I know they say it takes a village to raise a child. I’m incredibly lucky to have something of a village in that both sets of grandparents live close by. My parents take the kids for longer stints, like 24 hours on a weekend, or for a few days if I’m out of town (in the summer or during a school break). They live farther away and my mom still works so they can’t help as much for middle of the week needs.
Which is okay because my in-laws live in the city. They are both retired and neither has much else going on. Currently, our kids are their only grandchildren and they help us tremendously with both of them. My in-laws pick up my son from school at least once a week, usually to help me because I have a meeting until later and worry I won’t get back to the city in time to get both kids, or I have a later meeting in the city and don’t want to drag my three-year-old with me. They take our daughter for a spend the nights most weekends. They even take the kids when they are sick so my husband and I don’t have to miss work! (Stomach bugs excluded.)
My teaching schedule is incredibly rigid–if I can’t be at school at start time I need to take an hour and find coverage. This makes it really hard on the few occasions when my husband is away, because I can’t take my son to school on those days without seriously disrupting my work day. This is when my in-laws always swoop in and save the day.
This week, while my husband is away, they will be coming over in the mornings to hang out with our son until they bring him to school. They will also be picking him up on Tuesday and Thursday and keeping him until 6:45pm so I can work at the book fair. Without this help, I truly don’t know what I would do.
I worry sometimes that we’re too dependent on my in-laws. I know we could get by without my parents–though our marriage would suffer without that time alone–but I honestly don’t think we could manage without my in-laws. We are dependent on them, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
“It takes a village…” that is the adage, and yet most families don’t have a village to lean on. They do it alone. They make it work. I suppose without my in-laws we would too. We’d find people we could hire to fill in when needed (like this week). But we don’t have to do that, and it’s awesome, but it also makes me feel like we’re not really managing this parenting thing, not really. If we can’t do it without the help of family are we even doing it at all?
My in-laws talk about retiring for part of the year abroad. The thought terrifies me. Every year that it doesn’t happen I thank my lucky stars. I know that if they do leave we’ll make it work. I know that the older my kids get the more options I’ll have for arranging care. My mom will also retire in a couple years and she will be more than willing to help once that happens.
Perhaps this posts is silly. Why would someone write about feeling too dependent on family?! I know that inter-generational families lived together for these very reasons for a long time, and in many cultures still do, but the US is a fiercely independent nation. We value autonomy and efficiency. There is a subtle, but persistent message that if you’re not doing it all yourself, you probably aren’t as capable as someone who is.
I know that’s not true. I know I am competent. And I know I can be independent, I just don’t have to be. I’m just lucky enough to have parents near by and humble enough to ask for help when I need it. Maybe for that I should be proud.
Whatever else I am, I am immensely grateful. Always. Every day. I am so, so lucky to have healthy, able parents and in-laws nearby who love my kids and cherish their time with them. I can’t imagine doing it without them.