Fresh out of college, I accepted an internship position in Atlanta, GA so we packed everything we owned and moved to a tiny one-bedroom apartment just North of the city. We enjoyed our time in Atlanta; we were young and there was always something to do. At that point in our lives, it didn’t matter to us that our village, our support systems, lived in different states.
We married in 2012 and soon after learned we were pregnant with our first baby; that changed everything. We longed to be near our family and friends so we’d have a village to help us raise our new baby. We wanted our baby to experience the bond we shared with our grandparents when we were young.
We settled on Cincinnati because it was central to all of our parents; spread between Columbus and Indianapolis, visits meant only a short two-hour drive – very do-able!
A short time later, two sets of soon-to-be grandparents moved away, one to Kansas City and the other to North Carolina. Between the two of us, our nine siblings live in Kansas City, Nashville, and Raleigh. Sure, our parents and siblings come to visit, and we travel — to Columbus, Kansas City, and North Carolina — when we can. But, if we’re honest, it’s not the same.
It’s not the way I had always imagined my family life would be. Growing up, I was raised in a small Indiana town where the majority of my family lived. We attended regular family gatherings at my Grandparents house and holidays were spent with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We’d have the occasional sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa; we’d play our favorite game of War, eat popcorn, and wake up for a breakfast only Grandma could make (as simple as it was, she made the best bacon and toast).
But that’s not a reality our kids enjoy; they don’t have a built-in village. We call off work when the kids are sick because we don’t have an alternative. Date nights are hard to come by, especially with a newborn; it’s so difficult to find babysitters you trust and you know can manage multiple kids at such young ages. It’s not unusual to spend holidays as just a small family unit. Home improvements and landscaping projects are difficult to start and even more difficult to finish with three young ones with us at home.
But, we do the best we can. We do have a small army of close friends who’ve become family and occasionally include us in their family gatherings (thank you, you know who you are). We call and Facetime with their Grandparents and I try to post pictures on Facebook as often as I can. We travel and visit as much as time (and money) allow.
Though we are alone in the sense that we don’t have our village nearby, we know we’re far from alone. Our parents are always supportive and we know they love and adore our kids. We can’t change our circumstances, but we can make the best of it. We can show our kids every day how much they’re loved because, at the end of the day, even a small village is still a village.