Raising a child without grandparents: When there is no support

The child is sick and you have to go to work urgently? Ideally, the grandparents step in now. But what if that is not possible. For many parents, everyday family life takes place without grandparents. Most of them live too far away, some are too ill and a few grandparents are not interested in their grandchildren. The reasons are varied, but the problem is the same: How does a family work without a family?

“Hello mom, the little one is ill, could you take over today?” I will never ask that question because my mother lives too far away to be able to spontaneously help out with childcare. Even if planned for the long term, she would not be able to support me because she has to take care of my sick father. My boyfriend’s parents also live further away. So we are pretty much alone when it comes to coping with everyday family life – we and many others too.

Organization is everything! Or: We give each other the handle

Especially when both parents work, caring for the child quickly becomes a balancing act. Ultimately, everyday life always revolves around these questions: How do we juggle work, children and all the housework as a couple? How do we cover days when the daycare is closed? How do we divide the school holidays? It often feels as if you are being pulled and tugged on from all sides and there is no one there who can take something away from you.

Despite all this, we are still lucky. We can plan our working hours relatively flexibly and have employers who are very understanding. Others face greater challenges. For example, a friend of mine and her husband both worked shifts at the hospital. This means alternating early and late shifts as well as night shifts. Who brings the child to kindergarten and when, who picks it up? Organization is everything and the store runs as long as all the wheels are in motion. However, if one of these cogs fails due to illness, the organization quickly collapses. Quite apart from the fact that many parents hardly get to see each other, let alone spend a weekend together. Here, mother and father hold hands and don’t even see each other for dinner.

What does this mean for the partnership?

This brings me to the question: How can family work like this? Can one still speak of family at all when parents live side by side and there is a lack of quality time at every corner? Instead of sitting together in the evening and finally being able to talk to each other in peace again, one partner sits alone at home. Or the most important things are still being done in a hurry. Organization comes first, always.

If I think about it too much, an unpleasant feeling begins to spread in me. I look enviously at other families where, of course, grandma or grandpa pick up the grandchild from kindergarten several times a week. Who step in when the child or a parent is ill. Or where the child stays overnight once a week so that mum and dad can have a date or simply sleep in.

Of course, parents can use a babysitter to go to the cinema. But not all children go along with it and not all families can afford a babysitter on a regular basis, because an  hourly wage for a babysitter including cinema or dinner increases the cost of a date.

How to deal with this problem?

But in the end it doesn’t help to always look at how other people are doing it. Instead, one should look for solutions that are feasible for one’s own family. My acquaintance chose a radical method, she quit her job. Admittedly, this is not a panacea. But you can also be a couple and family if time together is a scarce commodity. Family doesn’t get better the more time you spend together, but rather the quality of the time together. It can be enough to consciously talk to each other a few times a week. Even if it’s only for ten minutes, when one comes home and before the other has to leave. It is also important that you do not lose sight of yourself and your interests. You can find more tips on how to keep the relationship of parents happy here.

Maybe you also have good friends who would be happy to step in for an evening to relieve you? Ask them and take advantage of their offers. A so-called “rental granny” can also be interesting . This concept has existed in Germany for about 20 years and it works in such a way that seniors are placed with families as voluntary loan grandmas (or of course also loan grandpas). For example, through mothers’ centers, workers’ welfare, the German Red Cross, the Diakonie or Caritas.

Everything will be fine

Also, make yourself aware that the current situation is not permanent. Your children are getting bigger and more independent, soon they will be able to stay at home alone in the evenings. Perhaps a family without a family to back you up sometimes results in a dry spell in terms of partnership, but it can be overcome with composure and humor. You have grown very close as a family. And how nice does it only get when there are regular cinema evenings afterwards? It almost feels like the first date, tummy tingles and endorphins included 😉

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