No Family Living Nearby? Here’s How to Survive Another Day [of Keeping Everyone Alive!]

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I’ve felt very mentally strong throughout my sons’ lives so far. I have incredible support around me—once I found “my people”—and I think it helped that I never expected motherhood to be easy. I knew I would have to figure it out by myself. We lived states away from our parents from the time we had our first child, and admittedly, my husband is a workaholic. Motherhood was going to be hard in general, but mine probably harder than others, so I prepared myself because I knew we didn’t have family nearby. Though there were times when my mom friends would mention that grandma’s coming over to babysit again or describe the big family dinners they enjoyed over the weekend, that I often wished I had nearby parents, in-laws or siblings, whose help (and company) I could summon per diem, no questions asked. 

Happy photo taken in Bar Harbour on a reunion cruise this summer with my entire family (who came from various parts of the country), when I had tons of helping hands.

I’ve gotten a lot of, “You make motherhood look so easy!” too—such is the sheen that social media brings to real life, right? But in all honesty, it’s taken a long time of figuring it out to get to this point of actually doing more than “just survive” as a mother of three.

If you’re like me, and have no family living nearby—pour that second cup of coffee (or wine, I won’t judge) and read on to see how I survive and thrive.

Family vacation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. We’re not on a cruise or anything.

Find Your People

Finally, after living in NJ for five years, I can proudly say: I found my people. I have the ones that keep a text chain going at 12 am, those neighbors who will let me know I left the garage door open again and friends who will gladly help dog-sit for me when I’m out of town. I even have ones I can call on to come over immediately to help kill that wasp that’s angrily trapped inside my house. I have found that there are a bunch of folks—be it friends or neighbors—who wouldn’t mind swooping in to help take some pressure off. How did I find them? At a mom meetup group, attending new parent mingling events, or heck, even striking up a convo with that mom in line behind me at Starbucks. Because, let’s be real—you never know who you’ll meet anywhere.

Plan Ahead Where You Can… But Also Learn to Surrender Control

I feel like I have finally, truly learned what it means to surrender because each day—hour!—is unpredictable and there’s no choice but to take time as it comes, as opposed to planning it and expecting it to live on my clock. This my friends, is very emotionally freeing. So, I’ve grown to embrace meal prep and making those freezer-ready meals that I can easily pop in the slow cooker. I also use convenient food box and grocery delivery services that make my life so much easier. I now know that organization will save my sanity, but so will letting go of control (at times, of course).

Forget About Trying to Do It All

I’ve learned to accept that I just can’t do it all. No one can. Some things have to give. Certainly, I’ve had to scrap any ambitious dreams of hosting playdates at my house or signing up to be Classroom Mom. For me though, letting go of trying to do it all really refers to the more mundane, day-to-day goals. This means I’ve learned to be okay with a messy house sometimes, clothes not hung up right away, piles of (clean) laundry sitting on the floor, and the occasional dishes in the sink, if I just don’t feel like doing them again for the gazillionth time in a day (because, boys). I generally try to ensure my kids have three, well-balanced, nutritious meals a day, but I’ve become okay with calling takeout pizza or another box of mac n cheese as “dinner”, and tossing in applesauce  for good measure. Because I’m faced with endlessly feeding three children, without any reprieve from the occasional home-cooked meal by Grandma, I’m good with keeping my life as simple as possible. 

Accept Help. Then, Ask for More

As I’ve let go of trying to do it all, I’ve become more open to the idea of asking for help. You know how they say, it takes a village? It’s never been truer. I was always stumped on where to find good hired help, which is why the hubs and I didn’t go on any date nights for the first few years! But as it turns out, I struck up a relationship last year with some neighborhood teens who have been amazing as occasional babysitters for my kids. When my husband was traveling every week for the better half of this year, sticking me to baseball/T-ball mom duties the entire season, yea, you better believe I called on another dad to help bring my oldest to some late-night practices. It’s not like I was sipping on margaritas on the couch—I was handling dinner, bath, and bedtime for two other kids.

Have a Secret Stash of New Toys

Just when I think I can’t handle any more raucous behavior, I bring out a shiny new box of Legos or brand new sensory box that may change the mood for the day. This worked especially well for my older siblings when we were all feeling cooped up with a newborn, or for those days when I’m too tired to get out of the house (I try not to make those a habit).

Get Out of the House

I will say this over and over to anyone who will listen: it’s 1,000 times easier to get out of the house than it is to stay at home with multiple kids. Refereeing three kids confined within four walls, well, that’s basically prison and mama needs to orchestrate a prison break stat. How do I do it? No matter if it’s pouring buckets outside, snowing for the 3rd day straight or 100 degrees out, I prep them for the great outdoors and definitely plan an escape route. It’s easy to stick in the comfort-zone, but it’s more important to stay sane.

Escape When You Can for Me-Time

I’ve seen the Friday night parenting memes: The couch, the wine, the partner at the opposite end of the couch, and (of course), the NETFLIX. And I laugh . . . because it hits home. But then I think…OMG, what happened to me?  Sure, after a long week with the kids and the hubs at work, what I really want to do is just watch Netflix and chill. But staying sane means I need to break out of this comfort zone  and do something for myself, whether it’s trying a new coffee shop or reading a magazine in a bookstore. Even if I’m going out to run errands and then find myself in the aisles of Homegoods smelling the candles, it definitely counts as me-time, ya know?


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About Author

Mom to three boys under age six, Jamie is a creative spirit who prefers wildflowers to roses, and is a self-proclaimed Chinese food snob (because nothing is as good as Mom and Dad’s). When she and her husband are not throwing darts on a map to pick their next family destination (hence how they’ve landed in Russia, Iceland and Malta), she enjoys wandering around at home on Princeton’s ivy-covered campus. She’s obsessed with things that have a good story and is a sucker for good packaging (read: hoarder for pretty candles).

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