I was sitting at the gymnastics center, watching my 5-year-old tumble across the floor. Next to me, two women were chatting about leaving their children in the care of their parents so they could enjoy a “child free” weekend. As I tried to concentrate on my daughter, I felt that familiar pang of jealousy.
People say it takes a village to raise a child, but what if your village is nowhere nearby?
My husband and I have moved around for my career, living in four different states in the span of 15 years. When we were young, it was fun. New adventures awaited us at each new city. But after starting a family, we were faced with the harsh reality—it’s difficult to raise children when you don’t have family nearby. My family is 1,600 miles away; my husband’s family a 13-hour drive.
With distance becoming a roadblock, we often find ourselves in a pickle. My husband and I have never spent a night away from our daughter, not by choice. We simply don’t have family in town to take over. And date night, what’s that?! I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gone out in the past two years. It’s not that we don’t want to. I’d give anything to have a few hours away from a whining child, but it takes careful calculations when you can’t pick up the phone to ask your parents to drop by. When you figure in the cost of a babysitter, dinner and a movie, it becomes a pricey night out. It’s something we can’t afford to do on a weekly basis. So, that leaves the occasional date night when our parents are visiting us.
What happens when your child is sick? It’s not an easy answer when there is no family nearby to help. On the days my daughter needs to stay home from school or daycare, I have to call in sick or take a vacation day from my job. My husband doesn’t get paid time off, so the two of us are left juggling our work hours, which brings out a whole new level of stress, enough to keep me awake at night.
It’s true—being away from family stinks. People often suggest moving closer. Sure, it sounds like a great idea. I’d love to move near my parents, but it’s not that easy. Who can afford to live in Southern California these days? Because of our careers and the cost of living, my husband and I have settled in the Midwest. And you know what? We have grown to love it.
Living far away from our extended family can feel lonely at times, but thanks to technology, distance is only a number. Our daughter gets to “see” our family whenever she wants. All it takes is a simple FaceTime call and we are transported to the beaches of San Diego or the rural farm in Nebraska. Over the years, we’ve spent holidays opening presents with out family and singing “Happy Birthday” through video calls. A physical hug may be better than the virtual variation, but modern technology is pretty amazing.
And while I may complain that our families are several states away, my husband and I are the lucky ones. Our parents have dropped everything when there’s an emergency, catching the next plane to Illinois in a heartbeat. They are part of our lives and our child is growing up with that special bond between her and her grandparents. And it’s true—distance makes the heart grow fonder. Our trips back home become special adventures, allowing our daughter to make once in a lifetime memories.
As the ladies next to me chatted about their upcoming date night, I smiled as I thought about my family. Yes, it takes a village to raise a family, but it looks different for each person. We’ve made wonderful friends and have a giant support system in our adopted city, and over time, that city has become our home. We may miss out on the regular date nights, but that’s OK. We have a village full of friends and a loving family that spans the country. Those date nights can wait.