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  • Jenny Rowland

    Yes, you can survive parenthood without family nearby

    Does your family live far away? One mom offers tips on how to build your own support team.


    Maybe you always knew you’d wind up in Chicago. Maybe Chicago is the last place you thought you’d be when you started raising a family (insert raised hand here). In either case, Chicago is home now, and for me, the distance to my own family never felt as great as when I started having kids of my own.

    While I still feel pangs of jealousy when I hear another mom talk about dropping off her kids at her sister’s house for impromptu afternoon cousin playdates or romantic long weekends away while doting grandparents coddle a new baby, I’ve come to terms with living in the city with no local family.

    Besides doing a lot of Facetime with family all over the country, I’ve found a few strategies that have helped make the transition to parenthood in the city a bit more manageable.

    Create your own local support system. Find other new parents! I do not know what I would have done without my mom friends in the early days when milk and poop and sleep (or lack thereof) consumed my life. It can be isolating having a baby (especially during a long Chicago winter), but don’t isolate yourself. Whether you plan to stay at home or return to work, take advantage of those early weeks and months of parenthood to seek out new friends through NPN New Moms Groups, Park District classes, and “mom & me” yoga classes. The bond you share is universal, and fellow new parents could become friends for life—and willingly dine out with you at 4:45 p.m.!

    Save the date. Make plans to see your family. I always like to have my next family visit on the calendar, even if it is months in advance. Although I don’t see my family every week, or every month, it helps knowing my own little family will reunite with my larger family at some point in the foreseeable future. 

    Take care of you. When there’s no “easy” child care around in the form of longtime friends or family, it’s easy to stop prioritizing activities that require leaving your babe. Don’t neglect yourself or your pre-baby relationships because you feel like you can’t get out. You can. And you should! Swap favors with those new mom friends. Find a mother’s helper to give you a break during the day to shower or check email. Build a bench of trusted babysitters that you and your child/ren feel comfortable with. Take care of yourself and make time for yourself so you can better take care of the ones who depend on you!

    The city has endless resources to offer new parents. Whether you’re making a home here permanently or just stopping along the way, you’re not alone! As the saying goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” In some ways, being forced to build your own support system when you have a new baby can be a blessing in disguise!

    Jenny Rowland

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