Sometimes You Have To Make Your Own Family

make your own family - az family Six years ago my family set out on a journey, a medical journey. You see, my husband was about to start medical school in a little town I had never heard of 2,000 miles away from our families, Erie, PA. Before this big adventure I had never lived away from family. When my husband and I got married, we were both in college, and to help us out, my family let us live in their guest house in the back yard, and his family all lived within 5 miles of our house, so we were always with family. The thought of having 2,000 miles between us and family seemed impossible.

I remember our first few weeks in Erie: I was not a very outgoing person, and the thought of having to make new friends sounded impossible. My husband started medical school a week after we moved, and so I was on my own, with our toddler, to find friends. My first friends in our new town were wives of my husband’s study buddies. We bonded through movie nights and trips to the outlet mall and the beautiful beaches of Lake Erie while the guys spent their time under the florescent lights in the library. Because we spent so much time together, eventually I came to think of our new friends as family, and they still are our family.make your own family - erie

We were able to support each other through hard times and laugh with each other through the fun times. We were there for each other for birthday parties and welcoming babies into our families. They were who we spent holidays with when we couldn’t get home because of schedules or costs. We became a real family. My kids call our friends Aunt and Uncle and they refer to the kids as their cousins. In reality, they saw more of our friends than their blood relatives; it made sense to them.

When medical school ended and residency began, it was time to move again. Our medical school family ended up separated, with my family ending up here in wonderful Iowa and our friends in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. After moving to Iowa we had to start making a family again. We refer to this fun group as our Iowa Family.

They have become our support system out here during residency. For those who don’t know, residency is the training period that doctors go through after medical school but before they can start practicing on their own. It can be anywhere from 3 years to you-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-many years. My husband’s residency is supposed to be four years, but there is always the chance for more training after residency (which is called a fellowship).

Our Iowa family is amazing and have been amazing to us through all of the hard times of long work weeks and sick kids and have been here to brighten up the cold snowy winters. Our kids love to spend time with their Iowa cousins and miss them when they are not around.make your own family - iowa

We, of course, miss our families back in Arizona and love getting to visit them and reconnect, but its also nice to know that we can make our own families. These families don’t have to be people that we are related to through blood. I can remember a song I heard a long time ago by Garth Brooks called Love is Thicker than Blood and now that we are out here creating our own families I can totally understand the saying. I feel like because we get to choose our “family” out here in Iowa that we have a special connection that comes from the choice rather than the coincidence of being born into a family.

I know that one day our Iowa family will end up in different places. It’s already started changing. This summer a part of our Iowa family moved to Utah. It’s been quite an adjustment trying to carry on without them. My kids miss them and so do I. I know that every time someone’s program ends, there is a chance that they will move away because there are only so many jobs in the area. The bright spot in there is planning our summer trips where we can catch up.

make your own family - reunionRight now I’m just a couple of weeks away from getting to go to Oklahoma to catch up with our medical school family. The kids get to spend a week running around like little crazy people together, and the moms get to stay up late watching chick flicks and talking like no time has passed since our last get together. Next summer we will have to add another reunion trip, one where we can reconnect with our Iowa family that has moved away. For me that’s just another perk to creating all of these new “families” for ourselves, more “family reunion” trips!


Have you ever moved away from family? How did you cope? Did you create your own “family”?
Ashley Breinholt
Ashley is an Iowa transplant from Arizona and a busy mom of 4. She spends most of her day chasing around her little herd and hoping to catch a glimpse of her main squeeze when he gets a break from the hospital. She has a bachelor's degree in Communication from Arizona State University and is currently the Vice President of Iowa Medical Partners where she helps plan events and service projects and runs the blog. In her free time, Ashley enjoys running, reading, cooking, and decorating (and redecorating) the house. She loves everything about Iowa! She and her family like to explore everything that Iowa has to offer in every season. Life may be crazy but she loves every minute of it!


  1. I’ll be moving to IC next week! Bittersweet, as I’ll be leaving my family here in IL. But I’m excited for our new adventures!


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