Since having children, we have never lived close to family. My husband and I moved back to my home town on the West Coast before we were married, with the intention of starting a family and being close to my family. But in all that time, my family was always been a fair distance away.
We definitely felt it when we had our first daughter- the distance meant that visits were either "trips" or quick meals at a restaurant. We quickly realized that "help" from family was not going to be in the form of babysitting, Sunday dinners, playdates.
I made a photo album with family photos for my daughter to learn her grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins. We talked about our family often so they became a regular part of our lives, even if she didn't see them often.
My mom was amazing and helped us on several occasions with babysitting, especially when we had our second daughter. But even then, it was a strain because it meant my mom was away from home.
When my husband and I started talking about moving to a small town, one of the reasons was to live somewhere where we felt a sense of community. We figured, we are far away from family anyways, what difference does it make if we are now a plane ride away? We moved to our new town for all the right reasons, but we knew it meant family visits would be even further and farther between. We agreed that we would create a new "family" for our children here with friends and neighbours.
About a month after moving here, a mom at my office offered to take the kids for a sleep over if we ever needed a date night or weekend away. The concept sounded kind of crazy to me. A date night? We honestly have had 4 dates in the past 4 1/2 years. I am not joking. One was a friend's wedding and one was a work Christmas party. So that brings us to 2 meals alone together, sans kids.
My new friend offered this without hesitation, and admitted that because all her family is here she has always had lots of help with her children. She is a single mom, works full-time, and is active in the community and her kids' lives. She and I quickly bonded over our love of baking. But her offer seemed like such a foreign concept to me, I never even considered it.
We have, in the past year, built our community of friends and neighbours. We have slowly grown our new "family" for our kids- people who we trust and enjoy spending time with. So when this past week threw us a curve ball and I was forced to take time off of work and recover, we were overwhelmed with all the help that was offered. I am not seriously injured. I am okay. But still, people gathered around and offered what they could.
My baking friend, whom my girls love, offered to take them for a sleep over. I thought it would be nice- I could rest and they could have more fun with her than with me right now. Our neighbour loaded car seats into his truck to drop them off. Co-workers stopped in with a week's worth of prepared meals AND chocolate cake (they know me well). Flowers, get well cards, and lots of reassurance that I needed to rest and just take care of myself.
While my husband was at work on the late night shift, and my kids were off on their first sleepover, I cried as I sat down to a delicious meal. I was so overwhelmed with the kindness. During a time of relatively mild problems. Our new "family" did what we would do for others. I have never experienced this before. I have never had people just help out with the kids and do things for us "just because".
I am beyond grateful and I have really learned who our friends and "family" are. The support my parents have offered has been in the form of talking on the phone, and being compassionate and supportive. Of course if they were closer they would be helping out too. But now, with our new "family" they are reassured that we have a supportive community around us.
I have also been incredibly grateful for all my friends online that have sent notes of support, encouragement and inspiration. Having so many people be so kind and caring really feels good.
I am a big believer in karma. I really do believe that what we give the world we get back. In one form or another. So thank you for all that you have given back to me and my children. We are grateful, uplifted, and are stronger because of it. I look forward to being back on my feet to do more for all of you.