‘Grannies Wanted!’ Mom takes to social media to build a village for her kids

Jenn Updyke spends most days on her own with Nikolai, who is 2 years old, and baby Elijah, who is 2 months old.
Jenn Updyke spends most days on her own with Nikolai, who is 2 years old, and baby Elijah, who is 2 months old. Jenn Updyke

Jenn Updyke had an unusual in-search-of posting for her neighborhood message board: grannies.

The mother of two moved from California, where Updyke was teacher, to Olympia in February after her partner, Luke, got a job with the state. In California she had family and friends and a neighbor who became like an adopted grandmother to Updyke’s oldest son, Nikolai, now 2 years old. Together they would go for long walks or out to breakfast.

“That was wonderful, we need that — someone who wants to hang out with a little one, who wants that energy in their life,” she said.

But in Olympia, her partner works long days, and Updyke is not working. She spends most of her time on her own with Nikolai and baby Elijah, who is 2 months old, and it can be overwhelming.

She read about a custom in Bali where babies are held — by their parents, extended family, neighbors, siblings — for the first three months of their lives because young babies are considered too holy to touch the ground.

“Someone is holding that baby all the time. How supportive is that? And our society isn’t set up like that,” she said. “To raise the child I want to raise takes a village. And I had it more where I used to live.”

So, Updyke turned to the internet.

Her post, titled “Grannies Wanted!” on the neighborhood networking site Nextdoor, read: “...I’m finding it more challenging (and less fun) getting through the days that my partner works. If you have a little time in your life, and space in your heart, to share with our beautiful family, I look forward to talking with you.”

That was last month. Updyke said the response so far has been “overwhelming positive.” She has heard from older people whose grandchildren are grown or live far away. She also has heard from moms who feel the same way, and from a volunteer program that connects local seniors with young people.

Among those who replied to Updyke’s post was Cindi Brigden. Brigden, who doesn’t have grandchildren, used to dote on her neighbor’s kids, three girls all under 5 years old, but they recently moved away.

“I just fell in love with those kids and was brokenhearted when they left. I just loved that kid energy,” she said.

Deanna Partlow also is looking for a way to spend more time with young children now that her own grandchildren are in their teens.

“It’s their curiosity and excitement about learning every new thing, their enjoyment and enthusiasm for life. When I’m around them, I feel that,” she said. “When I read (the post) I thought, ‘How wonderful, here’s someone looking for the other half.’”

Partlow sent Updyke a message on Nextdoor, and now they have plans to meet this week.

Said Updyke: “I’m looking to expand my village, but I’m not the only one.”

Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869, @AbbySpegman