Raising Kids Without Family Nearby Sucks

by Lindsay Pendry
Originally Published: 
Four kids all over a couch
Lindsay Andersen

I overhear a fellow mom talking about her weekend plans thanks to “Mimi and Papa” watching her kids (so happy for you). I see sweet grandparents walking hand in hand with their grandkids to school as I frantically wrangle my kids into their car seats, barely making it to the carpool line in time to shove my son out of the car (because heaven forbid I have to walk in with the three other kids to sign him in late). I have friends who drop their kids off at a family member’s house while they run to the store, appointments, anywhere.

And in my bitter mind, I chant, Must be nice. Because I can’t even fathom having that kind of help and support.

I often wonder how much easier life would be if I had even the smallest amount of help. Real help. The kind of help that is consistent and reliable and guilt-free. And sure, we all have people we can call in an emergency. But how many situations are actual emergencies? Not many.

Most days there is an overwhelming sense of “I am alone in this.”

And you know what is really awesome? Going to class events (that only the parents are supposed to attend) with a double stroller loaded with snacks that you pray will keep your kids happy for five minutes. It never works. My daughter whines obnoxiously because she wants to be part of the class. Meanwhile, my twins throw crackers from their stroller and laugh when I make a stern face at them.

I can’t count the number of times I have taken all four of my young kids to appointments they shouldn’t have been to (sorry, OBGYN). And speaking of medical appointments, I recently realized that I don’t even have a doctor. We have lived in the same city for three years, and I have yet to establish a primary care doctor.

Dental visits have been reduced to absolute necessity — as in I can’t chew on the right side of my mouth, I should probably get this looked at. What are regular teeth cleanings and annual physicals anyway? Something for Kate Middleton, I suppose. Because regular things become luxuries when you’re a parent of young kids.

Sure, there are drop-in care centers. But try finding three or four spots on short notice (and oh, by the way, they require a registration fee that makes you think, “Screw it, I’ll just take the kids.”)

This year on the night of my birthday I had the privilege of hauling all four of my kids to urgent care even though only one of them was sick.

And my six-year-old could not even relax as the patient. His younger brothers fought to capture his bed, yanking his limbs and yelling at him to “get off!” They tried their best to destroy medical equipment and threw little toys the nurses were kind enough to give them in the biohazard waste.

We are fortunate to have a wonderful babysitter. When we finally decide we are completely overdue for a date night or have something that we absolutely cannot take the kids to, we splurge for a night out. But wouldn’t a free night out be nice? A night when you aren’t on the clock like Cinderella? To just call your mom, dad, brother, sister, or in-laws because you know that they would love to spend time with your kids just as much as you would love not to for just one night?

The worst part is, our kids are missing out more than we are. We know they see other kids’ grandparents at their sporting and school events. And when family comes to visit, we get a glimpse of how life could be on a regular basis if we lived near them. We think of all the extra love and attention they could be getting, that their friends are getting. And how nice it would be to spend birthdays and other holidays with cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Yes, not all families are great. Some people would rather not live by their family. I get it. But if you have family you would actually love to live near, living far away feels like a huge, wasted opportunity to both give and get support.

I know, I know. Things could be far worse. But it still sucks.

And I really am happy for those of you who have family around for support.

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