How many of you live down the street from your parents? How about aunts, uncles, cousins? I don’t and most of the people I know don’t either. Distributed families are becoming more and more the norm especially with events like going away to college, traveling or moving to take advantage of a job opportunity. It’s all fine and dandy when you are young and single, or in a relationship or newlyweds. However, when we get to the “next comes baby in a baby carriage” verse we are often in for a rude awakening.
I want to say that it wasn’t until our twins came home from the hospital that we realized the challenge we were up against, but that’s not true. Our period of hard knocks started long before with a super challenging pregnancy followed by long-term NICU preemies. It’s true that in this digital age family support may be just a Facetime away, but there’s still no substitute for a good hug, a hot meal or grandma/aunt/sister babysitter tag in- just to run to the store or catch a desperately needed breath… or shower.
Family came into town for the births and my aunt came from Australia for 2 weeks to support me, in lieu of my late mother. The family returned home soon enough however and my sister and brother in law in town had their own 7 month old to care for. Soon enough, we realized what we were really in for, the physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting part of parenting.
Hardship doesn’t always come in the form of a sweet baby, there are many other flavors that suffer the sting of the physical absence of family. We no longer live in the model of community where we are surrounded by kin. Some may have family who is available but isn’t particularly helpful. With this new format of not having family just down the street, those default assumptions of assistance become blaringly apparent.
For my nuclear family, our community of soul brothers and soul sisters has been truly incredible. It started in the beginning with a meal train and check-ins and “whatever you need I’m here for that”. Today we still benefit from friends who will watch Netflix and “make sure the house doesn’t burn down” in the case that we’d like to pop out for a spontaneous after-baby-bedtime-date-night-dessert. I’ve had multiple friends tag in and help with baby swim class because my husband was laid up from surgery and each kid required an adult in the water with them. I have friends who are happy to swing by and watch the babes for an hour in the case that I just need to get out, no questions asked.
My actual family is gaining traction in Santa Barbara as well, now with two nephews down the street, grandparents settled just an hour away and even more to come. I am over the moon with excitement.
My definition of family is much more than a medical definition. It is about love, trust, compassion, support and so much more than just sharing blood. It’s about belonging. It’s about our tribe. We are blessed to have a family that we love, but we have a tribe that we would have not survived without.
*BTW, this article was inspired by my sister-in-law tagging-in in a pinch to babysit our babes and how amazing it felt!