Q My husband has been offered a much better job across the country. We're hesitant to move, especially since I am expecting and we live in a town near both our families. Can you offer any advice?
A We faced this matter ourselves once. Our relationship was founded away from home. Nebraskan Tom met Alabaman Caroline at college in Ohio. So, upon discerning that the Lord was calling us to marriage, it was only natural that we should move to … Texas?
We had grown accustomed to living away from our families, so a move to Dallas, where Tom would attend grad school and where we knew no one, seemed exciting. And so it was. Beginning our life together, we enjoyed all the benefits and culture of a large metropolitan area, making friends and a home for ourselves there. Our families were missed, but visits were regular.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to parenthood: When our first child was on the way, we suddenly, mutually felt the need to be closer to family. While the status quo was great for the two of us, we were moved to ask: What is best for our family — especially our children? We realized that our children would do best if they not only had parents who lived out their faith but also the kind of support system that only relatives can provide. We wanted our children to grow up surrounded by godly grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as cousins who were being raised in a manner akin to the way we were bringing them up.
In short, we wanted our children to be raised in a setting where faith in Christ and love for his Church was the norm, not the exception. Either of our families could have been that model, but the job opportunity landed us in Alabama, so we packed our things and headed south with a 7-month-old. Do we miss our friends in Dallas? Of course. Do we regret moving? Not at all. Whenever we see our sons’ faces light up at the prospect of going to visit Grandma and Grandpa, or our 5-year-old's cries when it's time to say goodbye to his cousins for the day, its hard to imagine family life any other way. It's a comfort knowing that every minute our kids spend with their relatives will be time in which our faith and values are reinforced.
Let's be clear: Just because God called us to this decision does not mean he will call you to the same. Our point is this: If your extended family is one that will be reaffirming of your faith and loving to your children, that is a consideration not to be taken lightly. Our culture is so hostile to virtue that Catholic parents can't expect to impart good character in their kids on their own. It becomes a priority to seek out loving support. A Christ-centered, supportive family structure is the best environment in which to take on this vitally important task.
You may need to ask yourself: Is the opportunity across the country so good that you'd leave the support system of your extended family for it?
Tom and Caroline McDonald are family life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.