There used to be a time when newlyweds raced away from their hometowns shortly after getting married, eager to begin a new life on their own; but that is no longer the case.
According to recent survey findings, people are beginning to realize the lure of new places and faces doesn’t compare to the benefits of staying closer to family.
“The advantages of living near our family have a lot to do with comfort,” said Jeff Livingston, of Sloatsburg, N.Y. “It’s just easier when you can ask your father-in-law, ‘hey, where should I take my car to get new tires?’ Now, living near my family, I take my car to the same guy that used to service my grandfather’s vehicles.”
Livingston, his wife Paige and their three boys ages 1 to 5, live in the same area where his family has resided for more than 300 years and where an extensive family network — stretching up to Albany and down to Queens — still remains. The couple met while Paige, a native of the Midwest, was in graduate school in New York City. After their marriage, they spent several years in the Midwest near Paige’s family before moving back to New York prior to the birth of their second son.
“We’ve talked about what we would do if I was offered a position internationally through the company I work for,” Livingston, an architect, mused. “It would be a fun adventure but tough to do. I can’t say we would readily move to where we don’t know someone.”
According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Modern Woodmen of America of Rock Island, Ill., the majority of Americans have extended family members living nearby.
“Our survey found nearly two out of three Americans — or 65 percent — are living within the same state or closer, and nearly one quarter of us have extended family living as close as the same city,” said Sharon Snawerdt of Modern Woodmen of America. The fraternal financial services organization advocates fostering strong family and community ties. The organization sponsors a Web site, www.gatherings.info that provides ideas and resources to encourage family gatherings and communication.
Snawerdt added, “Most of us feel that the key ingredient for closeness is quality time together. The survey also found that one in 10 Americans would try to live closer to extended family to strengthen those bonds.”
“Living by my family definitely has an impact,” said Livingston. “We see my family at least once a week. We run into them everywhere we go. They help with the kids and take them places. You really don’t have to work too hard at the relationships. They just happen daily.”
If you are not in close proximity to family, it takes a lot of work to keep family relationships strong. This is a situation when people will sometimes turn to resources such as books, magazines and even the Internet to help pull together a gathering.
Many Web sites, like www.gatherings.info, offer tips, checklists, recipes and ideas to help simplify the planning process.
A lifetime influence
For those people who grow up near their family and enjoy frequent face-to-face interaction, the effects and advantages may not be that apparent. It is just life as they know it. According to Allan Carlson, president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Rockford, Ill., the daily familial relationships people take for granted are building a network for their success and security in the future.
“When children grow up around their extended family, they know that family means something broader than just their parents and their siblings,” said Carlson. “It is critical, I feel, to their emotional development that they know that they are part of this ongoing pageant of life; that they have roots that go back to their grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins; that they are part of a greater group. It can have a powerful affect on their lives now and in the future.”
— Courtesy of ARA Content