I thought I was so mature as a teenager but I wish I hadn’t done this.
I was filling out the forms to enrol my son in school next year when it hit me again. Regret.
When I got to the part where I had to list emergency contacts apart from my husband and me, I couldn’t think of anyone to put down. In the end, I wrote the name of my sister, who lives 1,500km away. (“Can you come in and pick up this child who is vomiting?” “Uh, yes, just let me check the flight times.”)
Back when I was 19 I moved away from my home town for a job. At the time it was a great decision. I got my start in journalism, a career I immediately loved. I liked having some distance from my family and establishing my own identity. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be living and working in Sydney.
Fast forward 20 years to motherhood. Things are different.
To be honest, there are times when I just want my mum. Or one of my sisters. I have four fantastic sisters who have nine kids between them. I see them maybe two or three times a year. That's a shocking waste of sisters.
I want to be able to drop around to their houses and let my kids run off and play with their kids, knowing I can relax and leave them to it. I want to be able to make myself a cup of coffee and then sit down and boast about the amazing things my kids have done and be totally honest about the things that scare me.
I want my kids to have lots of aunts and uncles in their lives, adults who don't hesitate to hug them or tell them off. I want them to have lifelong friendships with cousins, friendships that don't end when they have a fight or develop different interests or move to a new school. I want them to have lots of happy memories of their grandparents.
Okay, yes. I would like someone who could babysit for me occasionally, maybe even when my kids are sick. (What do other working parents without extended families do when their kids keep coming down with minor illnesses?)
But it's more than that.
I want to be around family. I suddenly get "family". I regret that I left my own family behind when I was 19 without a second glance.
I have plenty of friends in Sydney, but most of them don't have children, because for so many years, my husband and I didn't have children, either. I somehow missed out on the chance to join a mothers' group, and the women I met at playgroup just weren't my type. We have a lovely neighbour who's like an aunt, but I'm always wary of my boisterous kids wearing out their welcome in her beautifully furnished house.
Sometimes I think of moving back to my home town, but both my husband and I would both struggle to find jobs, with the careers that we're in. Maybe we should take the plunge anyway.
Did you feel the need to be near family when you had children?
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