Creating Your Village: Raising Children Without Grandparents


My mother died when my son was nine months old. Less than a year later, we lost my husband’s father. Since our other parents died many years before he was born, my little boy is growing up without grandparents.

How much do grandparents matter? A former First Lady once famously said “It takes a village to raise a child.” In fact, she wrote a book about it. For most families, grandparents play an important part in that village. From looking after the kids when Mom and Dad need a break to offering advice, grandparents are a vital resource for help and support.

But what if, for one reason or another, you’re raising children without grandparents? Where do you get that support then?

A Village With or Without Grandparents

My own childhood included only one grandparent – my grandmother on my mom’s side, who lived with us after my parents divorced. A terrible cook and housekeeper, she didn’t always relish her role as a “stay-at-home grandmother” (always “Grandmother,” never “Grandma”). But my mother, then a single mom with three kids, needed her to fill that role. Because she was there every day, my mom could work a full-time job. My one grandmother was our village.

Raising children without grandparents
My father-in-law shared some laughter with his grandson.

As for my husband, his parents immigrated to the United States from Greece. His big fat Greek family growing up included lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. Needless to say, his village was much bigger than mine, but his grandparents weren’t a part of it.

In both of our families, our parents made villages from the resources available. Increasingly, today’s parents find themselves doing the same thing.

Older Parents, Fewer Grandparents

With more and more couples putting off having children, their own parents become grandparents at a more advanced age as well. That means more children losing grandparents at a younger age if they ever meet them at all.

In addition, health issues may affect older grandparents’ relationships with their grandkids. When I gave birth to my son at age 43, my mother was 73. If she were still alive, she’d be 81. Given her health, before she died, I’m not sure she’d be in shape to look after an 8-year-old boy.

Raising children without grandparents
My mother got to celebrate her grandson’s first St. Patrick’s Day

What Does Your Village Look Like?

Without the support of grandparents, my husband and I generally shoulder the parenting burden alone. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and my husband works full-time. Our son is an active third-grader who loves sports and Disney (ok, the Disney thing is mostly me). For the most part, we don’t go anywhere that we can’t bring our son along. We make it a point to know his teachers and coaches and to encourage him to learn from them. As far as family is concerned, his aunts and uncles live close by, and he knows how much they love him. Also, he knows his grandparents died when he was a baby and that they loved him, too.

But since we’re raising our child without grandparents, those are really the outskirts of our village. Most of the time, it’s just the three of us. But that’s ok, because it’s who we are, and this is how we choose to be. This is our village.

Kathy’s family moved to Tampa when she was 5, and aside from a few years at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), she’s never lived anywhere else. She’s Irish by heritage, Greek by marriage, and mom to one brilliant little boy. She’s an avid sports fan and lived her Disney-geek dream as a member of the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel. A former TV producer and PR pro, Kathy now proudly sports the title of stay-at-home mom. Follow her sports-loving, Disneyfied, Tampa-centric antics on Twitter @kathyk671.


  1. Hi Kathy. I am in a very similar boat. I am 43 with two littles (daughter almost four and son almost one), and we have no living parents and very few family members. My Mom died two weeks after my daughter was born, and she was the only living grandparent left to even meet her. I have one brother who is married with no children because his wife doesn’t want kids. They are not involved in my kids lives. We are basically it for my children, and it breaks my heart. I find myself desperately seeking close friends who would almost act like family to my kids, but honestly, it’s not the same even if you are lucky enough to have those types of friends. Most days I try not to think about it, and we do surround ourselves with tons of friends and memories. But deep down I’m so sad.

  2. Oh Dawn, I’m so sorry! And I understand completely how you feel. As I wrote, there are lots of us out there experiencing this, so you are absolutely not alone. In my case, while we do have aunts and uncles, their kids are all grown so my son doesn’t have any cousins his age, either. Our little family is really all we have, so we try to make the most of every moment together and let our son feel secure and loved. It sounds like you’re a wonderful, loving mom, and I’m sure your kids will have lots of happy memories to look back on when they grow up. Hang in there, mama. You’re doing a great job!

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