Are You There Moms? It’s Me, Idiot. Who Helps You Raise Your Child?

mom adviceI’m back with another parenting advice question in this week’s Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot. I’m Julia and I’ll be your idiot today. My question has to do with the community built around raising your kid: are you of the it takes a village mentality or going at it alone?

When I think about having children one far away day, I always imagine that my spawn will have many active adults and role models in their lives, if for no better reason than the fact that I was lucky have to been exposed to a lot of different people who were really close to me as a child. My parents had/have a collection of weirdo friends who all had a hand in raising my sister and I, and it gave us a broader world view than just my parents could have offered. But that’s a key aspect–these were my parents’ friends and not family, and I only saw my one set of living grandparents every few years. I know that my parents wished they had had a set of grandparents close by to help out, and so while I think we had the perfect community, I think they may have wanted more help.

In my conception of the community built around raising my future kids, all of my cool friends will be involved in whatever ways they want to be. I just don’t know enough about the world to be a kid’s sole source of information, and I’ve never functioned too well as a total lone wolf (although, my future impregnator is an awesome lone wolf, so if we have to live in Antarctica or the The Inland Empire or something we’ll be fine). This community in my head of course assumes that we’ll all have kids around the same time and want to be involved in each other’s kids’ lives, but given the fact that we menstruate collectively and don’t switch tampon brands without consulting each other, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be an involved group.

So, as parents, talk to me about this. What role do grandparents, aunts and uncles, god parents, and friends play in your life? If you have a community involved in raising your kids, how’s it working out? I would imagine that some people’s voices can be a bit overwhelming, and it’s not all giant picnics and someone else teaching your kid to drive a stick shift as I would imagine.

Image: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

You can reach this post's author, Julia Sonenshein, on twitter.
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    • Brittany Anne

      I’m lucky enough to have in-laws that live ten minutes away. They are fantastic, and absolutely adore their grandson. My parents are not quite as close (about a four-hour drive), but close enough that we can pop down for visits every 4-6 weeks. It works out well, though, I think, because my mother can be a little overbearing. She still manages to be really involved in my son’s life without driving me up the wall.

      We have had trouble finding friends with kids, because we’re the first in our group of friends to have kids (by farrrrrrr). That’s been kind of a bummer. Sometimes they’re not as understanding as would be ideal, mostly because none of them have much experience with kids.

    • K.

      Oh everyone raises my kid. He’s got doting grandparents, doting aunts/uncles, our friends, and daycare.

      My kid’s going to grow up and leave me one day, which is a painful for me, but necessary for him, and that is why I think of myself as his custodian for 18 years. It’s my job to give him a loving childhood that prepares him for being a healthy adult who contributes positively to society.

      Part of this, to me, is exposing him to different people who have different ways of looking at and interacting with the world. I want him to understand that my own values and ideals are not the only game in town and I want him to have the confidence to figure out what HIS own values and ideals are. I don’t care if he ends up disagreeing with my values if that’s what happens when he becomes an adult; I care more that he should arrive at his own values thoughtfully, and I care that he treats others with respect.

      I think that learning from a diversity of teachers is the way to cultivate that sense of self, purpose, and respect for others, so I try to nurture our “parenting community” as best I can.

    • SmrtGrl86

      I’ve been helping my sister since she brought my nephew home. Now that she has another baby and I have one of my own we still get together at least two days a week. Because parenting together while our husbands are at work is less boring and her toddler is funny as hell…oh and that bitch has netflix. ;-)

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      No grandparents live near me, and none of my friends have kids. I have a couple BILs in town, but they have their own families. Sometimes we get together, sometimes we swap nights out with the brother who has a toddler. I have a cousin who helps with his fiancee here and there.
      But as for friends, I think they’ll play a larger role when my baby is a child. Maybe by then they’ll have kids of their own. They are lovely with my son, but there isn’t a lot we can all do together with a baby. I wouldn’t mind at all if I had some more help. I haven’t had a hair appointment in a long time.
      Life without the grandparents nearby is a challenge. No lies, no sugar. They’re the one support system most can almost always rely on for a couple nights out a month, afternoon help when you want to run errands, or just playing with your kid while you get other things done or just relax a bit.
      When they are in town, life is noticeably better.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      My mom and stepdad live 45 minutes away, so we only see them every other month or so. We don’t have a car so we have to get a rental every time we go out there, and they won’t come to the city unless they absolutely have to, so they’re not that involved really.
      My dad and stepmom live about the same distance, but they’re willing to come to the city, and they pick us up at the subway station if we go visit them, so we see them every few weeks. They’ve babysat overnight once so far and while my kid ate cupcakes for dinner and watched ‘Cool Hand Luke’, she had a good time and I’m so happy to have them involved and we’re in the process of planning another overnight soon.
      My mother-in-law lives in the same city as us….but uh let’s just say it’s complicated so we see her every other month for short visits only.
      I sometimes wish my mom was a bit more interested, but I sort of get it, I’m the youngest and she’s already done the involved grandparent thing with my older sisters so she’s kind of over it now I think.
      But we’ve got lots of friends around at least, and my kid’s in daycare so she does get lots of chances to learn things from other adults.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Both our families are kind of standoffish and not close (with a few notable exceptions) so for a long time we were on our own, but since we’ve moved back to my old neighborhood in Queens, things have become for villag-y.

    • ted3553

      my parents live about 40 minutes away but have a very busy retired peeps’ schedule so they see the little one once a month roughly and occasionally babysit overnight. the other set of grandparents are a flight away so they don’t see him much. I think my family has a hand in reinforcing my parenting values and I’ve seen them do it. Thankfully, they basically agree with me. Family can be a big influence and especially my parents, will fill in some gaps that I just can’t or don’t do as mom

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      I only get help from my parents. My mom works for the Board of Ed so whenever my son’s daycare is closed due to a holiday, she will have the same day off as well and can babysit. They also take him for a night or two every 2-3 months.

    • whiteroses

      My parents have been another set of parents to our son. His godmother, too, has been absolutely invaluable.

    • Maria Guido

      My mom helps. The end. My sister and brother-in-law help out when they can but they both work full time and need their time off to decompress. I got zero help from my friends in NY – they were all way too busy. The amazing thing is – you adjust to whatever the demands of your new life with kids are somehow…

    • TashaB

      My parents live 4-5 hours away, but we don’t own a car, so we see them very infrequently – about once a year. My inlaws live about an hour away, and we usually see them about once a month when they drive in (we don’t have a car), or when they pick us up to take us to a family thing.
      We were pretty much the first of our immediate group of friends to have a baby, and it was a lot easier when she was an infant. We could pop her in a carrier and take her along to whatever was happening and she’d largely sleep and/or coo through it. We always had a bail early plan too. Now that she’s a toddler, it is a lot harder since she wants to do things like run around and yell and generally be a toddler.
      Three other friends have had babies in the past year, so there are more munchkin friendly things going on.
      As for actual hands-on help, we have a few close friends who have babysat for us a few times, and are usually pretty awesome when we bring kiddo to things. Since most of them aren’t at this life stage yet, it can be harder since they don’t always get what is going on in our lives.

    • LiteBrite

      Oh, I’m all about having someone else raise my kid. The less I have to do, the better.

      In all seriousness, there are many people who I feel have been active in my son’s life and I hope are helping to shape his worldview: grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even various friends of mine. I can’t also forget huge nods to his daycare and public school teachers. In fact, yesterday my son’s kindergarten teacher was glowing about his progress in reading and writing, and I was like, “Yeah, I can’t take a ton of credit for that. Much of his recent interest in writing sentences and mock ‘books’ is coming from the mini workshops you’ve been doing with the class.”

      And, of course, I have to hand a lot of the parenting high-fives to my husband. I’m not kidding. He is an AMAZING father: very active and involved, albeit a little too hard on the boy at times (IMHO). If anyone deserves to get a ton of parenting credit for helping shape our son, it would be my husband, which is evident in the way that kid looks up to his dad.

      In regards to how it’s working out, I’d say great. My son has a ton of wonderful, interesting, if not a little eccentric, influences in his life, and my sincere hope is that he takes a bit of these influences forward with him.

    • Kay_Sue

      Well, there’s that guy that helped me make them. I definitely expect his help. ;)

      Other than that, I’ve got a great support network in my family. We live too far from his for them to have an active role in helping raise the kids. My parents, though, are three minutes away, and steal the kids once a week. My grandmother was our childcare while I was working, and that was great. My sisters are both active when they are home from college, and my best friend is great too. She’s like my other sister, so they call her their aunt (I refer to her as my sister, as does she since she’s estranged from most of her family). I’ve made some mom friends recently, but I don’t really consider them as helping raise the kids, per se.

      There are a lot of voices, but at the end of the day, they’re our kids. It’s our responsibility to turn out contributing and respectful members of society, not assholes, so our voices have final say. Mostly, everyone’s very supportive of that, although we do bump heads with my grandmother from time to time–she’s prone to serious spoiling, which is fine when you have a long distance relationship like she had with us when we were growing up, not so great when your’e seeing them multiple times a week and we spend the vast majority of evenings/days after visits reprogramming. ;)

      • Crusty Socks

        Is it true that it’s best for the mother’s mom (as opposed to father’s mom) to help because the mother can argue with and yell at her own mom, as opposed to her mother-in-law?

      • Kay_Sue

        I have no idea. I’m one of those disgusting people that has a great mom and a great MIL. They make things easy! :-P

      • Crusty Socks

        Nice! You seem like the type that’s easy to get along with anyways ;)

      • Kay_Sue

        I try. I got lucky with the two of them. They’re pretty awesome ladies.

      • Kresaera

        In my situation this is very true lol!

      • EX

        This is definitely true in my case!

    • Guest

      My little brother has been the biggest help, and I totally did not expect it. He’s 30ish and single and the baby’s godfather and offers to take the baby or babysit all the time, or just does like mega big deal things to help us out and make life easier so that we can focus on the baby’s needs. Like, he shoveled almost two feet of snow from his drive way to get to our house and then do work to help us. I never expected this, I named him the baby’s godfather in hopes they would have a special closeness, but this blows away my every expectation and fills me with a warm sense of love.

      • NYCNanny

        That’s awesome. What a lucky baby you have!!

    • Jane

      My parents are 30 mins away and always promised so much help before kids arrived. Now – not so much with the helping. They would rather be “visitors.” We live far from my husband’s entire family so no help there.We had lots of friends come help out when first bub was born but then they all started having kids of their own so the help dwindled. Now that we are on kid #3, there is barely anyone willing to come take care of this brood for any length of time. Everyone gives vague promises, and “if you need anything” kinds of talk, but hardly anyone ever really comes through. So we are at this on our own. But to be fair, no one else signed up to have kids with us so we do view them as our responsibility and happily take care of them ourselves. Just a little disappointed in my parents in particular who always promised us so much. Ultimately, you have to hope for help, but be prepared to do it yourself (especially during the tough times…no one’s gonna come when the stomach bug’s going through your house!) Good luck!

    • Amanda

      Just my hubby and I. We luckily have a close network of friends, but most of them have their own kids and busy lives, so it isn’t as if we can call them up for regular babysitting or if our nanny calls in sick. We can count on our wonderful neighbors and two lifelong friends to help in dire situations (ie: one kid in the hospital). Even though I’d love to have immediate family nearby, the reality is that even if my In-Laws lived next door, they still wouldn’t offer regular childcare nor would most of my immediate family. I’m envious of other parents who have the family resources to help with their children.

    • ChelseaBFH

      I actually moved home when my twins were born because I have the kind of family where you walk into a gathering and are handed a baby (or, if you walk in with a baby, get to hand the baby off and head for the wine). My mom comes over almost every day to help, which is a sanity-saver! The flip side, of course, is that everyone is in everyone’s business, and the price you pay for receiving a lot of help is giving a lot of help. But I loved growing up that way and am glad my boys will, too (I think – they’re only 4 months old!)

      It’s interesting because my husband’s family is a lot more formal than mine, but now that we and his sister both have kids we’re working on changing that dynamic. That’s partially on them, and partially on me – even with twin infants I can’t entirely let go of the “my mother-in-law is coming over so the house has to be spotless” mentality.

      As far as friends, we’re among the first of our closest friends to have kids, and since we moved, not many are nearby. And since everyone with kids has very small kids, everyone is sort of in their own bubble. I’m curious to see what will happen as everyone’s kids get older and more people have them. And, of course, as we (hopefully!) make parent friends in our new town.

    • Jessica Johnson

      Our family hasn’t been super active in our children’s lives. We live 600 miles away though, so I totally understand that makes it hard for them to babysit. None of our friends have kids the same age as mine (one is 14 next week, the other 11 for a few more months).
      Mostly in our “village” is my hubby and myself, the kids’ teachers, an awesome neighbor, some less awesome neighbors, and our one really close bachelor friend (who is like a drunk uncle to them) and our pets. The teachers and I teach the kids the book learning, I teach them cleaning, Hubby teaches them cooking, Hubby and the “Uncle” teach them life skills, like fixing bikes/cars, the dogs teach them about being in a pack, the horses teach them patience and kindness (and the importance of a well placed foot), and the cats… well I guess the cats really just teach them how to open a can with a quickness.

    • Jezebeelzebub

      Who helps me? My parents- well, my dad. My mom died this past July, but when she was still alive and well, she had a lot of input. My ex and his family, of course… and my friends. I don’t have many, but the ones I have are tried-and-true and they are my backup in parenting as in all things. I have to say, so far nobody’s voice has become overwhelming- my daughter is nearly 11 years old. All my people have been very respectful of my parenting. Maybe that will change when my daughter becomes a teenager, but I have a hard time imagining it. My people and I have respect for each other. If they had any concerns about the way I am raising my daughter, I have to believe they would bring them to me, but they wouldn’t harangue me or anything, I’m pretty sure.

    • Ddaisy

      Looking back, I know some of my biggest adult role models were my teachers, Not just school teachers, although I had a few great ones, but especially my piano and ballet teachers. I’m 24 now and still go to my dance teacher as the “responsible adult” in my life.

      My advice: if you put your kids in lessons of any sort, don’t just look for an instructor who’s good at karate or swimming or whatever their job is, but also one who gets to know and love their students as people.

    • RachelP

      My husband and I do not believe it takes a village. This does not mean that there will not be people who influence him through out his life. However, we believe we are the only people with the task of raising him. Now I will admit I might feel differently if my family was close, but they live in Tennessee and we live in South Korea. He knows his grandparents and cousins but they are only faces in the computer screen. But I truly believe that you and your partner are the only people who should actually raise your child. Let other people just be bonuses!

    • personal

      DH and I are completely on our own except for one valuable person, our DD’s godfather. The man is a godsend, always willing to join me at the playground or for lunch and to help with one of the kids while I deal with the other. He even comes over and helps on bath night if DH is on a business trip.
      Our children only have one living grandparent (a disadvantage of being born to parents in their 40s) and he lives 10 hours away.
      Sorry to nitpick, but it’s ‘all had a hand in raising my sister and me.’ (not I).

    • NYCNanny

      In NYC (and many other metropolitan cities), nannies do a lot of the raising. I’ve taught my charges more than I give myself credit for.

    • neighbor57

      Definitely very little family involvement. But I’ve got an adopted family — grandparents, aunts, uncles — in town. After a few bumps and adjustments with the first two cousins, we pretty much all discipline and love on each others’ kids. It’s handy because I clash with one of my children, who has a very close relationship with my adopted sister. My “sister” clashes with one of her children, who is very close to me. So we can swap kids and give each other breaks.

    • Holly

      I’ll be the first to admit that my son isn’t properly socialized and needs more people around to help teach him and play with him and all that jazz. I’ll take most of the blame for it, too. We’re just not very social people due to a lot of moving through our late 20′s and into our (where we are now) early 30′s. We haven’t ever settled long enough to make friends and we don’t belong to any organizations that would help build relationships. I stay at home with him, so he doesn’t go to daycare or anything like that. We don’t spend a lot of time with either side of the family other than an occasional get together once or twice a year with the whole clan and then grandparent visits every few weeks. I feel really uncomfortable with it. We give him mostly everything he needs but I feel he would really do well with more of a “village” around him. We’re moving (again) back to a city and plan to try to bring more people into our lives and thus his, because I want him to experience all of the fun and crazy people he can. :) I grew up in a household with parents that never wanted people to come over. I think I had one slumber party my entire time growing up and it was a disaster because my mom yelled at everyone and made everyone fight with each other lol. So, I got used to my house being my space where no one else visited and I’m afraid that I’ve carried that into my adult life.

    • CrushLily

      I envy people with parents who are interested in their grandchildren. Unfortunately, my kid doesn’t have grandparents like that. They do buy gifts for birthday and Christmas which is the extent of their contact beyond sporadic, short visits on the way to somewhere else. It makes me sad because I knew all my grandparents. If I’m charitable I’ll say its distance but really its just self-absorption. Apart from the two of us, we have the most wonderful family day carer who adores our son. We would be completely lost without her. My cousin babysits for us on occasion and I trade babysitting gigs with my friends but hands-on, free support is rare. We knew this going in so mostly its fine, we just have an unhealthy addiction to too many TV shows as a result!

    • Nanny

      Why hasn’t anyone mentioned their nanny yet… I am a nanny and I have helped raise quite a few children. I spend more time with the babies/toddlers/children then the parents do and do most of the “parenting”. Don’t forget the “help”!

      • BostonNanny

        *high fives* i was actually reading this thinking something similar. my last job, and probably my next, was/will be for parents who don’t have family nearby and depend on me to be their support. I am a third parent, i am the one who gives advice and helps with sleep training and gets the kid out to experience the world and meet people 40+ hours a week. Yay nannies!

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