Living naturally, most of the time.

I don’t have a village

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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This post would be awesome if I had family that lived nearby.

The topic of this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting is exactly what I lamented over two years ago in a post I wrote for DC Metro Moms. It is hard to do this parenting gig without help, and when there is no family, and your friends are as busy as you are, well, for me that means that every slice of babysitting I need requires scheduling. And that means time, texts, and changed plans when the sitter’s kid gets sick.

As a stay-at-home mom with a few hours a week of tutoring and freelance work and multiple random hours of volunteer stuff, in addition to my current role as interior designer/realtor for our house renovation and sale, I rely on sitters who don’t always come through. I often feel like I can’t count on much. And that drives me batty. If my folks were in good health and lived in town, that would be a game-changer.

But they don’t want to leave Michigan, and I don’t want to go back. I like living near DC. And they’re not of the persuasion or stamina to take the kids for more than an hour or two anyway. My husband’s parents would not be options for extended or regular help either, though I can leave the kids for a few hours with their grandma when we visit her and when she visits us, each once or maybe twice a year.

Part of me wishes that the kids knew their grandparents more and that we could just drop in whenever and that they could come help out whenever. But since health and age and inclination don’t point in that direction, I’m okay with it being special to have visits with them.

What has been great has been help from my sisters and their kids, as I first wrote over two years ago. A community of youngsters is a place for my gregarious son to thrive. Now 6, he’d have felt so much more comfortable as a baby and toddler, I think, if he weren’t the oldest and if we had more familiar folks around all the time. I can see the difference in my similar temperament toddler daughter who has no problem with a new sitter or an unfamiliar situation if her brother is around.

We’re in the middle of a house renovation that has taken all my time and energy, and then some. The actual move, I’m sure, will take weeks, if not months to crawl out from under. When a friend moved a few years ago, she said she didn’t even unpack; her parents did it all. Then they painted her basement one weekend. That is not the kind of support I could ever expect. If I need help packing, I either need to ask a friend, which I’m generally not comfortable doing since she’s likely to be as maxed out as I am, or I have to pay someone to watch my kids and/or help me.

Last week, after the sitter got my daughter to sleep easier (and then longer) than I ever can, she helped me move around furniture in the house so that I could stage it for photos. This week the sitter has been sick, and man, it takes a lot longer. And if the baby won’t sleep, forget the bigger sorting and packing. She’ll undo whatever I did in a heartbeat. So I stay up late, and my health suffers.

So yes, it would be nice if I could send her and her brother to grandma’s. I even tend to cop a righteous attitude at times that people with family nearby simply do not understand what it means to parent in the same way that I do. Oh, woe is me, she who has to pay people to keep her sane! But seriously, it just ain’t the same as people who use their parents for childcare or as my friend who lives with her folks.

And yet, I know we are lucky to have this choice to make. A lot of the people in the recent NPR Family Matters series would opt not to live under one roof if they didn’t have to, and my friend, a mom of two who owes more on her home than it’s worth, would probably rather her family be on its own. But she also admits that it works well to live with her folks. She can go out whenever she needs to, go back to work without needing to bundle her baby to a daycare, or wake early without wondering if someone is going to have texted her a cancellation and change the entire look of her day.

With my health issues and especially with the current house project — doing renovations on the new one and prepping this one to sell — and with my husband’s schedule not putting him home before 6 p.m., I couldn’t get by without some help. I know other people who do it, people whose husbands travel out of town for days or even weeks at a time. If that were the case here, I’d need to get a full-time nanny. As much as I don’t love the stress of doing too many things, I also know I cannot take care of myself and my kids being a full-time mom without taking time to cook what will sustain me and eat it without interruption at least some days, and without pursuing things I’m passionate about. If I didn’t have a partner coming home each night, I’d set out to earn enough to pay someone to help enough that I could get all my needs met.

Do I wish that person were a family member? That the time my kids spend with another adult be with someone who shares their DNA and can tell them stories that have ancestral import? Sure. Am I jealous of people for whom this has worked out? Yes. Does my parents’ age and health today give me pause when I think about having children past 36, the age they were when I was born? Yep. Would I advise young folks considering parenthood to live close to family if that’s at all an option? Absolutely.

But I do appreciate the fact that my parents and my in-laws love us and our kids, that they respect our wishes, support our choices. There are plenty of ugly situations out there, and it means a lot my kids know that they have generous and loving grandparents. Even if they do live hours — and hours — away.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

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2 Responses to “I don’t have a village”

  1. Melissa says:

    I, too, am without a village. I’m incredibly grateful for good friends, but you bring up another aspect of our largely village-less society that I hadn’t thought of: that many of us who have a strong support network find it difficult to call on in a time when it’s made up of people who are stretched just as thin as we are. It reminds me to try to catch myself before I stretch much more!

    Best wishes for your renovation and move – we’re in the midst of a move as well, so I know the stress of which you speak. I hope it’s not too hard on you! Now that I remember you’re in D.C., I’ll have to check in with you more often and see what I can learn, because that’s where we’re headed!

  2. Yes to your post! We actually moved home to be closer to family, but through a variety of circumstances, that really has not mattered much. We do see my mom (and sometimes dad) about once every 2-3 months – more often than if we were states away. But they are only about an hour away, and Tom’s parents are 20 minutes away and we see them even more infrequently! My daydreams of Sunday dinners with the grandparents have been shattered, but I’m becoming more ok with that as time goes on. We find other ways to have relationships with them that work for everyone.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Embracing Our Extended Family | LivingMontessoriNow.com - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  2. Forging A Village In The Absence Of One | Diary of a First Child - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  3. My ‘High-Needs’ Child and ‘Strangers’ | Radical Ramblings - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  4. A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway « alivingfamily - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  5. A Family Apart - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  6. Dear Children | - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  7. Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents | Natural Parents Network - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  8. Snapshots of love: family support | Stone Age Parenting - [...] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …
  9. Sheila Pai: A Living Family | A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, and Please Respect Us Anyway - […] I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their …

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