If we asked 100 people for their definitions of freedom, we could very well get 100 different answers. We would wager that one of the answers would have to do with the first time you moved out to live with your partner. No kids, no fights, no worries – complete freedom. But, as you would probably guess, that feeling of freedom flew out the window when kids came along.
We don’t mean that in a negative way either. Children are a beautiful blessing that teach you more about life than any course you can take or book you can read. And when you realize that friend or family aren’t able or around to help, reality starts to sink in…
How am I going to be able to have a family of my own without extended family nearby?
For those of you who are super independent, that may not be a worry. But when parents realize that they both work long-hour jobs and don’t earn enough to pay for expensive daycares, extended family is a welcome support system no matter how much you want to do things on your own. (Wouldn’t you feel even the slightest bit of envy towards those parents who have extended family willing to help?)
Not just because cousins, aunts and uncles, or grandparents are a convenience either. But because they will likely provide a healthy, trustworthy, experienced example of who good people and what they look like. And we don’t mean gray-haired and overly generous. We mean the selfless, unconditional, loving, comforting, and caring behaviors that help make the world a better place.
“I often wonder how much easier life would be if I had even the smallest amount of help. Real help,” said military-mom-of-four, Lindsay Pendry, in an article for Scary Mommy. (1) “The kind of help that is consistent and reliable and guilt-free. And sure, we all have people we can call in an emergency. But how many situations are actual emergencies? Not many.”
If You Have Extended Family Nearby, Don’t Take Them for Granted
Even if you are more than capable of raising a family completely independently, there are certain familial relationships that can benefit a child’s development.
Cousins can become best friends, aunts and uncles can become the cool older siblings they may never get, and words can’t even express what grandparents can be for a child. The reality is, they won’t always be around.
“The worst part is, our kids are missing out more than we are,” Pendry said. (1) “We know they see other kids’ grandparents at their sporting and school events. And when family comes to visit, we get a glimpse of how life could be on a regular basis if we lived near them. We think of all the extra love and attention they could be getting, that their friends are getting. And how nice it would be to spend birthdays and other holidays with cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.”
7 Benefits of Having Extended Family Nearby
1) Extended Family Is Incredibly Helpful
From before school drop-offs to after school pick-ups and the most trustworthy babysitting (and everything in between), extended family are happy and willing to offer their time. Whether you can’t be there or just an evening to yourself, they help lighten the load!
2) Extended Family Puts Things into Perspective
Parenting is the most rewarding job in the world. But sometimes, you can’t seem to get the job done right. During those times, try getting together with extended family and observe as your kids interact with their cousins or aunt and uncle. This can help put things into perspective because you’ll be able to see the different yet effective ways that you can interact with your child. If a grandparent is present, they may even share a piece or two of parenting advice with you.
3) Extended Family Teaches Tradition and Valuable Lessons
As children, we don’t often see or appreciate family traditions. It’s not until you get older that you realize their importance. Traditions bring families closer together and it’s in those intimate moments where the most valuable life lessons get shared.
4) Extended Family Creates Life-Long Memories
The next time you have a chance, ask your kids what some of their fondest memories are. Chances are at least one of them will have to do with extended family. No doubt will you have incredible family memories, but there’s something magical about those cousin sleepovers or weekend trips with grandparents that hold a special place in our hearts.
5) Extended Family Instills the Importance of History
If it wasn’t for grandparents, sometimes it seems like family history would disappear. They do such an incredible job at recording and passing down important family history stories and heirlooms. While it may seem like an “old person” thing to do, invest in your family’s history. There was and is a lot of sacrifices made to get you and your children where they are today.
6) Extended Family Build Up Your Children
Extended family members are the ultimate mentors. It’s sort of an unwritten law, but you can basically count on cousins to keep your kid’s secrets, aunts and uncles to give dating advice, and grandparents to know what to say after their first heartbreak. In any case, they are present through the good times and the bad, which will help your child develop a strong character.
7) Extended Family Fills in the Blanks
When you faulter as a parent – and you will – extended family has a way of picking up where you left off. Deep down, your children know that everything you do (mistakenly or not), is done out of love. During those times you feel like a failed parent, don’t worry. Sooner or later, with the help of extended family, your child will be all right.
We understand that not everyone has good relationships with their extended family. But if you do have extended family nearby, or close friends that are willing to lend a helping hand, take advantage but not for granted. The relationships they will have with your children are unique and will help them grow into the type of person every parent hopes for.