Military Family Separation

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

As military families go, we’re incredibly lucky. We lived by family for four whole years, and loved every second of it.

The snuggles, the laughter, the shoulders to lean on. . . we really miss it. But we are so blessed to have supportive and loving extended family that cheer on our parenting choices, support our personal and professional goals, and are proud of our service to the United States of America.

But that’s not to say that it doesn’t complicate things.

The Effects of Military Family Separation

The kids don’t really know any different – being away from their extended family has been their reality (for all of Joseph’s life, and for most of Abbey’s). Though Abbey does miss living so close to her grandparents, she has started to understand that we live too far to drive, and that plane trips are special occasions. And for the most part, she understands and accepts those limitations. She relishes the time that she has gotten to spend with my mom and dad the times that they have visited us and the time that we visited them in Texas. And she talks to them and to Hubs’ parents on the phone often.

No, it’s not really the kids who take separation the hardest. . . I actually think the person that separation from extended family is hardest on is me. 

It’s not just the grandparents, either. Yeah, sure: I do SO miss free child care. Jed and I could have many more date nights and alone times if we were nearby family. I can’t count how many times I call my parents and the other set of grandkids is over at their house while my brother and sister-in-law are at a meeting, enjoying a dinner or date, or just plain shopping at the grocery store by their beautiful lonesomes! 

But I also miss my brother and sister-in-law, and I really miss the frequent interaction that Abbey used to have with her cousins. Playdates are not the same as playing with cousins. Cousins have a special bond, and I miss spending time with my sister in law as we watch the kids play, who also parents naturally, striving for authenticity, gentleness, and simplicity. I miss getting together at my mom and dad’s for the UT game during football season, or a BBQ in honor of a family birthday. I miss having a glass of wine with my mom and talking about things, the silly and the serious – face to face. I miss hugging my nieces and nephews, and watching them grow alongside my own children. I absolutely miss hugs from my mom and dad. A phone call is not nearly as awesome.
Enhanced Appreciation, Longing for Connection

Honestly, I think that I have the most trouble with being away from family during our parenting journey. I know that it is a huge part of our military family existence, so I’ve chosen to accept and embrace the circumstance (just like the feelings I’ve adapted toward change – also one of the constants in a military family life.)
The kids have a reality in which visits with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are few and far between. They’re special trips, and they don’t last long. That’s their reality. 
Hubs and I, however, have been used to being near our families – for our entire lives. It’s hard to shoulder the frustration when our preschooler says “Let’s go to Texas and see Grandpa and Grandma at their house!” or “Nana and Papa can play with me today!”and we have to tell her that Texas is too far away and Nana and Papa don’t live nearby.

But it’s even harder when the closest I can get to an unconditionally loving, warm, snuggly shoulder to lean on on a bad day is a phone call and thousands of miles away, instead of right there with a hug and an I love you right down the street. 

Living without extended family. It’s a reality that military families live with, and one that we are learning to embrace as a special circumstance, and a new kind of journey. 
It brings an enhanced sense of appreciation for the time that we do get to spend together, but it leaves me longing for more connection.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.


  1. Loved this post, Amy. I completely understand how you feel (minus the military obligation.) My husband, daughter, and I just moved 14 hours away from my entire family. Sometimes we wonder if we were crazy to think this was a good idea. But we’ll be here for at least a few years while my husband build more work experience.

    I think a lot of people forget that it is not just the individuals in the military that are affected, but their families as well. Best wishes to you and your family! Hopefully, you’ll get stationed somewhere closer to family. :)

  2. I was a military kid, so to me not having extended family around was just the norm. I wasn’t close with my cousins or grandparents, so I didn’t really miss them. It’s only lately that I’ve been able to see it through my parents’ eyes, and I imagine they felt much like you — they had grown up surrounded by family, and now suddenly they were distant, while raising their own kids. That has to be tough. You military parents are so strong!

  3. Amy, my brother is currently in Afghanistan while his wife and daughter are in Idaho. It breaks my heart every time I think about the aloneness that comes from being so far from family!

  4. My dad was KS Army National Guard, so while I consider myself a military brat, we were never more than an easy drive away from my grandparents. I know my mom appreciated being close to my grandma! Hopefully you’ll be able to move a little closer to home at some point :)

  5. Absolutely love the picture, she looks so like that little oyster of mine! Military life can’t be easy for you. Cross fingers your hubby will get some off-duty time. And your right about it being hardest on you as kids are fairly adaptable. I know that when my parents moved, it affected Mum the most and us kids the least. Hope the future gets you closer to a more contenting lifestyle.

  6. I totally empathise, both as a military child and as someone who lives far from family. There are no easy answers, but Skype has been our best friend!


  1. [...] Military Family Separation — Amy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey. [...]

  2. […] Military Family Separation — Amy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey. […]

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