There’s a very specific sting you experience when your family is not involved in your life. It’s hard to nail down to a single emotion but if you’ve been there, you know it.
It’s the sting of rejection when your sibling is “too busy” to hang out with you for months at a time. I mean, it seems like they find time for other people and plans. Can they really not find a few measly hours for you?
It’s the sting of disappointment when your parents don’t visit your kids as often as you’d like, or interact with them in the way you wish they would. You remember your own grandparents dropping by every weekend, talking to and playing with you for hours at a time.
It hurts knowing your kids won’t experience the same level of closeness with their grandparents. You hurt for yourself and for your children.
It’s the sting of resentment for the family who live cities or states away and constantly complain they don’t see enough of you or your kids…but never ever visit. I mean, you’d think if they miss you so much, they could drive to visit you once or twice a year, am I right?! Instead, you have to request time off work, pack up your family, and spend money on gas, hotel, food, and more, knowing full well the guilt trips will start back up the second you return home.
These are your stories, shared through our reader survey, emails, DMs, and more. And if I’m being honest, these are my stories too.
You insisted it’s a topic we don’t talk about enough and I couldn’t agree more. So let’s talk!
What are you supposed to do in these situations? How do you deal with the rejection, disappointment, resentment, and 10 million other emotions you feel when your family is not involved in your life? I have some very practical suggestions.
Ask yourself how you settled on your expectations.
Sometimes we see or hear about the families of our neighbors or coworkers, or even families portrayed in movies, and decide that’s what all families look like. Because every family has an endless supply of willing babysitters, constant contact, and vacations with the entire extended family, right?
Except…no, that’s not right. Sure, some families are like that, but every family looks and functions very differently.
Some grandparents crawl on the floor and run outside with their grandkids. Others cuddle in a recliner to watch a movie.
Some siblings text all day, every day. Others don’t talk for weeks at a time, but always pick the conversation right back up without missing a beat.
Some family drop by every weekend and become a regular fixture in the living room. Others visit once a year, but are incredibly intentional with the time they spend with you.
Are you holding your family to unrealistic expectations? Or an example you’ve seen elsewhere, but doesn’t quite fit your own family’s circumstances or personalities? Take a few minutes to think about!
Remember that you don’t know everything about them or their situation.
I can personally attest to this one! I make time for family and friends whenever/however I can but frankly, I just don’t have the bandwidth to do much outside of surviving right now.
What my inviters might not know is that I’m working a night shift, running on roughly four to five hours of sleep a day, and helping a spouse through major health issues that make it incredibly challenging for him to leave the house most days. When I finally get time off, I use it to clean our home, run household errands, and try to catch five minutes for myself, all while battling uphill against my snail of a thyroid gland.
You might know some or most of your family member’s situation, but you likely don’t know all of it. If they tell you they’re busy, believe them! If you really want to earn some saint points (or help eliminate their excuses…either or…), ask them if you can help with anything.
Talk to them about it.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But so many people experience all of these emotions and never bring it up with their family member.
Maybe you think they should know how you feel, that it’s obvious. Or maybe you don’t want to upset them or hurt their feelings. But the fact is that no one can read your mind but you.
Maybe your siblings didn’t realize how long it had been since you last saw each other. Your parent might have assumed you were too busy for their visits. You might just be surprised at what they have to say!
Keep the invites coming.
I know, I know, you can take a hint, right? And if they don’t want to spend time with you, you won’t waste your time inviting them.
But here’s the thing…putting the kibosh on invites closes the door on your end, guaranteeing you’ll see even less of them. Maybe they really are that busy, but really would love to see you.
Give your family the benefit of the doubt! And if they continue to turn down your invites, at least no one can say it was your fault.
Be mindful of how you discuss the situation with and around your children.
You might feel rejected by your family. But do you want to pass on that feeling to your children? Probably not.
One of my grandfathers stopped speaking to my mother (and as a byproduct, me) for several years over a fight they had. And while my mother assured me it wasn’t my fault, I took my grandfather’s actions very personally.
I remember feeling hurt and rejected, for both myself and my mother. It was a very heavy situation to take on at just nine years old.
Be careful about how you word the situation to your children and what you say about it within earshot. Even though you may believe it, saying something like, “Grandma apparently doesn’t want to spend time with us!” will make a much deeper impact on your kids than it will on you. And if/once you and Grandma have reconciled your differences, your children will likely still be working through those emotions.
Consider your extended family.
If your parents or siblings aren’t involved in your life, consider spending more time with aunts, uncles, cousins, or that person who’s something-something twice removed and always shows up at Christmas. They’ve known you all your life too, and can provide that same family feeling if/when your more immediate family doesn’t.
Extend your family beyond blood.
Invite the family of your child’s best friend over for dinner. Or invite a few neighbors over for a barbecue. You might just discover you have a family-like bond with them!
One way I’ve found to connect more deeply with others (beyond the “our kids play soccer together” connection) is to join a small group at your church. These groups are laser focused on connecting with and supporting one another on a deeper level, and act as a fantastic launchpad for deeper and more meaningful friendships.
Sometimes “family” isn’t blood. But that doesn’t make them any less family.
And finally, remember that it’s their loss, not yours.
No matter what the outcome, remember that if your family is not involved in your life, they’re the ones missing out, not you. They could be enjoying dinner with you or cheering on your son at his ridiculously adorable preschool performance or just enjoying a richer and more fulfilling life.
But they’re not. And that’s a crying shame for them.
But luckily for you, you have all of these practical tools in your pocket and are building a family with the people who want to be involved in your life. And that family will serve you much better in the end.
Just because your family’s not involved doesn’t mean your life isn’t full.
True, it still stings when family’s not involved. But by questioning your expectations, talking to and giving them the benefit of the doubt, and extending your family beyond blood, you can still experience close connections…with them or others.
Because others’ decisions? They shouldn’t impact your happiness.
P.S. Ready to escape survival mode and start living life on your terms? We’ve got ya covered with a download of 15 free printable resources HERE!
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