We Spend More Time With My Side Of The Family & I’m Not Sorry

It wasn’t long after the holidays that my in-laws brought up the amount of time they spend with us. It wasn’t the first time, either. This happens a few times a year, often after we spend a long stretch with my side of the family, like we did over the holidays this past year. Whatever the cause, it’s always the same confrontational conversation: a snide remark about our lack of attention or effort, then larger complaints about how we choose to divide our time between the two sides of the family tree. And while I understand some of their hurt, I’m tired of feeling sorry about it.

Because although we spend time with my in-laws over holidays and for other big occasions, the majority of our extended family time is with my side. And that choice is not random. In fact, with over a decade of marriage and parenting under our belts, those decisions are motivated by years of experiences. My parents show up, plain and simple. Despite both living close to us, my parents are the ones doing the comforting phone calls during difficult moments, casual afternoon visits, and everything in between. The division of time between the two sides is not equal because the relationships are not equal. And I am done feeling bad about that.

My family puts forth endless time and effort, and they have been doing that for a very long time. And the majority of their logged hours are not celebratory events or big curated occasions, unlike my in-laws. They’re on random weeknights when I need an extra set of hands, an early morning babysitting job so I can go to an appointment, or accompanying me to a doctor’s appointment when I am nervous or unsure.

They spend hours in the stands on the weekends at games entertaining some of my kids so I can cheer on others. They drop off homemade meals when the kids are sick and pop over to help move furniture when I am re-arranging the bedrooms. And when we go on family vacations, they spend hours fishing and playing board games with the kids so I can make my way through my first book in two years. They lighten the load, and as a result we all have a profound bond.

And with these bonds come an incredible sense of comfort. My boundaries are always respected, and my kids never feel like a burden or point of frustration. Our time together feels pretty effortless.

So I’ve always been a bit dumbfounded when we have this conversation yet again. But because I never want to create more friction, I always end up apologizing. I end up on the other end of a call listening to them talk about their hurt feelings and how much they miss us and want more time with us and feeling bad in the moment.

The truth is, I do not feel bad. And I am not sorry. We do not spend a lot of time with them for a reason. They do not always make us feel comfortable and supported. They do not put forth an incredible amount of effort to lighten our load. Interactions often feel forced, as if I am checking this to-do off the list to keep the peace. And I am not asking for more from them. Because I know that the reason for our relationship circumstances is not malicious. It is not for lack of love or caring. In fact, a lot of it is just based on life logistics. But the reality is still the same. So just like I do not blame them or feel hurt that they do not put forth the same effort as my family, I would like them to not blame me for how I choose to divide our time.

So the next time this conversation comes up — because it will — I am not going to apologize. I will make my way through the moment in a way that keeps the relationship from imploding, and I will understand that they wish things were different. But my husband and I agree that we will not apologize anymore for spending our time with the people who provide us the most comfort and support. Because we just don’t think that is something to be sorry for.

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