Last week I had a play date with a friend who also has two kids, except her youngest is only 6 months old and her oldest is nearly 3 – a period of life when a mama can always use some extra help (But that’s kind of all the time isn’t it? A period of time when a mama can especially use extra help?). She was having one of those pull-your-hair-out/go-cry-in-the-corner kind of days we’ve all had. And over coffee she was lamenting that none of her extended family lives in-state to help out on a moment’s notice.
We also don’t have any extended family in town, though both my husband’s parents and my own live about 2 hours away (yes, they’re in the same town and yes, my hubby and I were high school sweet hearts – though I rarely tell people because it makes me feel like a big cheese ball). Naturally the conversation with my friend degenerated a bit (as they tend to do in times of stress) into comparisons of ourselves to other moms we know who do in fact have family in town. The question became, “What’s the perfect distance for extended family?”.
We both have friends who regularly leave their kids with their own mothers or MILs in order to work, run errands, or head to the gym – and we’re both a little green with envy over that kind of freedom. Still, I have to say I’m not sure being in the same town as my parents and in-laws would always be perfect either.
Due to grad school, my husband and I spent the first 5 years of our marriage on the other side of the country, somewhat inoculated from our parents. And in a lot of ways I think it was a really good thing for us, especially at the start of our marriage, to have that space.
Our primary reason for moving back to the west coast once I was pregnant was indeed to be closer to family. And, although we loved Nashville, we’ve never regretted it. Our kids adore their grandparents and aunts and love every minute they spend with them. (Although neither aunt lives close now.) Also, we missed our family being so far away.
For me 2 hours away isn’t bad. Though I don’t have the luxury of routinely dropping the kids off and popping to the gym, I do know that I have family nearby if I need them. And I have – post-labor and once when I was bedridden for a week with a back injury. Plus I’ve always been a pretty independent spirit (when I’d go away to summer camp as a girl my parents would have to rely on the letters my friends wrote home to find out how I was because it never really occurred to me to write my own letters) and I’ve always been one to value my personal space.
Still, I can’t help but covet a regular date night or the chance to sleep in every once in a while. Plus, there is a mountain pass between us and our parents and we don’t always see them as much as we’d like.
Question of the Day
Do you have extended family in town? Do you wish you did? What’s the ideal distance for you?