Life without extended family

extended family

Our society’s reliance on grandparents has been increasingly in the media these last couple of years.

With the rising cost of childcare centres, we need them now more than ever. But what if you don’t have extended family here? No aunts, uncles, grandparents and so on?

What’s your alternative? How do you balance work and family knowing that there’s no one there who can help you out? This has been the case for our family. My parents are overseas while my husband’s family are in another state. We don’t have siblings here nor other relatives. We are on our own.

We make things work by being creative sometimes and compromising when we need to. Having said that, there are moments when I envy the presence of my friends’ parents. Aside from having a babysitter, their kids have a relationship with their grandparents. During an emergency, they have someone to call.

Still, it’s beyond our control so we find ways. If your family is like ours, here are some of the things we do to make things work.

Flexible work

I always knew that I had to be the flexible one because my husband’s work has a very set schedule. Some workplaces may say that they can be flexible when need be, but it’s not the reality. I was lucky to find work that I can do from home – work that doesn’t need set hours as long as I get things done on time. Having this flexibility for almost a decade now has allowed me to handle the family side of things without much hassle.

However, just because it’s flexible doesn’t mean it’s easy. The juggling act can be hard especially when there’s a deadline. You figure out a way to get dinner ready and the little ones to bed then using the night to finish work.

Childcare

Full-time workers know that Before School Care and After School Care become part of your daily ritual pretty quickly. Finding one that is great, one that your kid loves, is an amazing help for the household. It helps that the government has rebate plans for school cares so make sure you know your benefits.

This is the same with vacation care centres during the school holidays. I had to jump around centres to find one that my daughter actually liked. Not all vacation care centres are created equal. The one I tried in the past had nothing but patches of grass in their backyard. It was cheap but it wasn’t a very enticing place. Your child will let you know if they enjoyed it or not so listen to what they have to say. Again, know your government benefits for these centres.

Other parents

We’ve made really great friends over the years – friends who are in the same situation as us. We know the difficulties of not having a support system around you so we become each other’s support system. On days when one had to work, the other picks up the kids from school and have a play date for a couple of hours. We feed each other’s kids afternoon snack, keep them entertained until they can be picked up.

During school holidays, we figure out days when the other can watch over the kids during school hours. We schedule and organise dates, making sure the other gets a break as well. We also take turns babysitting kids when it’s date night. It saves babysitting money and you know your child has a friend to play with while you’re out having fun.

Compromise

When all else fails, compromise. There are moments when hubby has to come home early for pick ups. Not all the time but it’s good to know we can break the emergency glass when required. We make a schedule so that I can go out with my girlfriends one night and he can go out with his buddies another night. Life doesn’t have to be dreary just because you’re missing an extended family.

What about your family? What do you do to juggle things?

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