My Extended Family Lives Close By But They Still Don't Help

My Extended Family Lives Close By But They Still Don’t Help

when having a village doesn’t happen
CAVAN IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

Sometimes I wish I lived back in the good ol’ days when one’s extended family was just an arm’s length away. Maybe then someone would help me when they hear my four kids crying, whining and bugging me in the dim hours of the morning, the wee ones at night and all of the little tantrum-filled ones in between. If not for my own sanity, maybe for theirs. 

But then I remember how much my in-laws drive me crazy, and my wish for time travel to the supposed good ol’ days is immediately squashed almost as quickly as the times I ask others for help with my kids. 

This wannabe villager isn’t putting up a “poor me” front. Let me be clear, I can do it all and be it all when needed. After all, I’m a mom, and we all know mom gets shit done. But I’m depleted from being forced to do it all and be it all when I was promised a village to help me along the way. 

Because the truth of the matter is this: My “people” are near in distance, but far off in presence. They offer to help, (key word: offer), but I take their words with a grain of salt each time. Their absence is hurtful, and they are becoming unreliable in my eyes. 

When the offer to help rolls in, sentences are usually started with a maybe. “Maybe I can take the kids this weekend if I don’t have anything else I have to do.” 

(If you’re a mother, you already know what “maybe” typically means.)

By now, those words go in one ear and out the other with an “okay, we will see when the day comes” type of attitude attached to the end of it. 

I don’t mean to be snarky, hateful, or resentful to the people I love, but there are only so many times someone can offer help and not follow through before I don’t believe them anymore. 

I don’t want to get my hopes up. I know that may sound bonkers — getting my hopes up over some alone time away from my own kids — but it’s true. I have work I need to do at home, and when my village gives me idle promises and I rearrange my day’s work to compromise for those promises, only for me — and my kids — to be met with disappointment, their words start to hold little value. 

I’ve heard it all: 

My head hurts. 

I forgot… I have to do this, this and this. 

I’m SO sorry, but… [fill in whatever bullshit you want here]. 

I can’t because of… (wait for it)…. MY DOGS. 

The. Damn. Dogs. Now, I’m an animal lover with my own dogs myself, but come on, I’m not an idiot. Just say you changed your mind and be the asshole you are instead of attempting to be a nice asshole with some bull-crap excuse coupled with it. 

I get it, this is what I signed up for when becoming a mom. Being accessible to my kids’ every need, want and desire, 24/7. I’m thoroughly aware, and I wouldn’t trade all of this mom-exhaustion for the entire world plus some. 

But my supposed-to-be village’s absence stings. And it’s not just affecting me, it’s affecting my kids too. 

We are big fans of FaceTime around here, probably because that’s the only way they’d regularly see their family. But it’s incredibly disappointing when family tells the kids while talking on FaceTime that they will spontaneously pick them up, only for them to change their minds last minute for one of the many excuses listed above. Or, sometimes, there’s no excuse at all. No phone call, no text, only absence. 

It sucks that they can’t be upfront with the help they are and aren’t willing give. And it sucks even more that I have to explain their fall-outs to my children standing beside the door with their coats and shoes on, already anticipating the family day they were promised.

I’m left with not only my own distrust in them, but my kids’ too. And in their flaky attempts to help lighten my load, they oftentimes add to it further with their empty words.

I’m not saying they are all bad, but it’s difficult to understand why nobody will help me in the ways I’d be willing to do for them. It’s infuriating, actually. Because in the many attempts my family has made to promise me some help, I’ve had one kid-free night away. ONE.

I’ll take what I can get, but I’d like to point out that this alone time began one hour before their scheduled bed-time, and I picked them up the following morning one hour after their scheduled awake time. To put it candidly, that “break” wasn’t really a break at all.

And it’s not even just about me and my lack of alone time that upsets me — I can deal with that. But I hate that my family is missing out on these extraordinary little people while they are still little. Because, to me, they are the greatest, most caring and smartest little people. And while I know in my heart that my extended family still values their worth, they don’t seem to bask in it the same way I do. And they don’t seem to cherish it the way my extended family cherished me when I was younger either. 

My heart feels sad because of that, but maybe an empty, unreliable, and extended village is just what I and the rest of my big family needs, whether we expected to be dealt this hand or not. Maybe we realize that, even without the outside world’s help, we still have it all with the ones who are gathered around the table daily.

No more, no less, just us.