As the mom of two elementary-age kids born 16 months apart, I’ve had a decent amount of parenting challenges. My husband and I are transplants to Tampa, so one of the most challenging things has been living far from family. Thru my experience, the following are helpful tips for surviving motherhood when you live far from family.
1. Build your local support network
My network is an eclectic mix. I have some friends who I’ve known since before becoming a mom. I also have friends who are neighbors, friends I’ve met at the gym and thru my kids (school and extracurricular activities). Sometimes it’s easy to find this group and sometimes it takes effort. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, because you never know where and how you’ll meet people. Join a meetup group. Attend an event at one of the many libraries in our area. I started taking my kids to story time when they were just a few months old. Join a church if it’s within your belief system. Go to a neighborhood park. Not only is it critical to have these friends for the social aspect, but they are crucial when you need help. You never know when you’ll get sick, have an appointment or just need a breather while you’re in the trenches of motherhood.
2. Accept help when offered
When my daughter was a newborn, I had a mom friend offer to babysit. Being the nervous, first-time mom that I was, I kept politely saying “I really appreciate your offer,” but wasn’t taking her up on it. After a couple months of being persistent, this friend tried a different approach by firmly saying “I’m free Monday or Tuesday morning–you pick which day works best and bring the baby over.” After much internal debate and unnecessary guilt, I dropped my daughter off with my friend and I spent a couple hours at International Plaza. It was a well-deserved break that I didn’t even realize I needed. I’m not suggesting you leave your baby if you’re not ready or comfortable, but sometimes a nudge is all it takes. Use any and all the help you can get!
3. Ask for help when you need it
Before kids, I’d have to be lying on the side of the road and bleeding before I’d ask for help. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Those of us without family around, don’t have the luxury of having a mom or sister close by to call up when you’re having a “Can-you-PLEASE-come-hold-my-crying-baby-before-I-turn-into-a-crying-baby?” moment. In times like these, don’t hesitate to call a friend for help and admit that you’re having a hard time. Every new mom has been there! If it’s within your budget, a good babysitter is also a lifesaver. We’ve had some awesome ones thru personal recommendations, as well as thru caregiver search websites.
4. Stay connected
With the amazing benefits of technology, staying in touch with family far away is WAY easier than it used to be. As a kid, I dreamed of being able to talk to my aunt on the phone and see her at the same time. Now that this is a reality (hello FaceTime!), take advantage of it. Have a grandparent/aunt/uncle read a book or sing a song to your baby over video chat and once your child gets older you can reverse roles. Staying connected can make the miles apart seem less lonely. Find a sharing platform that works best for your family. My extended family doesn’t all regularly use social media, so when I became a mom I started a blog. It has been an amazing way to keep-in-touch and share our lives with our family who is close in heart, but far in distance.
5. Don’t let comparison kill your joy
I’d be lying if I said I’ve never felt a twinge of jealousy when I see friends get to experience motherhood while living close to their family. When my oldest was a baby, I remember thinking how awesome it would be to be able to get my hair or nails done while I leisurely dropped her off at my mom and dad’s house. I thought to myself, “Of course this whole self-care thing would be a breeze if I didn’t have to book a babysitter or find a friend to watch my baby every time.” While the grass may seem greener over in your friend’s yard, don’t let yourself get too caught up in those feelings. Remember that everyone has parenting challenges, even if it’s not outwardly obvious. Be flexible. Lean on the support you do have, even if that takes a little more planning than just doing a drive-thru drop off at grandma’s house.
What are some of your tips for surviving motherhood when you live far from family?