Like many families, my family is spread out throughout the U.S. Before we had a child, this aspect of our lives didn’t bother me or my husband too much. It was nice to have our own space but we knew that our parents were a relatively short drive away (3 hours north to my parents, 2 hours south to his) if we needed or wanted to visit (or if there was an emergency). It was a pretty sweet set up, actually.
Then we had our daughter.
Both of us grew up with our extended families less than 20 minutes from our childhood homes. I saw my grandparents at least once a month (usually more), spent the night at their houses, and my cousins were part of my social circle. My husband had a similar situation. But now, living a distance away, we were not going to be able to afford that same opportunity for our daughter despite even our best efforts.
When our daughter was first born, we had no money. We were mired in a substantial amount of debt and it was all we could do to pay our bills, feed and clothe ourselves, and get to work. We didn’t have extra money for anything, including frequent visits to our parents or buying ink to print pictures to send to our families. We were fortunate that our parents didn’t mind coming to visit us but after awhile, it became pretty taxing on them (as she’s gotten older and our financial situation has improved, we do a much better job of taking turns visiting). We had to, and continue to have to, dig deep to find ways to keep our daughter connected to her extended family without breaking anyone’s budget. Here’s what we’ve come up with:
- Skype and FaceTime on iPhones. This is relatively new for us since we just got Skype working properly (computer problems, not a problem with Skype) and we’ve finally figured out how to use the Face to Face feature (don’t judge). It’s wonderful to have the ability for our daughter to have conversations with her grandparents while “looking” at them. It makes it a much more personal experience and honestly, it’s kind of fun.
- Snapfish. I cannot extol the benefits of Snapfish enough. It is wonderful to be able to upload a boatload of pictures and then with the click of a few buttons, share the entire album with her grandparents, great-grandmother, aunt, cousins, and even close friends. They then have the ability to select what pictures they want to have developed instead of us choosing it for them. And we get to share a lot more without having to spend a fortune on postage. (Note: Email and texting also comes in handy for sharing pictures.)
- Blogs. Although I don’t personally have a blog (yet) detailing my daughter’s day to day activities and accomplishments, there are many people that do. In fact, that’s how Scary Mommy got started; it was an online baby book that she shared with friends and family. If you’re not too keen on the whole internet reading about your kid and seeing pictures, you can set the blog to private and share it only with the intended audience. As an added bonus, it makes a nice, permanent baby book for the kid to look back on.
Make no mistake about it. The “old fashioned” way of doing things is still just as meaningful. I know my grandmother (my daughter’s great-grandmother) loves getting photos and drawings in the mail (birthday/anniversary cards aren’t too bad either). It’s always a good time when we visit in person or make a traditional phone call. But the distance between us has made it more difficult to share forge the relationships that we had growing up. Thanks to the Internet, that gap is now a lot smaller.
How do you frugally connect with family members who are a distance away?