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To the Mom Who Doesn’t Have Family on Call

Photograph by Leah Campbell

I was 18 years old when I first left home. I’d spent most of my youth plotting my escape, so I don’t think my quick exit really came as a surprise to anyone. I'm now more than 3,000 miles away from the place I grew up, which seemed like an even bigger divide once my daughter was born.

We try to make annual visits and I do my part to get her time with her grandparents. But for the bulk of our year, I am parenting without any family nearby—a reality that is very different from the one most of my friends experience.

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I’m proud of the family we’ve built for ourselves in the place we call home now. I love my friends, and I love raising my little girl alongside their children. But nearly every one of them has family nearby. Most have both sets of grandparents waiting in the wings, always ready and willing to take the kids off their hands.

There are definitely a lot of perks to that. My friends have saved money on day care because grandparents have wanted the kids at least a day or two a week themselves. They have been able to jet off on week-long (or longer) kid-free vacations because Grandma and Grandpa are such big parts of their children’s lives that an extended slumber party doesn’t cause even a hint of separation anxiety. And when they need a night to go out and be grown-ups, there’s never really a question of whether or not they’ll be able to make it work; they have more than a few free babysitters to choose from.

Sometimes you look at your friends who do have family nearby and you feel a twinge of jealousy. You find yourself wondering what it must be like to raise children with that extra level of support.

Meanwhile, I’ve never had that luxury. I have one babysitter I trust and can rely on, and she’s actually planning on getting married and moving away in less than a year—at which point, I’m pretty sure I’m screwed.

For now, nights out mean hoping she’s free, and then coming up with an extra $20 to $40 to pay her with. If an emergency comes up (as once happened when my car wouldn’t start) and I realize I can’t pick my kiddo up from preschool, I have to send an SOS to my friends and hope that one of them can swoop in and save the day. If I get the stomach flu, there’s really no one I can call and ask to help with my girl. No matter how close you are to your friends, you can pretty much only ask family to expose themselves to that for your benefit.

So to the moms raising their kids without family nearby: I feel you. You are not alone in the isolation you may feel a times. You probably have all your own reasons for living away from the place you once called home (I know I do), and you might even feel like the benefits outweigh what’s lost (I can say without hesitation that I will never call the place I grew up “home” again). But I also know that sometimes you look at your friends who do have family nearby and you feel a twinge of jealousy. You find yourself wondering what it must be like to raise children with that extra level of support always on call.

Because it’s certainly not anything you’ve ever experienced for yourself.

I know you probably wish your kids could have super-fun and supportive grandparents at their soccer games and school recitals. You yearn for the ease at which your friends are able to plan kid-free outings, and the bond their children have with the family members they’re able to see on the regular. You struggle to explain to your social circle why it’s not as easy for you to make it out for Friday night drinks or that weekend getaway the adults are so excited about. You kind of want to shake your parenting peers when they complain about their own parents feeding their kids a lunch they don’t approve of or skimping on nap time—because the reality is they have no idea how good they’ve got it.

How lucky they are to have family nearby who they trust with their kids, and who they ultimately have a good enough relationship with that they can take advantage of that free childcare.

Maybe you wish you could live closer to your family. Life and circumstances have taken you further away than you would like, but you still dream of the day you can return “home” with your kids in tow. Or maybe getting away was the best thing you’ve ever done, and even if your family were nearby, they aren’t exactly the type of people you would trust to care for your little ones.

Whatever the case may be, whether you’re grateful for the distance or mourn it, you still know what it means to be raising a child without that extra support. And no matter how amazing a village you’ve built around yourself, you know it’s not the same as having a set (or two) of grandparents you can rely on to help carry the load.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my girl and I get by just fine, as I’m sure you and your kids do, as well. I love our life, and while there are a few inconveniences to not having that extra support nearby, it’s certainly not anything I can’t handle.

Just as I know you’ve got this, too.

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But just this once, maybe for just a second between you and me, let’s go ahead and admit that sometimes we’re jealous of those friends of ours who do have that extra support and help.

And we can’t help but wonder if they even realize how lucky they are.

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