How Moving More Than 600 Miles Away Changed My Relationship with My Family

My family has owned and lived in a multi-family house in Brooklyn since 1995. My oldest sister occupied the third story with her three children before moving to another multi-family house around the corner a few years ago. My parents and I (and Bean, of course) lived on the second story, where most of our memories are made.  When my grandmother passed away in 2005, my older sister and brother-in-law moved into her apartment on the ground floor.

As you can imagine, we’re a close-knit family. We seem to have gotten even closer now that Bean and I live over 600 miles away. My sisters, nieces and I text daily in our very active group chat. Up until recently, my oldest sister and I talked using FaceTime every morning on our way to work. Now, she calls in the evening, before or after (and sometimes during) my evening FaceTime call with my older sister and brother-in-law. By the time we wrap our call, my mother is calling for the second time; we usually talk during our lunch breaks at work.

I’m grateful for the connection I have with my family, in spite of the distance between us. But it’s becoming a major problem.

Let me explain.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. The longer my to list grows, the less time and attention I seem to have to give to it. I manage to meet me and Beans’ basic needs and responsibilities daily. Sometimes, time permits tackling one or two small chores around the apartment. Lately, the stress of managing our day to day lives is amplified by the tower of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, the pile of laundry on the living room floor and my overcrowded bathroom counter, to name a few. There never seems to be enough time, though I couldn’t understand why. Apart from the 12 hours or so that I spend away from home, the two hours of quality time Bean and I spend together before bedtime and the roughly seven hours of sleep I get each night, I had no idea where I lost track of time.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I planned to catch up. Yesterday, I planned to sit down for dinner with Bean before getting him ready for bed. Then, I was going to watch the latest episode of This Is Us in real time while I folded laundry. Next, I was going to work on some personal projects (including a long overdue blog post) and finally, retire to bed.

What I actually did was field 20 phone calls and way more than 20 text messages from my family over the course of a few hours while trying to tend to Bean at the same time. After getting him to bed more than an hour behind schedule, I collapsed on the couch in a fit of exhausted tears around 10p. A sharp hunger pang forced me to get up and reheat dinner that I ate while watching the recording of This Is Us on my DVR. After that, I dragged myself to bed, where I fell asleep still half-dressed in my work clothes sometime after midnight.

Cue the violin.

I realized yesterday that it wasn’t out of the norm for me to accept so many phone calls, or distractions, during time that I claim to dedicate to myself. In fact, it was my routine. Make plans, get distracted, beat myself up. Today, I’m ready to break that pattern. I’m ready to create different results.

I sent a group text to my family last night announcing that I will no longer be accepting phone calls after 7:30p. I want to maintain our close connection, but not at my own expense. I received three responses that I’m choosing to ignore. Because regardless of their feedback, I’m still reclaiming my time. Because spending at least 21 hours a day on everything and everyone but myself is not the life I choose. I get to figure out what reclaiming my time looks like starting now.

I also get to celebrate publishing my first blog post in over 100 days.

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