We Can't Raise Our Kids On Our Own: Enter My Extended Family

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Grandfather and grandson
Still, having your family involved in child rearing can be a mixed blessing.

When we brought Alex home from the hospital, we were living in a one-bedroom, 700-square-foot condo in a high-rise downtown. My parents were 45 minutes away.

When Alex was just 2 weeks old, David got a bad cold. I decided that Alex and I should go stay with my parents until David felt better. My mom ran out, bought a carseat base and drove downtown to pick us up. We felt lucky that she was so committed to us. 

 

We spent a week at my parents' house. I was surprised to find that it was much like being at a luxury spa. My family worked a variety of shifts so, no matter what time of day or night Alex and I were up, someone was there to keep us company. Family members offered to watch him so I could take a nap. People made me breakfast. It was great. When I got back home, I lost the luxury of help. Having bathed in the warmth of my family, I felt isolated returning to a one-bedroom with only my infant for company, and a husband who worked all day.

The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed to raise Alex away from my family. So we started the process of relocating.

I wasn't sure how David would fare being so close to my family. He assured me it would be fine. I suspected that all he really wanted was to own hardwood floors. He had found us a house a mere four minutes from my parents' home that I wasn't thrilled with it but, ultimately, he convinced me that moving there would be best for both my nuclear and extended family. How To Manage Your In-Laws

Now, my sister and brother-in-law are temporarily living with us. My mom and dad watch Alex while we work. We have achieved new levels of family togetherness.

Sometimes, this togetherness makes me question my sanity.

There are moments that are fabulous. Then there are the moments, as with any family, that quickly spiral out of control. For instance, my mother recently bought Alex some snow pants. When she got to the store, they only had two colors left in his size: Pink and purple. She choose the deep, eggplant purple color for him. Alex traipsed outside and delighted in the snow. David, however, was livid. He could not be convinced that there wasn't another color option in Alex's size. how do I make her stop interfering with the discipline of our children?

It's important to note: it's not the color that's the real issue. It's the lack of control that bothers him. He's convinced my mom bought purple just to screw with him. When David feels blindsided, it is tough to convince him to calm down. When I have to navigate these conversations with David, I want to rend garments and throw myself on the floor. Not literally, of course. It's just hard. He feels left out. I feel stuck in the middle. I have to calmly negotiate between emotional parties. I hate using my calm voice. It doesn't help that I hate having to work and be away from Alex.

Sometimes I feel left out, too. We're all learning how to do this. We probably always will be. We all want to be together and happy. Mostly, we are.

In the end, the amazing things outweigh the frustrating ones. We've got live-in babysitters. My mother knows all the things Alex will eat. Alex and my dad are the best of friends. They couldn't have had that deep an intimacy if we'd moved to a suburb farther away.

We are all coordinating to raise this child. It's a delicate process. We're all trying not to step on one another's toes. As much as I sometimes want to vow never to speak to anyone again, ultimately I think we're pretty lucky to be living lives so elegantly entwined.