Not THAT kind of long distance relationship
May 24, 2013 3:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be an aunt, and I'm super excited. But I have some logistical questions about being part of the kid's life when I actually don't even live in the same country. How can I see the baby regularly (1) without spending a whole lot of money and (2) without imposing overly on its family?

This is what I am trying to figure out:

I don't make a ton of money.

My sister and her partner live in Germany. I live in the UK. It's easy to go back and forth using Ryanair or Easyjet or whatever. The cheapest way to go and see them and the baby would be using a low-cost airline and then putting up at their place for a weekend. This way, I could theoretically visit them a number of times a year for brief visits and only really have to pay for the flight, as well the cost of eating, etc, while there.

However! They're going to be new parents. They probably won't have a huge amount of space, and they're likely to be overwhelmed with it all especially towards the beginning. I worry that coming and staying frequently when the baby is really small would be unfair to them. Of course, I would not be a demanding houseguest - I'd cook, wash up, babysit and let them get a few hours sleep, and whatever else they need. But still, I worry that I would be imposing.

Another option would be staying at a hotel or hostel, which would be a little more expensive. If I took this route I probably couldn't go and visit that frequently but I would probably stay for a bit longer just to make it worth it. Say, once every 4-6 months, if that. But this way I wouldn't be in their hair for the whole of the time.

But this is the first baby in our family, I'm really excited, and I also know it means a lot to my sister that her family be part of the baby's life. I know that the baby itself isn't really going to care at the beginning. But I don't want to miss out on the super-cute early stages and I want it to grow up knowing who I am.

My sister has often said she expects me to visit frequently once the kid is here... but she may think differently when she's subsisting on 2 hours sleep a night.

So what would you do, Mefites?
posted by sockandawe to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Going to visit and staying with them a few times a year would not be imposing on them as long as you worked around their schedule. New parents enjoy having free babysitters.
posted by empath at 3:13 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

What do I think? I think you should ask your sister. She's the only one who knows the answer to the question. Some people don't like a lot of visitors at first. Other people welcome their mothers into their homes for months at a time and gladly look forward to the companionship and support.

My sister came for a couple of days immediately after my son was born, and then switched out with my mom, who stayed for another week. I wish she could have stayed longer. My daughter was born overseas and my parents came to stay for 2 weeks about 2 weeks after she was born. We actually went out and traveled around doing touristy things for part of that time and it was literally one of the best times of my life.

Regardless of how you visit, it's good practice to offer help rather than the old "let me know if there's anything I can do". My mom is really good at that--she "makes herself at home" in the best sense of the word--and so she doesn't feel like a burden when she visits.
posted by drlith at 3:13 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I worry that coming and staying frequently when the baby is really small would be unfair to them.

Unfair? It would only be unfair to all the parents who don't get a night out. If you are a low-maintence guest who doesn't mind doing a diaper change and bottle in the middle of the night, you could be nothing but welcome.

I have not always gotten along with my sister, but my children's aunt is welcome as often as she wants to come and I could not love her more for it.
posted by three blind mice at 3:22 AM on May 24, 2013

Just make sure you help out when you visit, and I imagine they'd be happy to have you. Babysit, make meals, etc.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:23 AM on May 24, 2013

Go as a nanny and a sister.

When in nanny mode, get the kid out of the house (walks in the park, etc.) or in the bath (with you watching and playing) or eating lunch or playing somewhere out of the way so your sister and her partner can relax together or separately without worrying about the kid.

When her partner is watching the kid, switch to supportive sister mode: get her out of the house for walks in the park or whatever it was she used to love to do.

When your sister is happily watching the kid, volunteer to take care of a shopping list.

You'll get plenty of time with sister and baby (and even the partner if you like), just not necessarily all at the same time.
posted by pracowity at 3:31 AM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

As a new parent I am happy for aunts to come stay, they can help out with keeping the kid occupied while the parents do chores/have a nap/go and see a film.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:51 AM on May 24, 2013

I'd cook, wash up, babysit and let them get a few hours sleep, and whatever else they need.

When we had our first kid, we loved this sort of houseguest. However, some people find visitors more stressful than we do. So, the key is being able to discuss this openly with your sister. Make sure she feels comfortable letting you know if the visits are an imposition or become one. Also, I agree with snickerdoodle that skype/facetime is really making it easier to keep up relationships with distant relatives.
posted by Area Man at 4:24 AM on May 24, 2013

They are aving a baby. Mebbe its life changing for a week or two, after that its just routine. So if your first visit is after that dificult bit feel free to stay with em and help out. I would give them a couple of weeks before I visited. Last thing I wanted as a ne parent was guests let alone house guests.
posted by BenPens at 4:51 AM on May 24, 2013

I think as long as you keep your visits centered on their family,s needs and wants you will be fine. Don't turn into a person who demands once a month when they may not want that; or makes it about how you neeeeed to see the baby, and remember to nurture you relationship with your sister too so she doesn't feel like you're only coming for the baby. Honestly, the kid will only "remember" by other people's memories if you were there one time or twelve in the first year.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:08 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Family coming to stay with a new mom is very common. Usually it's one of the new parents mothers because having somebody around that has done this before can be useful in those first couple of weeks. If we had had somebody willing to come play nanny for free I would have paid for their first class ticket :)
posted by COD at 5:19 AM on May 24, 2013

I would check in with your sister as time goes by. Yes, new parents need help, but they also need downtime. Even if the houseguest doesn't create any extra "work" and helps with the baby, it can still be stressful to have someone living in your space. So maybe sometimes you stay with them, sometimes you stay in a hostel.

I grew up with my aunts oceans away. Letters were a wonderful way to keep in contact between the rare visits. Now we have Skype, email, text messaging. There are many ways to foster that relationship.

(Also, you hear a lot about family/friends enabling a "date night" out for parents of infants, but maybe what the parents need is a long afternoon completely to themselves in their own home, catch my drift?)
posted by stowaway at 6:41 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with most of the above that a couple times a year, for a couple nights, pre-arranged with the parents' schedule, is a great thing. But you can be present via weekly Skype dates as well.

My parents and one sister live in the Midwest of the US. Another sister lives in Texas. All my in-laws live in France. We live in New York City. My kid has met each of these people in person a maximum of 3 times in his 2.75 years, and he can still name them all and understands the relationships. And he's always excited to see Grandpa on the computer and show them his latest drawing, or read a book together with Mamie.

The family member with the kid who never bothers to Skype with us, I don't think the kid knows us from Adam and Eve.
posted by Liesl at 7:09 AM on May 24, 2013

Another thing you can do is send gifts for the baby with family photos built in. I know that on Shutterfly (and other sites) you can upload photos and they will make them into a picture book, just like the kind that you would get at a children's book store, but with your photos and text. I don't know if anyone makes board-book styles for infants, but look for that.

Then take some photos and make books on a theme - Holidays with Auntie, Auntie and I Doing Chores, Toys that Auntie and I like to Play With, Clothes that Auntie and I Wear, etc. Use photos of the baby from your sister's facebook page (or whatever) and then you stage a photo of yourself that would complement or imitate it, or photoshop them together. Or ask your sister to take specific photos - you take a photo of yourself using a broom and a get a photo of the baby using a toy broom (well, when it's old enough) and you put both of those in the book. Do one or two a year so the baby grows up in the photos.

When my kids were little, we found some of those wooden puzzles with a frame and about 5 pieces. We took the one with big shapes and pasted family photos into the frame underneath the puzzle pieces. So as the kids played with the puzzle, they could pick up the shapes and play peek-a-boo with Grandma.
posted by CathyG at 7:23 AM on May 24, 2013

One more, again for when the baby is older: don't think that your phone calls or skype calls have to be long marathon sessions that become a slog for everyone. You can call the child just to say something like: hey, I saw a really pretty flower when I was walking home. I'll send you an email with a picture. Next time you're out for a walk, look for a pretty flower for me and ask your mom to take a photo. Love you!!
posted by CathyG at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would caution you to pace yourself, because you may feel now like you'd love to see the baby see the baby see the baby and you're happy to help out, and I know you absolutely mean this. But after a certain point, the "feel free to go as long as you're willing to be a free babysitter so they can go out" needs to be considered carefully. While the baby is an infant, it makes perfect sense to me to go with the primary idea of taking pressure off the new parents -- absolutely! But as your niece/nephew grows up, you'll want to find a way to visit without feeling like your primary purpose is being free help. If you shlep all the way there when the kid is three, for instance, and the parents leave you at home and go out the whole time, I can imagine you winding up feeling a little bit taken advantage of. You're still family! It's okay to visit as family, and once you get through tiny infancy, you don't have to justify visiting by promising to perform services, and I doubt your family expects you to do that.

Don't assume seeing you is a burden you have to make up for. Assume they will want to see you, and that as long as you're a conscientious, thoughtful houseguest and loving aunt, that's your primary job. People who don't want you to visit unless they're going to be able to go out all the time and never see you don't really want you to visit at all; I doubt this is your situation.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:23 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

A few visits are great and in my case, always welcome. My nephew lives a few hours away (by plane) so I try to get there a couple of times a year and they come home regularly too. When I'm there, I buy groceries, cook, and wash dishes, so I'm a welcome guest. When nephew was brand new (first visit when he was six weeks), I also came in handy for holding the baby while someone went to the bathroom, holding the baby while someone went to the store, holding the baby while the person covered in baby barf washed up, etc, etc. Keep in mind that my brother and I are very close and our houses are always open to each other.

Now that my nephew is two and a half, I'm just an addition to their regular routine when I'm there. Skype has also been a big plus, since I'm not some vaguely remembered person, but somebody he sees and talks to regularly.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:44 AM on May 24, 2013

Could it be time to get a better job?
posted by rhizome at 8:45 AM on May 24, 2013

I live out of state from family and have small children. We get a lot of family visitors, and we love it. My one caveat: obviously ask your sister what she wants, but I would recommend not going in the first couple of weeks unless she specifically asks you to. Both times we've had children we've had visitors much sooner than we probably should have. We could have used a little time to hibernate.
posted by gerstle at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2013

My sister lives 3000+ km away from us and we love having her come and visit with our 2 year old and the soon to arrive newborn. She comes about 3 times a year and its so nice to have her take the kid to the park and give me a bit of a break during the day and then we catch up in the evenings. Skype/Face time have also been amazing. We have a standing weekly chat that my son looks forward to. It can last anywhere from 10 min to an hour depending on his mood etc. Sometimes he will also come up to me holding the iPad and request that we call Auntie at other times too. She is a part of his life even though we are far apart.
posted by saradarlin at 11:26 PM on May 24, 2013

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