How To Raise Your Children Without Family Support
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.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But what if you don’t have a village to help you? Here are some tips to help you raise children when you don’t have an extended family network to help support you.
My mother suddenly passed away when I was only 28 years old, leaving me devastated that she would never get to meet her future grandchildren. 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 someone on one time with hubby without the kids is almost non-existent. This, without us even realising, almost broke us.
Advice On What To Do Without Extended Family Support
My Facebook news feed is constantly littered with friends going out with their significant other childfree, 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.
It can be incredibly difficult in these times to maintain a happy marriage. When you never spend time together, alone, reconnecting, it can cause rifts and can lead to distance and even separation.
However, there are little things you can do each day in order to keep your connection with your significant other and to get some precious alone time.
Little gestures show your partner you still care about them – Get up a little earlier than them and make them breakfast in bed. Even making a coffee and bringing it to them can show you still care about them. Little gestures go a long way.
Do something to ease the burden on your partner – My husband can recognise now when I’m at breaking point. He will get up before me, close the bedroom door and amuse the kids, letting me have an extra hour of sleep. To parents of little ones, that extra hour can be more precious than gold!
Be unapologetically tough with your kids at times – My husband and I have realised that in order to keep our bond, we need to at times push our kids away. Tough love, in the long run, will benefit your children. While our kids want to jump all over us on a Sunday morning, sticking to us like the best football taggers in history, we need to at times tell them to go and amuse themselves. This allows my husband and I to spend time together actually talking without interruption and allows us to focus on
Make time for each other doing something you love together – While my hubby and I may not be able to get out to do date night that often, in fact probably once every 12 months or so is the norm, we make time for each other in any way we can. This could be as simple as putting the kids to bed half an hour early one night and settling in on the couch to watch our favourite movie together. Having our own special time makes the daily grind less daunting.
Lean on friends when you can – Okay, I will admit, I am terrible at this. I tend to try and do everything myself and I hate asking for help. It has been to my own detriment but I am getting better at it as time goes by. My son, the eternal extrovert (as discussed my post “Raising Extroverted Children As An Introvert”) loves being around people.
So, I encourage play dates with his mates. One weekend I will have the boys over and naturally, another weekend he will go to his mates house. This gives you precious alone time to allow you to spend time on you and get some sanity back! The playdates at your house might be tiring but know the favour will be repaid!
Break the traditional views on “Grandparents” – Recently, we spent some time away at a lovely secluded holiday house. We have family from my hubby’s side who we don’t see that often – 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.
Find ways to stay in touch with family – The grandparent bond is something truly magical. They spoil children beyond belief and adore them no matter what. My grandparents, being my children’s great grandparents, who are 92 and 88 live nearly 900kms from us. While they act like my children’s actual grandparents, filling that void in my children’s life, we only see them 2 or 3 times a year. So, I taught my 88 year old grandfather how to use Skype. We set the kids up on the weekend and they get to chat to their Nana and Grand-dad via Skype. This not only strengthens their bond but brings massive amounts of joy to my Grandparents lives, so a win for everyone!
I use childcare even when I have the day off – Yep, I can feel some judgement here and yep, I’ve judged myself on this one too. Feeling pangs of guilt dropping my kids at daycare knowing I’m just going home to relax or do housework. But as I’ve realised over time, I have no other choice. While those with extended families drop their kids off at the grandparents house to get some peace and quiet, I don’t have that option. So, what really is the difference, aside from having to pay for childcare?
I have learnt over time to ignore the guilt. My children have a ball at childcare, they play, they learn and I need time to regain some sanity!
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.
Most of all, make time for your partner and for yourself. This is something my husband and I learnt the hard way, dedicating 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.
Give Yourself A Break
The key 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.
It isn’t always ideal but we make it work. It isn’t forever and eventually, the kids will leave the nest and it will just be us alone again. But at least we can hold our heads high knowing we did it all on our own and we survived, if only by the skin of our teeth.