When You Don't Have a Village
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
But what do you do if you don’t have a village?
When I had our first baby, we had just moved to a new city, hundreds of miles from family or friends. It was miserable.
Eight years later, we are doing OK. We have friends, the kids love their school, and my husband and I both have jobs we like.
However, we still don’t really have a village and it’s hard.
It’s hard in the middle of the night when we have an emergency and no one to call. It’s hard when my kids have been sick for two weeks straight and I have to keep missing work because I don’t have anyone else to take care of them. It’s hard when I am just worn out and wish I could drop them at a grandparent’s house for a couple of hours just to catch my breath.
I grew up surrounded by extended family, spending weekends with my grandparents and never thinking that it was special -- just normal.
When my kids see their grandparents it’s once every few months and it’s a very big deal -- involving lots of travel and exhaustion on our part or theirs. They only see their aunt and uncles once a year or less; they are mostly photographs to my kids, not real people who drop in for casual visits.
When we do see family, the visits are intense, filled with frenzied activity as everyone tries to pack in months of fun and bonding into a couple of days.
I know we are not alone. I know there are families all over the country just like us. I talk to my friends on the phone and they are having the same struggles as me.
I don’t know what the solution is. We considered moving to be closer to family, but we can’t do it without having jobs first. And our families live in places where jobs are either in short supply or where the cost of living is so high that we would struggle to make ends meet.
I’m definitely not discounting the value of friends -- and I’m fortunate to have made some very good friends in our new city. But they all have children and struggles of their own and it’s not the same as family.
So what do you do? How do you make it without a village? I guess you cobble something together and create a new village the best you can.