Living Near Your Children…Bonus or Bad Move?

Written by Allen Unrau

livenearHalf a century ago most families stayed in the same area. You lived your life in close proximity to most of your relatives. Children would marry and move away from home. This “moving away from home” usually meant a few miles or at most it may have been the next town where they established their roots.

There is an old Dutch proverb that says: “A happy new home is one where you can’t see the smoke from your parent’s chimney.”  That may be true, but everyone you knew lived within an hour of each other.

Things changed dramatically in the last half of the century and Canadian families are now spread out geographically.

Children went to the city for further education and never returned to the area where they grew up.  Maybe they met their future husband or wife and ended up moving across the country when they married.  Good jobs required moves and relocation if you wanted to move up the ladder.  Transfers moved families all over this country.  You’ve done your best to keep in touch, but it’s just not been the same as living near your family.  Some of your grandchildren are already as tall as you and you don’t feel you really know them as well as you would like to.

Retirement gives you a lot of choices

Should you stay where you are or have you always wanted to move closer to your children and grandchildren? Do you know for sure that they want you closer to them?  Will you be able to make new friends when you move or will you be relying totally on your family for the relationships you need in your life?

Will you end up becoming a baby sitter, cook, cleaner and gardener for your adult children?  Maybe you can’t wait to be able to help them out, but you need to consider these things in advance.

What about your son-in-law or daughter-in-law?  How do they feel about having you closer?  Have you been open with each other and talked through all the issues in advance?  Do they have blended families and how will you grandparent role fit with stepchildren?

Maybe you are moving because of guilt. You feel that you haven’t spent enough time with them or they want you near because they feel guilty about not having made enough effort to get together with you in the past.  Adult children and their parents sometimes play games with each other.  Adult children may send messages they feel their parents want to hear or messages that will not upset their parent, rather than what is true.  So, be careful and above all be honest with each other before you pull up stakes.

What if you follow the kids and they don’t have time for you?

Remember, their life is probably a balancing act right now.  They are responsible for many things and many people and their schedule may be very full!  You probably have expectations about the help you would like from them at this stage of your life.  Can they meet your expectations and will it be a joy or a burden for them?

“Knowing what it would be like” is often difficult to achieve without “actually doing it.”  If you move, you would be wise to arrange for help from other sources for some of your needs so as not to rely totally on your family and overwhelm them. Make it a comfortable transition for everyone involved.

Do you get the feeling they want you closer?

If so, you are the most fortunate person in the world!  Seize the opportunity…family is everything!

Article © Allen Unrau, used with permission

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163 Responses to “Living Near Your Children…Bonus or Bad Move?”

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Nikki thanks for weighing in on this subject! Your point is very well made!!! Any decision to move closer to children has got to be discussed and talked through with the families that are impacted!

    I also really liked what you said about ‘not imposing yourself into their lives for your own emotional reasons’……well said! There is a reason that the bible says that children are to leave their parents and cleave to their spouse! There are many parents that have to learn that as well….that they need to let go and allow their children to be independent adults.

  • Rashid says:

    Niki
    you are right about grand parents because of my wife parents wanted her to live with them and children live with their daughter grand parents did not have friends and close family person so they asked other daughter to live in their home but she refused it then they start to make bad relation between us so they can live with daughter without me only way they thought will happen if divorce come in to picture and they succeed just for their loneliness grandparents destroyed the life of my children. My parents are happy as long as we are happy they did not care where we live as long as we are happy some grand parents have best life and they have plenty friend they don’t get involoved in children life they help if children need but not get involoved in their business most marriage get destroyed by grandparents.

  • Niki says:

    Just to share an adult child’s perspective who is currently in this situation — My husband’s parents have followed us wherever we have moved without asking for our input. It has caused a severe rift in our relationship with them. They recently put a bid on a house in our neighborhood without asking for our input, even though we had asked for a privacy bubble. It felt invasive and even threatening to our family.

    If your goal in moving closer to your children is an enriched relationship with them, really make sure that you are respecting their input and not imposing yourself into their lives for your own emotional reasons. A relationship with adult children should be mutually beneficial by both parties’ standards. . If you impose yourself upon your children and insert yourself into their lives without respecting their boundaries, they will likely push you away. If you treat them with respect and honor their independence, they will likely want to spend more time with you.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Janet,
    Very well said and that was exactly what I was saying in my earlier comment, that it truly is all about expectations. If they are realistic and we don’t make our joy or happiness dependent on our children then we have a hope for a good relationships.

  • Janet says:

    I am fortunate enough to be able to say that I think my kids/grandkids still enjoy spending time with my husband and I. The kicker is that it has to be at their convenience. It almost as if they don’t think we have “lives” and should be available at their whims. And no, we don’t have the busy lives they do, especially the son with the children. But sometimes there is something in particular we want to do on the weekend, and if because of it we say no to a dinner or an outing, feelings are hurt. But if the tables are turned, we should be accepting.

    I wouldn’t go as far to say as not to move near your children. I would just advise that your expectations are realistic. Also it is important to establish your own life with boundaries so that your world doesn’t revolve around your kids and grandkids, because as their lives change and get busier, you will find yourself alone more and more.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Michele,
    Thanks for weighing in from a daughter’s perspective! My heart goes out to all of you that have taken the time to comment on this thread. There are just so many unmet expectations! And maybe that is the culprit…our own expectations of one another, whether as parents of our children and grandchildren, and as children of our parents. I know that when I have unmet expectations it colors our relationships for sure.

    Instead, I have tried to look at all I can be thankful for, the relationships we do have with both our son and his family who live here in the same city as us, and with our daughters who live far away.If I expect my children and grandchildren to meet my needs for socialization, of course I will be disappointed. We need to have our own friends that we do things with and interact with.

    Aurora,
    I would beg to differ with your comment that children don’t enjoy their parent’s company once they have their own families. All three of our children still invite us and want to spend time with us, even if it isn’t as often as we would like. I think that is a generalization that isn’t true is all cases that’s for sure.

  • Aurora . says:

    JANET,
    Thank you for clearing up things,I can relate to your experience ,the closer one get to children there are more resentment ,disappointments and mis understandings.Retirment age one needs to make priortiese.
    1) Personal residence.
    2) Strong Finacially.
    3) Daily Routine.
    4) Social Circle.
    Children do not enjoy company of Parents once they have their own famalies.

  • annjilly says:

    I have been reading the last few postings and did appreciate the one from the daughter and how she feels about her parents moving. We have been planning our move for 7 months. I have two wonderful grandchildren for which I have taken care of since they were born. They are now 6 and 9 and very involved in their school, activities and friends. My daughter is not happy about the move, actually she has become stand offish or ambivalent. She is letting us spend a lot of time with the grandchildren picking them up after school and of course it save her after care costs. The grandchildren seem to be okay with this but my adult daughter who lives nearby is very passive in her emotions to us. I get the idea it is more like withholding her sadness. This decision of ours to move came through a lot of soul searching. My husband and I both are young seniors, husband still works part time will retire at end of year completely from work. Illinois is not near as cheap to live as our location in Florida we will cut our living expenses practically in half. Other than discussing returning to IL for Christmas my daughter does not participate in the conversation. When we return to IL we either stay in a hotel or with friends she has not any suggested how she could accommodate us. Finally I have a daughter than lives in the island a short flight from Florida and she can spend more time with us. Sibling rivalry never ends.

  • Janet says:

    Of course the first order of business after moving here was finding a new job. I had been in my previous position for 7 years and so had become quite comfortable. As I said previously we moved right as the economy was tanking. But I did manage to land a job immediately. We moved from an community of 12,0000 to the 15th or 16th largest city in the country. Another culture shock. I liked my first job, liked the ladies I worked with, but I was not prepared for the commute. My 8 hour day became a 10 hour day because of it. So I found yet another job, but still wasn’t what I was looking for. After 4 years I ended up where I wanted to be. The downside? Most of the ladies in the office are two or three decades younger than I am. I like them just fine, and we all get along. And I have to give them credit, they always include me in on any outside of work activities. But we are in completely different stages of our lives. They are friendships, but not the like the ones I left behind.

    My relationship with my husband is rocky at best. I have tried discussing with him our need to find a life outside of the kids. His world revolves around the grandkids. He wants to be at every game and every activity. And while I enjoy it, I already went through this phase once with my own kids. I am interested in doing something else now. We can’t seem to get on the same page about this and he certainly does not fill the void of friendship, where you can let your hair down and say what you need to say.

    I try to tell myself that things could be so much worse. I see people every day that are hanging on by a thread, either emotionally or financially. But it doesn’t diminish the feelings of regret that I have. I would do it all differently if I could, a mantra that so many of us say.

  • Mary Ann says:

    Dear Janet,

    I can relate to the disappointment of how our grandchildren relate (or not) to us as they grow out of their childhood days which were so easy for us as grandparents. The days of being thrilled to bake brownies and play with Barbie seem ages away. We relocated several hundred miles away when we retired, because our children and grands were already enmeshed in their own lives and we didn’t feel needed. We visit them often and when they are here, we are forced to set our own rules about electronics at the table, etc., but if I had to deal with it on a regular basis, it test my patience.

    These threads often reflect similar themes when it comes to disappointment with availability of children/grandchildren. It especially saddens me when I read that included in that disappointment you seem to regret leaving friends and would choose to be with them above your life partner. A long distance marriage would be lonely….don’t you think? I greatly enjoy my “girlfriends”, but our relationships are very different than my relationship with the man I chose to live with for life. I hope you will reconnect with your husband before you think of anything else that might bring happiness. If you can’t imagine that, perhaps counseling should be a consideration.

    Your attitude about your adult children and grandchildren is healthy, even though it’s painful at times — they’re busy. It’s not our business to judge if they’ve signed their kids up for too many sports, etc. Their life! At this point we parents must establish our own activities that don’t involve “twiddling our thumbs”, rather than rely on our children and grandchildren to be in our lives on a regular basis. Maybe this Christmas, you and your husband can have a special family celebration before the kids leave to see your daughter-in-law’s dad (not unreasonable), then you can visit friends you haven’t seen for awhile.

    If you’ve been in your present community for seven years, you have hopefully established acquaintances that can develop into meaningful friendships. Choose your lifestyle….build it around what YOU control and ENJOY!!!

  • Rashid says:

    Janet
    Don’t move because you want to move closer to kids. I agree with you.
    is saying when your son get married you lose son and when daughter got married you gain son.
    Some cases is exceptional but it is better that kids should live away from grand parent. I think grand parents should not move children come during holiday that is more fun. My marriage was failed because we was living closer if I ever marry I will live away

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Janet, thank you for opening up and sharing your experience and insight with others regarding this topic. It is good to hear that you realize that you are not alone…others have or are going through similar situations. I relocated to a different state about five years ago. The first year was the toughest. Went through the “empty nest” season with my adult daughters and grandson living many miles away. Then I had to learn how to make new, genuine friendships in mid life. I found that getting involved in my local church made a huge difference. Reaching out to volunteer and leading women’s small groups around interest that I am passionate about have been a blessing. Have you tried to make new friendships where you currently reside?

  • Janet says:

    It was interesting reading about other people going through the same issues that I am. Maybe not exactly, but close enough to realize that I am not alone which in some ways is comforting. I moved 7 years ago because of my husband’s job. We couldn’t sell our house because of the economy at the time and went through some very stressful times, financial and mental, because of renters from hell. But that’s a different story. I had my misgivings about the move, but my two older sons had moved here already and my son and daughter-in-law were expecting their second child. I left my friends, my home and my job. I don’t know exactly what I thought I would find relocating at 54 years old, but it certainly wasn’t this.

    At first we saw the kids and their families quite often, once or twice a week. It has now dwindled down to a couple of times a month and honestly it is getting to a point that I don’t care if we do that. Everyone sits at the table with their phones and texts or surfs or whatever. Having a conversation where everyone is involved is too much to ask. When my grandchildren were younger, we did a lot of baby-sitting so at least we got to build a relationship/memories with them. In fact we even vacationed a few times together.

    But things were not as perfect as it looked. In the seven years I have been here my daughter-in-law and I have spent time together exactly twice. It is obvious to me that she has no interest in building a relationship with me and I have been mindful not to be a meddling mother-in-law. As my sons got more involved in their careers and interests I saw less and less of them (unless they needed a favor). Do I resent them their independence? Not at all, your kids are supposed to grow up and grow away from you. But here I sit almost 7 years later twiddling my thumbs because my friends are all back home. The grandkids, who we spent time with on a regular basis, are growing up quickly and doing their own thing. If I want to see them I need to go to one of their sporting events. It is fun to watch them play their various sports, but there is no one-on-one interaction. And holidays? That is the best part of all. My son and his family go home to her dad’s for all holidays. So here my husband and I sit all alone. And the reasoning behind that? Because we get to see them all the time, and her family only gets to see them for the holidays.

    I didn’t move to be closer proximity to my kids although I thought it was going to be a definite plus. I moved because of financial reasons. But from what I have learned, if you are thinking of moving closer to your kids so that you can be a part of their lives, don’t do it. All my kids do is carpool their kids around because they have them booked into too many activities. The days of just hanging out are over. It is just the way of the world I guess. Don’t get me wrong, family is wonderful but it becomes a smaller part of our lives as the kids develop their lives. And that’s how it should be. At this point in our lives I think friends are a lifeline. I wish I had mine back. If I had it to do all over again, I would have stayed put. My husband and I could have had a long distance marriage.

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