My kids have seven parents.

by Janelle Hanchett

I realize my husband and I are supposed to be the only two people really taking care of these kids. I realize the American sit-com white-picket-fence story goes something like this: man meets woman in college. Great love ensues. They date. They marry. They buy a house. They get a Golden Retriever. They name it Sam. Three years later, they have their first child. They name it Sam, too. Then they have 2 or 3 more (kids, not dogs). And they raise them, all by themselves, visiting grandparents over the holidays. And they do this happily.

Alrighty then.

My story? Not so much. Mine goes some other way (for more details, read this). But there’s one part that really, really differs – right now, today – and that’s the whole “doing it on your own thing.”

My kids have 7 parents.

Two that house them. Two that make parenting decisions. Seven that drive them around. Seven that take care of them.

That’s right, people. I’ve got a village and I’m not afraid to use it.

I say this without exaggeration: I have no idea how people raise more than one child without grandparents around.

And YET, I see people doing it all the time.


There are so many days when I can’t get the kid to tee-ball practice or Girl Scouts or the birthday party or whatever, and I call one of those grandparents – and between the FIVE of them (my mom + my mother-in-law + my father-in-law + my dad + stepmom = FIVE. (Hells yeah!)) – there’s always one who’s available to save my sorry ass.

If I told you the whole story of my whole mothering career, you’d really see how those grandparents saved my sorry ass. But alas, that’s another blog post, which I’ll write when I get to know ya better.

And don’t get me wrong. I KNOW that some parents out there would simply love having grandparents around to help with their kids, and I also know that there are some parents whose selection of quality, reliable grandparents is questionable at best.

And I know that I damn lucky to have good, solid grandparents around. That they’re interested in my kids – in fact, are really quite fond of them, is an invaluable bonus to the whole close-proximity thing.

BUT, there is something in me that feels like a failure because I rely on them so much.

Shocker, right?

Janelle feeling like a failure? Odd. Very new. Cutting edge.

Or way, way old, worn out and LAME.

So let’s abandon it. Let’s just be secure in our need for help with this whole parenting thing, for being simply incapable of doing it on your own. For needing time to yourself sometimes. For needing your mom when you’re sick (to take care of you or to clean the house or to watch the kids while you sleep).

Alright, let’s do that.

Let’s be alright with it.

Okay, here I go. Being alright with it.

Trying to be alright with it…telling myself the “it’s okay – everybody needs this kind of assistance – you’re just lucky to have access to it” speech…

And believing it, for now.

And often I do believe it, intellectually.

But in my gut there’s another feeling. It’s weird. It’s like this deep voice telling me “you should not rely on others so much. You should do this on your own. What is your problem? Other people move across the fucking country from their parents, and still raise multiple children (with apparent ease).”

And YOU? You can’t even make it a week without calling in the reserves.


Bad mom.

OR, perhaps the whole “YOU MUST RAISE YOUR KIDS BY YOURSELF BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT GOOD, GROWN-UP AMERICANS DO” is a huge steaming pile of bullshit.

Maybe, we all need each other.

Maybe it’s natural to have people help you.

Cause it wasn’t always this way, right?

I’m pretty sure that back in the day extended families lived near each other pretty much invariably. Grandparents were around and uncles and aunts and siblings and nieces and nephews and we raised these little people together.

Because NOBODY should have to face this crap alone.

There is NO WAY this is a two-person job.

Seven-person-job? Yes. That’s more like it.

This is my beautiful mother, my best friend, the only person on the planet as infinitely interested in EVERY SINGLE detail of each of my children...I'm not positive, but I THINK she saves my life, in one way or another, pretty much daily. Thanks, mom.

  • Christina

    You are right Janelle, you are very lucky. With our 5 grandparents not one is responsible or close enough to be a support. And you are right is does take a village and it should. 2 people do not have enough life experience to fill a child with enough lessons to make a whole person. Your children are very lucky to know how much love they have by the huge show of support for them.

    Also, dont you have a nanny. Wouldn’t that be 8…. =}

    Cheers to your well supported family. You are one lucky woman. (in my eyes)

    • renegademama

      Oh right. 8. Oops. 🙂

      Actually she’s so rad she counts for 2. So I have 9.

      Thanks for reminding me to be grateful…today I’m wallowing in self pity. It happens.

  • Franki Halloran

    My eyes are finally clearing from the tears… thank-you, Janelle.
    Love, Mom

  • Stacey

    This is a great post. Can I borrow one of your helpers? I have only my sister in Sacramento (who works full-time) and my mom in Roseville (who is a bit like my third child rather than my mom). If we were in Italy, we’d have so many people helping us all the time. Here, I had to give up breastfeeding after two months, because have you ever tried breastfeeding twins with no help? It’s impossible. I tried hiring a mother’s helper, and that didn’t work out so well.

    Also, I think the more family there is around, the better-adjusted the kids turn out. I had only my parents and my mom is nuts, and I think my brother and sister and I really suffered for it. It really does take a village, and you’re lucky to have one!

    • eringirl

      Hi Stacey– how old are your twins? I have 7 month old twin girls

  • eringirl

    Oh, friend. I only have two but if I didn’t have the support of family and friends we wouldn’t be doing it. We would have lost our house and my sanity. I rely on people for everything. And I don’t care anymore. Because those people love me and they love my children. My girls benefit from their love, their experience and the patience I can’t give every moment of the day. I need the whole damned village and I am okay admitting it.

    Great blog, like always.

  • sherilinr

    i’m totally jealous. we’ve lived for all but the first 6 months of my daughter’s life with no help from anyone & she’s 8 now with aspergers & homeschooled, so i NEVER get a friggin break. and next week we’re moving to where we’ve got a bunch of people who can & want to help & i stay close to tears at the thought of how happy i will be to have someone other than myself & my husband wanting to help & be a part of it all. life weighs an awful lot sometimes & it’s nice to spread that weight around.
    you’re a lucky lady & so is the rest of your family.

  • Melissa M.

    I think it is TOTALLY normal and okay to call in outside help. I do it all the time. We are only human, and we can only do so much on our own. You are NOT a bad mother.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Jess

    We just moved, and we moved into a neighborhood next to the one where my parents live.

    My mom? Is a lifesaver. And I’m so not ashamed to admit it. I adore having her nearby. I adore that my kids have someone else to look up to, someone else who loves them with all her heart. I mean, she can drive me nuts sometimes. But my kids love their Nonna.

    In my opinion, kids need someone. Someone they can trust, depend on, talk to. And as much as we want to be that person for our kids, sometimes? We just aren’t, for whatever reason. It may ache a little, but I’m glad my kids have their grandparents to turn to. If they’re not going to talk to me, confide in me, for whatever reason, I figure the odds are in my favor of them talking to SOMEONE if they have a village.

  • Jeannette

    I have done this before with help from my x husband & our family, and now I am raising my 2 yr old grandson. I have a new respect for single parenting and I don’t mean split custody, I feel soooooo sorry for the young mothers that do it all on their own. I am now doing it on my own and I think if I didn’t have the help from my family and day care, I would have killed the sweet little thing by now. (Just kidding), But I have broke down and cried because even after doing this before, and a incredible amount of patience I have earned over the years. I now have that same parents guilt of not being able to be everything, to this sweet little boy. You still would be able parent.,just more tired with much less patience and your children would be in day care/after care all day being raised by people you don’t even know. I think you are doing a wonderful job, your children are sweet kind and well rounded. Good Job

  • Mrs4444

    This is just as it should be. When is the last time you heard someone say, “God I just wish I hadn’t had so damned many people who love me hanging around when I was a kid!” 🙂

    • renegademama

      This made me laugh out loud. Awesome.

  • Dee

    How incredible, to have that village. It was the way how I grew up and I never fully appreciated it till I had kids of my own. Now, I wish I had that!

  • Kimberly

    Those who {a} find a village and {b} USE their village are far better parents. Those who isolate themselves and do everything themselves are doing no one any favors. I’ve parented both ways, and everyone is much better off now that I’ve realized that it takes a village.

  • Melanee Warren

    you just described my life. i am blessed beyond measure to be able to lay around sick in bed while someone else takes care of my kids. so thankful to be able to go out of town whenever we want to because there is always someone willing to take my kids. and so on, and so on. not at all sure what i’d do without them.

  • Shan

    We’re behind the times… my girls only have five parents. Tom and I, my dad (who’s really my stepdad, except that he hasn’t been married to my mom for 23 years), his wife AKA Saint Margaret (who watches our girls because she loves them and because she might have to kill Dad if she didn’t have something else to occupy her) and Tom’s mom. Granted, my MIL lives 2000 miles away, but she’s our on-call support.

    Oh, yeah, my son lives with my mom, so we’ll count her, too (although we wouldn’t leave the girls with her *shudder*).

    And I have regular commiserating conversations with my bio-dad’s wife, AKA my (beloved) Wicked Stepmom.

    Woot woot, we’ve got seven people, too! Batshit crazy in most cases, but that’s why we get on so well.

  • Sara

    This is exactly why we’ve put off having children. Both of our families are on the other side of the country. ALL OF THEM. I grew up with just my nuclear family, hardly ever seeing any extended family (but I knew they existed because I always got a birthday card) and Husband grew up with all his family just a ten minute car ride away. He might be glad to have a little distance from them, but I hate it. I want as much of my family around as possible. Since Husband’s an only child, I want his mom to be as involved as possible and the distance makes that difficult.

  • dani

    My parents live almost three hours away. The Mr.’s parents are right here, in town. Guess who helps more? That’s right! Three hour commute folk.

    When I was pregnant with The Girl and had some virus from HELL, my Pops made the 6 hour round trip trek to take The Boy off my hands so I could sleep. The mom-in-law had to get her nails done.

    Yeah. We all need people. My marriage grew stronger when my parents started keeping the kiddies for long weekends every other month.

  • Kali

    I am a single mother and I have two kids under 6, and live 5000 km (about 3000 miles?) from any known relative. So far, so good, as I count the before and after school carers as part of my children’s village; but I do have the fear lurking in the back of my mind of, oh my god what would happen to me if I had a car accident. As it is, if I am too sick to drive my son to daycare, he has to stay home with me – and sure that helps me get a whole lot better….
    The type of people you really need are unconditional ones. No questions asked. Will take the kids’ lunch to school in the middle of the day or pick them up from the police station in the middle of the night. Hopefully, I have time to cultivate such people 🙂

  • Sarah

    America is delusional about what it is to be a parent or a family. The family institution has been ripped apart ever since we started leaving home to work for “dollars” that make someone else rich. Everything got too big, nobody knows their neighbors, they’ve replaced family guidance with school guidance, counselor guidance, police guidance, judiciary guidance,medical guidance…it’s all bad.
    When we can convince everyone to stop going to “Work” and start focusing on making meaningful/beneficial connections with those around them,then maybe everything will straighten out. That’s the only system in which the REAL asshole ultimately loses every time.
    Till then addiction will steal some grandparents, “work” will steal some, bad health, narcissistic materialism. You’re following the right footsteps, so don’t feel guilty.

    • Krystal

      Hear, hear! 🙂

  • Kate MacQueen

    I’m the oldest of ten children. My mom is a crazy religious freak who has basically joined/created an Old-school Catholic cult and has cut out of her life most of the people who used to be important to her. She regularly blames me for all the problems of our family, from drug addiction to lack of solidarity (in scary text tirades once a year or so), yet when the going gets tough something inside me still says “I want my mommy”. I say if you’ve got the positive support don’t be ashamed to use it! I’d be all over it if I could!

  • Jennifer

    My mother provides free child care to all 4 of her grandchildren – 8, 5, 17 months, and 14 months – while my sisters and I are at work.
    Hells yeah! We are not failures. We are crazy blessed. I don’t have to worry about who I’m leaving my child with, and his cousins adore him and teach him that the world doesn’t actually revolve around him.
    Perfect scenario. Go Mema!