If you asked my 12-year-old self where I’d live when I grew up, I’d say without hesitation: “Long Island. Duh.” I was going to live where I grew up, by my family and friends and it would all be great. That was my home.

Then when it came time to decide on where to go for college, I chose the one my older sister went to which was five hours away from Long Island in Massachusetts. Then I met my husband there. Then we decided it made sense to live there after we graduated. Then Massachusetts slowly became my new home.

I miss living near my parents, one of my other sisters and her family and my childhood best friends, but I also got a lot of beautiful gifts out of moving. One of the best ones? Raising my three children near my older sister who has three children of her own—all similar ages.

We live about seven minutes away from one another—she actually used to live around the block from me and I was close to devastated when she added six more minutes onto my commute to her house. (How dare she!)

I have rushed over to her in record time when her son had an accident and she needed my help. She has rushed over here when I’ve locked myself (and my kids) out of our house. I have filled her freezer with crock pot meals when she was expecting her third baby. She has stopped by with surprise coffees to check in on me on rough days.

We’ve gone to yoga classes together and play places with the kids when we’ve all needed to get out of the house. We’ve met at the park to power through the afternoon together and we’ve braved the movie theater multiple times with all six kids (typically with the help of our other sister who lives in the area, thank goodness!). We’ve walked into town with our broods for doughnuts at the local coffee shop and we’ve signed our kids up for the same music classes and swim classes and gingerbread house making classes…

My sister is a lactation counselor and was there for me tremendously in those first few weeks of trying to figure out how to breastfeed. She was so calm and patient and her knowledge was invaluable. In fact, she was actually at two out of three of my births (my second baby came quickly and my sister was home with her own newborn—so I’ll excuse it) acting, basically, as my doula. She was the maid of honor at my wedding, and she was my first best friend. There’s nothing she hasn’t been there for.

Her mother-in-law who lives nearby has become another grandma to my children. My kids are obsessed with my brother-in-law and scream “UNCLE MATT! UNCLE MATT!” when they see him. My sister’s sister-in-law (you following?) has become like an aunt to my kiddos and her daughter, like another cousin. We’re beyond lucky to be so involved in my sister’s life, but her extended family has become ours too, and that’s another gift I’m so grateful for.

I’m at the point where I don’t think I could do this without her and her husband and their kids. Watching my kids play with her kids—and the bond they share—makes me so proud. They fight and argue like siblings, but they also light up when they see each other and laugh so hard whenever they’re together. My youngest is the baby of the cousin crew in Massachusetts and they treat her like a queen. They protect her, coddle her and love on her like nothing else. It’s the sweetest.

I have to say—I definitely wasn’t thinking about breastfeeding babies and/or the sheer frustration of getting locked out of my house with three kids in the car when I was a 23-year-old trying to find a cool, affordable apartment in the area. So moving near my sister in order to raise our kiddos together was not really on my mind when I decided to move—but I’m glad it’s something that I benefit from now because of a decision I made then.

Being deep in the trenches of motherhood with someone who knows me so well has been a privilege. I remember days as a new mom where I’d drive over just so that I could sit there and cry with someone. That made me feel less alone during days with my newborn which often felt very lonely. She always knew (and still knows!) what to say to make me feel better.

I know this isn’t the case for everyone. I know I am lucky. Having family nearby while raising children is a blessing—and one I don’t take lightly.

To my sister—we may not have known what our motherhood journey would look like when we were younger, but I’m so glad this is how it has turned out.