The Pros & Cons of Living Near Family

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Chris Perez)

My day job is the only one I’ve ever had in which the employees never socialize outside of work— it’s also the only one I’ve ever had in which all of the employees’ families live locally. Coincidence? I can’t help but wonder: do all of the family recitals, parties, graduations, brunches, and favors take up so much time that there’s little-to-none left over for a non-family social life?

Observing my awesome, generous, hard-working coworkers, I can see so many advantages to living nearby family— as will as several downsides. Please forgive my wide-eyed wonderment: other than my grandma when I was little, I’ve never lived near extended family and went 16 years living many hours/states away from any family. I now live 90 minutes from my immediate family, and even that is taking some getting used to!

PROS: (In no particular order…)

The chance to be a major part of young nieces’/nephews’/cousins’ lives. You’d have a chance to babysit them, attend all of their soccer games and dance recitals and graduations, get to know their friends, attend or host their birthday parties, gain an intimate understanding of their home/family situation and help out accordingly, and spend time with kids you love.

The opportunity to spend time with older relatives. When you live across the country from elderly relatives, it’s easy to go a few years without seeing them, and “a few years” is serious when they’re in their 90s. Living nearby, you’re able to visit them regularly, keep the visits short if that works best for everyone involved, observe what they need and what improves their quality of life and perhaps provide some of that, advocate for them, and get to know them better. They’ll also get to know you and perhaps your partner and children better, too!

A backup plan, a helping hand. I can’t tell you how many mornings coworkers have casually— but gratefully— mentioned that their dad helped shovel out their driveway or their mom gave them a ride when the car wouldn’t start or their aunt is taking care of their sick child so they don’t have to miss work. It seems that, within reason, having extended family nearby means there’s always someone around to help.

The ability to attend events, casually. It would be so strange to be able to attend a cousin’s graduation/birthday/wedding without having to contemplate buying a plane ticket and getting time off work. You could just…go. And then leave when you’re ready!

CONS: (As I see them, because I am a cold-hearted Scrooge…)

The obligation to help every relative with every thing. I love helping people, especially people I love, but I could see feeling burnt out if I had to constantly do favors for my extended family. My coworkers seem to consistently spend all their available free time cleaning, decorating, raking, shoveling, babysitting, and doing home improvement projects for their families and yes, clearly they are far better people than I am.

The chance to get stuck in a not-helpful-in-the-long-run cycle of helping. How do I say this…it’s always good to help out our fellow humans as best we can, and doing so is one of the joys of life. However, sometimes receiving constant help can prevent a person from helping themselves, and sometimes providing constant help can keep a person from taking care of themselves. Living near family, it seems like it would be very difficult/drama-inducing to refuse a relative’s request for help, even if you’re convinced they need to take responsibility for themselves and even if you are utterly exhausted/broke/worn thin. I hope this doesn’t happen a lot, but it seems like it would be an easy cycle to get into.

The obligation to attend every single family event ever. This would drive me crazy because I love (active) downtime. As far as I can guess, nobody wants to attend every family birthday party, anniversary, Mother’s Day brunch, graduation, holiday get-together, and more, but if you live in the same town, you don’t seem to have much choice. Nobody I know here seems to have huge families, but they do seem to have a couple of family events every week. When do they find time to work out, poke around thrift stores, and celebrate Game of Scones (which is when you bake scones and watch as many episodes of Game of Thrones as possible)?

When deciding where to live, how much did the benefits of living near family balance against the potential issues? And is living near blood-relations any different from living near a chosen family of friends?