want him to know me. But I also want to do the things I want to do in my life and go to the places in the world that I find interesting.
I guess I will have to find the balance somehow. I don’t know where I’ll live after London, but that’s ok for now. I can always go home to New York, and I’ll always visit even if I’m living far away. It’s a work in progress, so I’m learning as I go.
Tips on how to be a long distance aunt or uncle
If you are an aunt or uncle and you live away from your family, there are some things you can do:
1. Call whenever you can. No one calls anymore, but you can. Kids will still like the excitement of receiving a phone call.
2. Video chat whenever you can. If your time difference is large, it helps to schedule this in regularly (like you would make a date with your supervisor or someone else you can’t bail on easily). Make it a thing and stick to it!
3. Send things by snail mail. Everyone loves getting mail, right? Even if they are too little to realize, it may still be a fun thing to do. I’ve started a postcard project. I’m going to send my nephew a postcard once every few weeks/months. The first batch were all of puffins that I got while on my trip to visit my friend in Yorkshire.
I also bought a set of really cool animal postcards (see below). Each one features a different animal, but is also a puzzle where you have to look for the one individual that is different from the rest of the group.
4. When you are with them in person, be present in the moment. Be all about the experiences you have together and not so much about the gifts that you bring. You don’t want to be remembered for a toy they didn’t end up liking, or worse that they didn’t remember you gave them. You want to be remembered for your awesome Mickey Mouse voice.
5. Keep their photo on your desk. Even if it is embarrassing (and people ask you if that is your kid, and this happened to me a few times), seeing them there will remind you to stay in touch and call them.
6. Bring mementos from your travels. If your niece or nephew loves animals, find a small item of an iconic animal from each place you are traveling to. Soon, they will have a little collection of interesting animals that they can play with. When you do see them in person, you can tell them more about the animal if you saw it or talk more about your trip in general.
Next trip home!
Next week I’m going home for 10 days. Ten GLORIOUS days of being an auntie in person! Maybe not ten full days together with L, but at least I’ll see him several times on this trip.
To my family, I miss you and thank you for always being there for me!
Update 21 February 2017
So I’m moving back to New York! I’m currently still on the road, but I’ll be in New York indefinitely as I start my job search. I’m excited to be back in time for my niece’s first birthday party. That’s going to be super fun, and I’m going to take so much video with my GoPro. 😀
It’s been harder being away from my family this past year, especially with finishing up the PhD and going through the stresses of that. I also haven’t been very good at calling them during this 3 month trip, but I have sent a few postcards home! I think I enjoy sending them as much as they like receiving them!
Are you an aunt or uncle? How do you stay connected?