I grew up in Ohio and moved to California for big adventure and a change of pace. Well, I got it. I married Alec, who hails from Boston, and within a year had a baby and set up house thousands of miles from my family. Not just any baby, but a baby who cried. And woke up in the middle of the night (Who knew?).
As a child, my brothers and I visited a set of in-town grandparents every month if not every week. Aunties and uncles were at every holiday and birthday. That’s just how we rolled.
When I look across town at my pal Whitney, I see a whole world of support from parents, in-laws, and step-parents all within a five-hour drive. If they each visited monthly, she’d be able to date her husband every weekend with nary a babysitter bill. And our friend Erin? Her in-laws live next door. I do get jealous.
I like living in California. I moved out here almost 20 years ago imagining I’d only be here for four — please don’t do the math — but look what happened to me: I made friends, enjoyed my job, fell in love, made some babies, and bought a house. We aren’t going anywhere. As much as love our community of friends and favorite East Bay places (the parks, schools, weather), I miss having extended family around to pitch in.
For my nuclear family, every vacation means flying all the way across the country. The grandparents barely know our kids. They don’t attend birthday parties or take the kids shopping for big boy undies.
When they do visit, they don’t know how to help. They are guests in our home, so they don’t take initiative with meals or outings. To me, having a grandparent visit is like taking on another pair of children who might wander off in a museum.
Ok, that sounds harsh (if you’re thinking the problem is ME, I can see it when I reread that last paragraph!). Of course nobody wants to visit us.
Kvetching aside (wait a second — I didn’t even tell you how much it costs a family of four to fly cross-country for Thanksgiving…) my husband and I are solutions-oriented people. We have figured out how to squeeze in as many date nights as possible with an extravagant babysitting budget that we’ve grown to believe is simply worth it. We plan our grocery shopping and cooking and lunch-packing with military precision because ain’t nobody gonna step in and cover for us if we miss a step. We even find time to enjoy mindless TV and video games because we have mastered the art of putting the children, ages 3 and 5, to bed before 7.30 pm.
Sure, we miss extended family dinners and the pleasure of knowing that a daytime “babysitter” is building a relationship with our children rather than earning a few bucks. But I think we got it covered.