Blood - is it thicker than water?
Our family is bi-coastal. My husband's family in New York, my own family in San Francisco. When we lived back east, my inlaws were 3 hours away and my parents were across the country. When they would visit, we were torn between exploiting the free babysitting and spending quality time.
When I grew up, it definitely took a village. I was surrounded by cousins, aunties, uncles, and three grandparents. My mother would drop me off, my aunt would pick me up and leave me at my grandmother's until my father picked me up later. I would hang out and play with cousins. Aunts and uncles would float in and out of my grandmother's house, picking up my cousins and often staying for dinner. The place always smelled of vats of my lola's home-cooked Filipino food.
Fast foward to my girls and their growing-up experience. Daily interaction with extended family is nil. We have created our own "family" here in Portland, but there is still something to be said of family, of whom you could ask almost anything. At 4 o'clock one afternoon, when you are held up somewhere, could you ask a relative to please, please see if s/he can drop everything to pick up your child from school? Could you ask your brother to babysit the kids while you run Hood-to-Coast, perhaps? Or could you ask your sister to watch the kids so you could steal away for some much needed adult time? Or leave the kids with your parents for an even longer weekend for an adult mini-getaway?
We've been parents for almost seven years, and - for the most part - we haven't had family close enough for those last-minute regular requests for assistances with the crazy juggle of parenthood. Two years ago, though, my two brothers moved to Portland. Single, in their 20s, and very bachelor-minded, it's been hard to pin them down and make these special familial requests. They're in the SE and we rarely see them. But, they're all we have here in Portland when it comes to family, in the strictest sense.
Now that my parents and my parents-in-law are approaching retirement, we get to thinking about other families we know here in Portland whose parents have moved to Portland to be closer to their grandchildren. So, I'm curious: do you have extended family nearby or here in Portland? Is it helpful for you and your kids? Do they share in childcare? Is it more of a nuisance? Do you see them often or hardly at all?