When You Can’t Rely on Grandparents

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Grandparents are the most important members of many parents’ tribe, but what is it like when your children don’t have grandparents you can rely on to support you? 

Recently I had an orientation for a new job at our local YMCA, and I was planning on dropping my toddler off at the gym babysitting center like I usually do when I work out there. To my surprise, it was closed that early afternoon, and I started to panic. When I told the HR rep who was running the orientation about my situation, she said something like, “Can you ask any family to pick her up?” I uncomfortably replied, “She doesn’t have any grandparents in the area.” I ended up having to stressfully try to keep my 14-month-old quiet during orientation with a pile of toys and the screentime I usually try to avoid. As you can imagine, I was so distracted that I was frantically filling out paperwork to keep up with everyone else, and I didn’t hear much of the orientation presentation at all. Oh, how I yearned for help from grandparents at that moment.

I can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear other moms with supportive grandparents talk about how they get one day or even the afternoon off because “the kids are with grandma.” Sometimes I dream about all the errands I could get done or the emails I could catch up on or even the mental rest that I could have if I just had one day a week without the responsibility of having to watch my daughter. 

I don’t have that. I have never been able to drop off my daughter at her grandparents’ house while I run errands, so my girl is with me during every run to the grocery store. Every time I have something I need to get done outside of our home, I have to carefully coordinate those tasks to work around her nap(s). Every time I need to drop off a package at the post office or grab milk from the convenience store, I have to take her out of her car seat just to put her back in a couple of minutes later. Every time she is sick, I have to tell my boss that I won’t be able to instruct my group fitness class that day because the babysitting center doesn’t allow sick kids. Every time my husband and I get invited to something that goes past bedtime, we have to say no.

Not having grandparents that we can rely on is a challenge and a struggle, but we are surviving.

Some things that have helped us are date swapping with other parents who also can’t ask grandparents to watch their kids for a night out and hiring a middle schooler as a “mother’s helper” as a more affordable option to give me a break. We would not be able to overcome this challenge in life without the community of friends that we have intentionally built around us to fill the void. Do I wish my daughter could grow up surrounded by supportive and loving family members regularly? Heck yes, I do! However, instead of dwelling on what I don’t have, I do my best to be thankful for what I do have. This year, I saw a greeting card that has struck me, “Friends are the family you choose.” Let me tell you; I am so grateful for our chosen family.

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