When my husband and I first started our family, we had just relocated to a new state with no friends or family close by. It was tough, but not as tough as when we had more kids. Pregnancy was a lot harder with multiple kids and no breaks. There were days where it felt like it was simply too much, and I longed to have someone who could come and take my daughters to the park, so I could sit and do nothing for an hour. There were weeks I struggled, flailing around to stay above water, sure that in time, I’d slowly begin to sink. But I never did. Over the years, I’ve adapted to our circumstances because this is all I’ve known.
Like anything in life, not having physical support as a parent is all about perspective. It is as simple as how you see the glass: half-full, half-empty, or on the floor. Parenting small children without the luxury of a supportive network to come over to help at the drop of a hat can be a little of all three: positive, negative, and more realistic than a potty training toddler.
The glass is half-full most of the time. Sometimes you just don’t see it right away.
There is no one to interfere. If you’re someone who is part of an overbearing circus of family members, this one can be kind of nice. We get to raise our kids our way without anyone telling us we’re not doing it right. Even if that happens when they visit, we know it’s just for a few more days, and then they’ll be gone.
My husband and I have to rely on each other. In many ways, the best thing about not having family close by is that we have been forced to depend solely on each other. We have to communicate and work as a team, even when we don’t want to. This includes occasionally shuffling our primary roles to help the other get by.
There are no obligations. Some weekends we just don’t want to go anywhere. So, we don’t. I mean, no one is going to fault us for missing Timmy’s birthday party because we’re not up for the 1,500-mile drive. Also, the likelihood of anyone “stopping by Colorado” from Boston on a whim is pretty slim.
It’s just us. Our own little family unit. Our little society of tradition-making.
The glass is half-empty, because sometimes, it just is.
Filling my cup is hard to do. When you have kids, this feels pretty daunting. When you have no one to come over on a regular basis so you can do this, it can be next to impossible. Trying to find child care for a date night, or even a solo trip to the library, can be a project that takes me months to plan. Most days, my cup is writing after bedtime from 9 p.m. to midnight. You take what you can get and make it yours—even if it’s only 15 minutes and a warm cup of coffee.
There isn’t the comfort of knowing someone can be right there when I need it most. When things get so hard that I’m on the verge of tears for days on end, it’s difficult knowing there is no knight on a white horse coming over to rescue me from three crazy toddlers—in this case, it’s Grandma in her Honda CR-V. A good cry and a big sigh are all you can do some days.
I can’t drop them off at Grandma’s. It’s a long drive from Colorado to Minnesota and back again.
It gets a little lonely. It is just us, and for all the reward that can bring, it can get a little lonely. Especially around birthdays, holidays, plays, and dance recitals.
The glass is on the floor. Let’s face it, we all have these days whether Grandma lives next door or in a different county.
Whenever all of our kids are sick at the same time. I just want to pack my bags and run away, and I actually do pull out my suitcase, and then someone throws up in it. It’s during these times I wish the most for help and a chance to catch my breath after everyone is better.
Adjusting to new babies. Even the most helpful person can’t create a schedule for you. She can’t adjust your family for you or teach you how to bond with and know your baby. But she sure could take a few feedings or minutes on the clock so you can catch some shut-eye—if she were a little closer.
Overwhelm. We all hit this at different times and stages. I haven’t had it happen a lot, but it has happened. It’s that soul-sucking feeling of helplessness. During these moments, even someone coming over and having coffee would be amazing.
The canceling babysitter. The one who I had booked for weeks—for our first night out in months. This happens often, and it sucks having no backup. Sure, family could also do the same, but it’s less likely they’ll bail on your anniversary last-minute and without a valid reason.
It’s been almost six years, and there are still days when I wish I could call my mother-in-law and ask her to come over, or pack my kids in the car and drive over to her house to drop them off for the morning. At the end of the day, no matter how weak I feel, I also know that there is an immeasurable amount of strength inside of me that gets me through those lonely stretches of parenting because we’ve been doing this on our own since the beginning. I’ve adapted because I’ve had to. This is all I know.