A friend of mine had a baby last week. She was welcomed into the world surrounded by family – aunts, great-aunts, two grandmothers, and a few friends.
Within hours of her birth there were dozens of pictures posted of everyone posing with her, filled with excitement and pride, all happily wearing shirts they’d had made for this special day.
This wasn’t just the birth of a baby, this was an expansion of their family, something they all were a part of and all thrilled about.
I’m happy for my friend. She and her mom have always been incredibly close, and I know that this will only deepen their bond. They’ll have multigenerational tea parties, matching outfits, trips and memories galore. My friend is guaranteed a babysitter whenever she needs one, because her parents are just so thrilled and involved.
I’m happy for my friend… but it makes me even sadder for myself.
I don’t have a support system.
I’m an only child and my husband’s only sister is intentionally uninvolved. My mother is mentally ill and my father is an alcoholic, so even if they’d expressed an interest and wanted to be a part of my childrens’ lives, it wouldn’t be safe.
My in-laws are shut-ins and uninterested in their grandchildren. I have no siblings, no close cousins, no doting aunts. When we need a sitter, we either skip the event or only one of us goes. When our children were born, we were the only welcoming committee.
It hurts. A lot.
I’m immensely proud of my kids, and it’s deeply personal when someone who traditionally “should” be excited about them… just isn’t.
These cool little people, made from pieces of me, learning new things and saying the darndest stuff – I’m proud. They deserve a fan club, grandparents at their events, an aunt to take them to the movies, someone to call them on their birthdays.
They deserve to feel the overindulgent love of extended family. They deserve to make life-long memories with people who can’t wait to see them again. They deserve more than what they have.
I used to watch Teen Mom every week, a nice little escape and some drama to feast on, but had to stop. I found myself growing so resentful, so bitter towards these girls just because their parents babysat for them.
In all of the chaos and drama and struggle, the thing that stuck out to me the most was that they had babysitters.
I couldn’t feel sorry for them, couldn’t root for them, couldn’t appreciate their struggles, because how bad could it be if you have a helpful family?
I have friends whose parents live in other states and still manage to see their grandchildren a few times a year.
I have friends whose parents live across town and see their grandchildren every week. I have friends who are aunts and uncles and can’t get enough of their nieces and nephews. And each and every one of those friends I am jealous of.
Shamefully, painfully jealous.
I’m mad at my own family, sure, for not being involved. None of them live far away and I’ve never stopped inviting them to participate. I see the things they make time for and feel snubbed and embarrassed that my own kids weren’t considered important enough to make the list.
But I’m also jealous of you, of them, of anyone who has a mom they can call for help, a sister who comes to visit, a dad who gives pony rides.
I’m jealous that you can go on date nights and know your child is being loved while you’re out without a car seat. I’m especially jealous if your parents already have their own car seat. I’m jealous that you don’t have to agonize over who would care for your children if you were suddenly unable to.
I’m jealous that you have people commenting on the pictures of your kids, wanting pictures of your kids. I’m jealous that people are not only excited to see your children, but grateful to you for having brought them over.
I’m sad that I don’t have that support, don’t have that help, don’t have that level of connection.
I’m sad that my kids don’t have what yours do. I’m resentful that you don’t even know how good you have it, that you don’t know what a dream you’re living in to be surrounded by people who love and long for your kids. I’m angry that you have more than enough while I have none.
It’s not your fault, I know. You are not my parents. You didn’t make my kids’ only aunt ignore them. You didn’t beg your family to get excited.
Truthfully I don’t know what you did, if anything, or if your family is just wonderfully close. I don’t know what makes your family so loving… and I don’t know what makes mine so distant. It’s not your fault that my children are forgotten, ignored, inconvenient to those who should be the most taken with them.
It’s not your fault that you have what I want and enjoy what I crave. It’s not your fault that you have such a wonderful support system.
I just ask that you don’t freaking take it for granted.
You can’t change your family, but you can change your outlook. Be proud of the fact that you are raising these children on your own.
My parents abandoned me as a child. Was raised by grandparents which sounds amazing to some but reality is they were my parents. I missed out on that experience. I have no support system in my family. I get your sadness. But one thing I have done and learned had made a large impact is adopting people into my life. My church family has become my support. My friends parents have welcomed my kids like their own grandchildren. It is definitely not the same but you will be surprised what you find when opening up to others.
I’m sorry you are living this lack of commitment for you children from your direct family. Try to put it aside and build a new family you are choosing. Neighbors, work related friends, social club friends who can become aunts, Nana, grandpa, uncles. They will care about your family. Build a new family. As a Military wife, which started when my kids were a bit older, I didn’t need a babysitter anymore, but I try to give back to other family who are in need a the kind of support you are looking for. It’s hard, it’s painful to be away from my family, but giving back what I received is helping me to heal. Teach your kids to care, and family doesn’t have to be blood related. I’m sending you a lot of big hugs. Good luck.
I feel so bad for you. I can only imagine what you must feel, but there is another way. There is a life that you have not explored for yourself or your kids. Sometimes family is the family that we create for ourselves. Sometimes becoming part of a group and making friends who become family. If you choose to be involved with others, others will choose you. Instead of being angry let it go and be grateful. Love your friend, talk to your friend and then build your own family for you and your kids! I show up for sports for my friends kid’s and I have them show up for me. I put the invites out there and so do they. Call them to watch your kids and offer to take theirs. It doesn’t have to be so lonely. Open up your family to love more people and let more people love you.
My heart hurts for you.I love and adore my grand children.I can’t imagine how empty my life would be without them.I do have one grandson whose other set of grandparents have nothing to do with him.It breaks my heart for him.I try to make up for that when I can because he is a wonderful young man.Do you have close friends who maybe could be honorary aunts and uncles? Someone who might be able to fill in?
I feel like you just wrote my own thoughts, described my family to a t. I get lonely and resentful at times. But, I do know that these wonderful humans My husband and I created will begin a new healthy line in our family. Their future children will have loving grandparents with car seats and cribs at their house. I take solace in that. I hope it’s the same for you. Hang in there.
I just love your post. I think the same thing everyday!!!! I hate that life so so unfair. I hate that I can never go away with my husband. You are not alone! but it sure feels like it. Thank you for posting this. I needed it today.
I have different circumstances of course, but basically the same end result: nobody but ourselves here for us, while surrounded by huge, loving, extended families. I have just learned to suck it up, but this article makes that deep sadness come up. It’s not fair. I dont care if I sound like a 5 year old saying that.
The only thing that makes me feel better is knowing that when I’m a grandma, I’m gonna be as involved and loving as my kids feel comfortable with! I’m gonna be SUCH a good grandma!
I totally understand how you feel. When my daughters were little, none of the extended family cared to be involved. It hurt to see that their priorities did not include building a relationship with my children, even though all of them lived close by.
I remember telling the kids that I couldn’t change the grandparents that they had, but I could promise them that their future children would have the best grandparents ever.
Now my husband and I have two beautiful grandchildren, and we are very much a part of their lives. Even though we live three hours away, we spend one day a week with the kids, taking care of them while their mommy and daddy are at work. We have done that every week since the oldest was born 5 years ago. We love every moment we get to spend with our grandchildren, and we will always be their biggest cheerleaders.
My point is that you can’t change anyone else’s behavior. You only have control over your own behavior. If you are lucky, you may one day have the chance to be the grandparents that you always wish your kids had.
I could have written this article! I feel all of those feelings, particularly around the holidays. I think this is very relatable to a lot of people ( you just don’t talk about it). In a way though I do believe people like us know our children in a very intimate, real way that others might not. It’s a very strong bond that we might not otherwise have with so many others around.
When I have these feelings, I take solace in the knowledge that I will be the grandma with the baby seat in her car. It helps.
I 100% am in the same boat. It’s easy for people to say have honorary Aunts and uncles but it’s not the same. We got this!
It’s interesting that you write this because I struggle with this every day. My entire family is exactly the same way. My father is 15 minutes away and I haven’t seen him in over a year. I adopted my wife’s 2 older children and we had another together and he acts as if they don’t exist while spying on my younger brother and his wife and daughter. Those 3 live 45 minutes away and I haven’t seen him for the same amount of time. Last time I tried to message him he told me I had the wrong number. I have siblings living in 4 different states that have never met their nieces and nephew. To be fair my wife’s family is fantastic, except that it’s always a concern when her mom watches our kids that she will treat them well or pay more attention to them than to her cell phone that we’ve only used her to babysit twice in the last two years. We see her family often enough but never for her and I to go on a date. It’s hard not to be jealous of them and their closeness, it’s hard not to be jealous of anyone who has family willing to be there. I know my wife and I know who our kids would go to if something happened to us but that’s more out of lack of choices than because it’s something we decided; it worries us. It’s nice to know that there are others out there who feel similar. While not exactly the same situation I can empathize with the situation. Thanks for writing this.
This is my story and the reason Im sad for my boys.
It is really hard. My son is disabled. After he was about 10, nobody wanted to help out. But what I’d suggest to you is that you open yourself to non-family members as your support. I know it’s unpopular now to allow anybody but a family member to watch our kids, but truthfully a lot of abuse happens within families. I found caregivers who I actually trust more than my family. It’s a sanity saver