I’m the oldest of 4 children, 1 girl (that’s me!) and 3 boys. Somewhere around 1987, my mother found herself raising these 4 kids (ages 12 yrs-2 yrs) by herself (she later took on a neighbor kid, but that’s a story for a different time). She worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We never went without necessities. Our shoes may have had holes for a little while before we could get a new pair and we may have worn hand me down more than not, but life could have been much worse.
That being said, with my mother working three jobs, someone had to be home supervising the younger kids, attempting to make sure their homework was done, cooking dinner, etc. Well, we definitely didn’t have money for a nanny and with my mom’s family living out of state (there was a short time her younger brother lived in the same neighborhood, but he and his family ended up moving too), that left me.
I grew up a lot between the ages of 12 and 17, when I left for college. A lot of me resented the situation while it was happening. It wasn’t until I was struggling in college and my mom was so far away (hey – 90 miles seemed really, really far at that time) that I began to appreciate the struggles my mother had (and was still) gone through. It wasn’t until years later when I had my own children that knew at a completely different level what those struggles truly were.
I was 24 when I had my first child. I wasn’t married, the father wasn’t around, it was a less than ideal situation. But with with a little (maybe a lot, who’s counting) of tough love and my mom by my side, it worked out. I was 27 when I had my second child, the situation still wasn’t ideal, but at least I was married and the dad was around this time. He even treated my oldest child as his own. I’d like to say this story ends better than my mother’s but sadly, ten years later I found myself divorced raising two kids alone, I still had mom’s tough love and she is still by my side, but there are 300 miles between us now.
My kids are now 18 and 15. My brothers are 39, 37 and 32. Two are married. I’ve always longed to have real blood nieces and nephews and it’s been a long standing joke in our family (extended family obviously) that I’ll just keep borrowing my cousins’ kids as my nieces and nephews even though they are really cousins.
Welcome 2017, both my sisters in law are pregnant. There are 15 years between grandchildren for my mom. I’m beyond ecstatic to have a nephew and a mystery baby (we only know the gender to one), but the look people give me when they realize that my two children are the only two until now is priceless. At first all I could say was “I know right, we didn’t think this was ever going to happen”. Then I started to think about it, this was God’s plan. For whatever reason, I’ve struggled with life. It doesn’t feel like anything has come easy for me. I’ve always felt inferior to my brothers. My saving grace, my “claim to fame”, my outstanding accomplishment was having the only grandkids. Not only were they the first grandkids for my mother, they were the first great grandkids also.
So now when I look back on this great parenting adventure, I realize that I never could have made it through without the help of my family and my children benefited from being the only grandchildren. If any of my brothers would have had children earlier in life, my family would not have been able to help me in all the ways they were able to for the last 18 years. And I get the bonus of being able to love on my nephew and mystery baby without my own little ones being jealous!