My vision of having children when I was a lot younger was one filled with family moments, big Christmas dinners and trips to the grandparent’s house where the kids would be utterly spoilt. Fast forward to my mid-thirties and two children and these visions couldn’t be further from the truth. My reality, along with many others, is no grandparents and little to no family help at all.
When my mother suddenly passed away when I was only 28 years old, I was devastated that she would never get to meet her future grand children. When I unexpectedly fell pregnant around 6 months later, the reality of her not being there to meet my son hit home pretty hard. What I never could have anticipated was just how difficult it can be to sustain a loving, healthy marriage when you never get time alone without the kids.
My husband and I both work very hard. We are both career driven people who want to balance good family life by providing a good life for our two children. What makes it exceptionally difficult is having little to no family help around to assist with childcare or after school pick up or drops offs on days when our work rosters clash, which unfortunately happens a lot. Lucky for both of us our work rosters can be somewhat flexible, but sometimes this isn’t always the case and ultimately one of us will have to let our workplace down. On top of this, trying to get
My Facebook news feed is constantly littered with friends going out with their significant other child free, spending weekends away or sprouting about how the kids are with the grandparents for the weekend or even the week…I wish. This sounds like heaven to me, but when all of your parents are either calling heaven home or not around, well a fantasy it has to remain.
Until you are in this situation, you cannot comprehend just how incredibly hard it is. How incredibly taxing it is on your mind, body and soul to never get a proper break from your kids. As I’ve said many many times before, I adore my kids. I cherish my time with them and know I am so blessed to have them however I also unapologetically crave alone time away from them.
Recently, we spent some time away at a lovely secluded holiday house. We have family from my hubby’s side – cousins and their parents/step parents – parents who are not at all biologically related to my children. But still, very loving and acting very much like grandparents to my kids and my two adored it, lapped up all the attention and even started calling them ‘Nani’ and ‘Pa’. How adorable. But as much as it makes my heart melt at times like this, a heaviness weighs on me that they don’t get this regular “grandparent” treatment. Yes, I have grandparents still, however they are my grandparents and therefore my children’s great grandparents. They are aged 92 and 88 and live 900kms away from us. While it is fantastic for the kids to see them, they spoil them rotten call or Skype them whenever they can, that regular “let’s go to Nana’s house” is not a sentence uttered in our house. My grandparents just aren’t near us and visits are so infrequent I can’t help but feel my kids are missing out.
Most people with large families just don’t understand how lucky they are, to be able to drop their kids off at their grandparents and have the day to themselves. Having to organise a night out months in advance, factoring in rosters and availability of the one person you can rely who works and has a life of their own is incredibly hard. Sometimes too hard, so hard I don’t even bother. I am rarely envious of anyone, if ever. I’m not the type of person who wishes I had someone else’s life. I love who I am, I love my life. However, seeing people having a massive amount of family support does cause me to feel pangs of jealousy. I wish I had that, not only for my sanity but for the sake of my marriage and my kids.
The key though is to recognise how hard you have it. Give yourself a break and realise that these are the hardest years of your life. They will come to an end, it isn’t forever. Take time for yourself whenever you can. Learn to be apart from your significant other and do things by yourself. Spilt the parenting, as in you take the kids for 2 hours today and I’ll take them for 2 hours tomorrow. Don’t feel guilty If you have childcare and all of a sudden you have the day off. Don’t keep the kids home, they’ll have a blast anyway. Take the time doing something for you.
Most of all, make time for your partner. This is something my husband and I learnt the hard way. We dedicated so much time to work and to our kids, we neglected ourselves as a couple. We drifted apart and it almost broke us. We clawed our relationship back and have managed to find somewhat of a balance between spending time with the kids and spending time together without kids. We don’t have the luxury of dropping the kids to their grandparents overnight and going to the movies or to dinner and drinks. So, we make do. We put the kids to bed early some nights and schedule movie night. We have a theatre room, we buy cheese, chocolate, salami and have a wine and a beer whilst watching a movie. This is time together, to connect. While it may not be as fun as heading to the cinemas, it’s enough for us to reconnect. We go for walks together, plan days when the kids are in school or child care to go to lunch together get a coffee.
On Sunday’s, if we aren’t working, we lie in bed together for as long as we want. We tell the kids to go and watch TV or entertain themselves. The washing and chores can wait, the kids can wait. In turn, we have developed a much closer and more respectful relationship. We have also created healthier and happier children who see happy parents totally in love with each other.
It isn’t always ideal but we make it work. It isn’t forever and