Extended Family… the Best!

If you think parenting is hard, you are right. No matter how you slice and dice it or how easy you think you have it, it is hard. Why? Because of the way we live here in the United States of America; it is just not easy.

Today’s nuclear families are small. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, usually few in number, often live far away and/or are involved in too many other things of their own to be able to help. Most are so busy that they themselves need help.

From the article by Jennifer Conlin called Guests: Meet My Relatives (They Live Here, Too) published in the New York Times on August 17, 2014, we learn about a family that just moved back from overseas (first Europe and then the Middle East). To solve their own practical situation at the time they moved in with their parents making the household multi-generational with grandparents, parents, an uncle and children.

About living in the Middle East they said…

“Our eight-story apartment building in Cairo was occupied by one large extended Egyptian family… save for us, the ‘odd’ American family living on the fifth floor. We watched our neighbors run up and down the stairs babysitting the youngest, delving meals to the eldest and giving birthday and wedding parties for one another in the shared back garden.”

About living in Europe they said…

“In Paris and Belgium, where we lived when our children were babies, I wondered at first why all the young mothers had older nannies. I soon learned they were the grandmothers, who either lived nearby or with them, lending a hand while their daughters were at work, which would have worked for me as I dashed between deadlines to day care.”

While many of these families were poor compared to our economic standard, all were rich in terms of family.

About living back home they said…

“There was always someone around to make dinner, collect a child, watch the dog and lend a buck, be it for the mortgage or medications. Together we can live much better, financially and emotionally, than we could apart—and that includes my older single brother who is like another parent to our children, particularly when we travel for work.”

What an interesting and valuable article! While most of us cannot have this kind of extended family experience, and while many others who can would choose not to have it, the point is well made. Our lifestyle has changed the job of parenting from a joint effort to a singular challenge. For generations past, and still in many places, family life was and still is set up to be a supportive experience.

What have we done!!!!

Please be reassured that when you are living in your two, three, or four member family, you are doing jobs that are best handled in a multi-generational setting. If you feel stressed from time to time or even often, please forgive yourself. There are very good reasons for it. In reality you are doing one heck of a very good job… and you are doing it under very difficult circumstances!

Take it from someone who understands. Probably an on-looker might say, “It is no accident that I do the kind of job I do.” As you know, as always, I am happy to help. Please feel free to send in a question anytime to drsallyinarizona@gmail.com.

I hope you had a wonderful summer and that you are all set for an exciting, productive, and an as “easy-as-possible” upcoming school year.

~ Dr. Sally

See what’s new each week on  Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally.



  1. Great article Sally as always ! My grandparents lived upstairs for me my whole life it was great having another mom! But then again my mom was born in Europe:)

  2. I moved a thousand miles to be close to my family when my son was two years old. Moved to the same block as my sister and her family. Our sons grew up together, almost like brothers. Grandparents were close by. This was a great gift for my son who has fond memories of his childhood surrounded by close family members! Thanks for bringing this topic up for discussion.

  3. These comments are heartwarming. As they say, you can go out and buy almost anything, but you can’t buy a relationship. Love is the secret salsa. Others can take care of our children to the absolute best of their ability, but no one can match the care of a loved one.

  4. Extended family doesn’t just have to be a blood relative.

    Due to the cultural change and family dynamics, it is even more important for parents, especially dads, to reach out to each other people in their respective communities for help and support in raising children.

    Parenting is a huge responsibility. Nobody can or should attempt to handle it on their own. Its okay to ask your friends and neighbors for help.

    Friends and neighbors cannot help you if you don’t tell them what you need.

    Next time a neighbor or friend asks, “How is it going?” Don’t just respond with “Okay.”

    If you’re struggling, let them know what you are struggling with and then give them a list of tasks that would help you manage your role as a parent better. And vice versa offer help to other parents when you can. Pay it forward.

    It could be something as simple as a neighbor cooking a meal for you once a week, picking up groceries for you, maybe their teenage child could volunteer time to mow the lawn, wash your car….. or perform another task or watch your kids while you and your spouse have some valuable “couple” time – it’s called dating. 🙂

    Make it a great Labor Day weekend!

  5. Hi Hogan,

    You make such a good point about seeking out win-win opportunities. What a clever idea you gave us about having a teenage neighbor pitch in and then, as a result, get to feel “valued, needed, and important.” Those are three of the nicest feelings that anyone can have. I am happy to refer to them as “self-esteem” builders. Thank you also for adding to our awareness information about today’s new and very functional extended families. They work well too.

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