For 11 and 1/2 years, I had the luxury of having my parents live close to us (17 miles away, to be exact). Dad was retired and Mom retired during that period. The free time was crucial - because their main jobs became Child Care Provider for Grandchildren. For years, I wondered how all my friends were able to pull it together without free grandparent care and assistance any time they needed it. Some paid babysitters fairly often, but many also had friends who helped out. Inspite of frequent Free Grandparent Care, there were times we still needed help and I relied on wonderful friends. But those times weren't too often, and we were able to reciprocate.
So now we are out of the Free Grandparent Care zone. Two and a half hours is a little much for things like, "Can you pick up the kids today?" or "Hubby and I want to go see a movie tonight" or "He's driving me crazy! Please take him off my hands for a couple days!" I am obtaining insight into how many people in our very mobile society pull it all together. Since moving here, we very quickly started depending on others to help out. When I had my surgery last fall, thank goodness we had friends who kept the kids for a couple nights. (Mom and Dad were coming down, but Dad ended up in the hospital with far more serious issues than plantar fasciattis.) Thank goodness for carpooling. Thank goodness for friends who gladly switch off childcare - because who can afford to pay babysitters all the time? And thank goodness for people who will help out at the last minute, because Hubby forgot to look at the calendar and didn't know he would be gone while I had a Board meeting.
And we are now in our second week of the '95 Windstar being in the shop - new transmission (yea). Flexible as my job is, we can't always do without a car for Hubby. Last week, some friends loaned us their extra car - a really nice double-cab Ford 150. This week, Hubby is tooling around in a Mercedes SUV. (And we didn't even ask to borrow either one of these cars - our friends just volunteered.) It kinda freaks me out to see a nice car in our driveway. The van certainly looks better than my '91 Nissan. (And I'm not even thinking about gas mileage - Hubby's not driving very much.)
Southerners seem to always be dependent upon the kindness of strangers (pardon the split infinitive, but blame Tennessee for that). Thank goodness we can especially be dependent upon the kindness of friends - no matter how new they are.