Gransnet forums


Long distance grandparenting

(86 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 14-Jun-12 10:24:37

Janice Bhend's sons moved to the US - and her grandchildren all live thousands of miles away. How to cope with the constant goodbyes and how to be a good gran at such a distance? Read more in our guest blog post and add your views and experiences to this thread.

kelpie Fri 15-Jun-12 11:34:05

My daughter and two small children are in Australia, they are happy and have a good lifestyle and I go out once a year for a month so they know me wel and they come back every two years as well. Over all I see a fair amount of them, but always in chunks rather than a day here or there.
My concern is the escalating cost of air travel and it is about to become even more expensive. We are being encouraged to cut down on air travel, but long distance grandparents aren't going for the conventional holiday experience. I know that I am lucky to see them.
We don't like the Skype experience, it's jerky and slow at both ends, bur we speak very regularly and I have just had my first text from my seven year old. there are so many ways to keep in touch, we are lucky.

nanaej Fri 15-Jun-12 12:42:50

I am exceedingly lucky to be so close (10 mins walk) from both DDs and the GC. Part of this proximity was to be able to offer some childcare so that DDs can work and thus reduce their outgoings. I have a positive, loving and good relationship with GCs but think that a positive of being more long-distance might be that you are seen a very special treat! I am part of the day to day scenery!!

Conni Fri 15-Jun-12 20:21:21

I too have children who all live abroad. I feel that you can't teach them to be self-sufficient and then complain when they up and go, but it's very hard. I have a daughter who has been in California for 22 years, married to an American (no children, but many dogs). Two sons, one in Kiev and one in Dubai. We keep in touch with grandchildren in Dubai, by Skype and Facebook, and they come over twice a year. We have been to California every year for about 20 years, but are now in our late seventies and feel we can't face all the hassle at the airports any more (plus the time differences). So what to do? Just accept it, rejoice that our children are happy and get on with our lives! Sometimes I wonder what it was all in aid of! flowers

JessM Fri 15-Jun-12 20:52:27

Hi there - some new names here. Or have you all been lurking in the cookery and quilting threads?
My DS1 is in Sydney with H 7 and her brother F who is 4. Broke my heart when they left but I have adapted. DS 2 is in NZ. At least, I say to people, they are both in lovely places. And I am able to visit them. DH is supportive of my trips (funding, putting up with no wife for weeks on end) but I know he finds it hard. They are not his kids and this made it a particularly lonely time when they departed.
Visiting them is a big chunk of time out of the rest of my life - a few days to get ready, I have to visit both sons, and then a week of jet lag.
I don't talk on Skype that often, but sometimes H is very chatty. F at the moment is not really (although very much so when I am there). Time difference makes it difficult.
I find it difficult that I can't easily get there to help out as both parents seem exhausted quite a lot of the time, both working , both kids demanding.
When i go to stay they are relieved to have help and I have an intense time doing things with the kids.
They are coming over for a visit in a few weeks - which I never really expected to happen (I know they can't afford it!!!!) It is going to be a huge treat, although I will not see them for very long - there are lots of other people on the list that they have not seen for years.
It was the same when DS2 came to visit - he was booked in here for a week - but in the end was in much demand by friends in London etc - so we had a weekend together only.
It has really scuppered our having holidays as a couple. People think I am " always on holiday" and I feel I have to explain to them that it is a visit, actually.
But we have booked a proper, grown up holiday this year.

marti Sat 16-Jun-12 01:52:26

Me too. Son in London, 2 yo grandaughter who have visited twice in last two years, once when 9th, once when 2, and i was in Uk for a month when she was 1. It is soooo hard, hate the last few days when it is on "countdown" before the airport and goodbyes, usually skype weekly and get to see her on that, and she does know me quite well from times spent and has an excellent memory. I hope to go again next year for a block of time. But it is hard on them too, they don;t have other family able to support them in London, both with busy highflying jobs and would love a few nights off i am sure. His partner has visited 3 times, and she hates flying so it is a big ask, and on the last flight home the 2 yo only slept an hour. It also means that large chunks of their annual leave is taken up with seeing the family here and they dont get much chance to travel other places on their own. Before the grandaughter I had met him a few times in New York and India, combining part of holiday time with connecting visit. I have another grandaughter here i see weekly at least, she is now l0, and they too would like their brother/uncle/cousin here as well. I have found Amazon great for present buying without the high postage of things sent from here and imagine i will be using that a lot in the future.

janeainsworth Sat 16-Jun-12 08:08:53

I have experienced this over two generations.
My son lives near Washington DC with his (American) wife and our two dearly loved grandchildren aged 2 1/2 and 1, and I echo the thoughts of everyone who has posted so far - the difficulty with Skype, the envy of the other grandparents who live nearby, the worry that we won't have a close relationship with these grandchildren.
However, I have been through all this before as a parent - we lived in Hongkong for 11 years and all our 3 children were born there.
My mother and mother-in-law both came to visit us for a month at a time almost every year and we went home for a month too.
The children loved their grandmothers and were close to them - and there was no Skype, texting, Facebook etc at that time. I think it's quality of time, not quantity that's important, though that doesn't stop me missing them terribly sometimes.
I hope that helps others.

glammanana Sat 16-Jun-12 08:26:32

We are lucky now to be living 15mins from DGCs up until 3 yrs ago we lived in Spain for nearly 10yrs and had the DGCs come and stay every holiday ie: 3 weeks at Christmas/2 at easter and the whole of the summer hols we where very fortunate that a friend had a mobile home nearby and they used to stay there so there was no expence as regard hotels etc,when they where back in UK I kept in touch twice a week by phone and e-mail then later skype it was sad to see them leave after their stay with us but I had more quality time with them than I do now as they have grown up and got their own circle of friends who they socialise with.

Mamie Sat 16-Jun-12 08:58:25

Thanks jaineainsworth, I think that does help. I do find it is easier as they get older, but I think when they are babies and you are needed for whatever reason, then it is very hard.
My DH's grandparents lived in Cairo and then Australia and he only met them a few times, but he has very happy memories of them.

flowerdew Sat 16-Jun-12 21:09:27

I am also a long distance Grandma.
My Daughter and her husband went to Canada 23 Years ago,taking Daniel my grandson who I had looked after so his Mother could go to work for 10 months.After 2 yaers they had a daughter and we went over for the birth.We went on visits and on occassion they all come home.My Daughter and her Husband are visiting me on August 7th for 2 weeks.I am looking foreward to it as Im now a widow and have sold the family home and live in a bungalowthat is Warden Controllled.I hope they will likemy new surroundings and we have a good time.I feelit will be particularly hard when the day arrives for them to return home.Still I have all the good things to come before that day arrives Its amazing what we can do when push comes to shove isnt it?

yogagran Sun 17-Jun-12 11:43:55

I find that it's the "Goodbyes" that are the most painful part. I have DS, partner & DGD living in Canada and it is difficult. Communication is so much better than years ago - at least we have Skype and for anyone who has a smartphone or iPhone there is a great app called "WhatsApp" for free text messages (certainly between the UK and Canada, not sure about Australia etc).
janeainsworth's comment about quality not quantity was particularly helpful and sympathetic, thanks jane

janeainsworth Sun 17-Jun-12 12:16:13

You're welcome, Mamie and Yogagran smile
I agree about the painful goodbyes.
The last time my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter who was 6 months old at the time came over, 2 years ago, we all went out on their last evening with our 2 daughters and their partners, to our local Chinese restaurant for a farewell dinner - what a mistake, everyone sitting round looking and feeling miserable! They are coming again in August and this time I think we'll send the grown-up kids out while we babysit!
I think our daughters feel it too - they don't have the time and/or money to visit their brother nearly as much as they would like and would love to have more involvement with their niece and nephew.

JessM Sun 17-Jun-12 12:52:01

You're right about the quality jane - I know that if I add up the hours with my GKds they are quite a lot - I am very lucky.
You are so right flower it is amazing what we can do. I draw strength from remembering my Gran, whose second son emigrated, with grandsons, just 2 years after her only other child, my father, died at the age of 34.
And she just got on with it. Used to send The Beano and The Dandy over to them. This was the late 50s when there were no phone calls.
I am so glad that she saw lots of me and my sister. We would go for holidays with my mother and then later on our own. Must have been a huge help.

Grannygee Mon 18-Jun-12 12:23:53

Oh how I can identify with so many of your comments! My daughter decided when she was 14 that she was not going to do like dad and get her 'A' levels then go to Uni, instead she got her 'A' levels and went off with Project Trust to the Sinai to rehydrate storks! She never came back really. Well, that's not true she did her degree in Sussex, got a first then went back to her passion of diving in th Red Sea where she became an instructor, met her now husband then left Egypt to go to a tiny island off Zanzibar to manage it wit her husband! We visited her as often as we could but as someone said no sooner than you arrive than you are thinking about having to say goodbye! A 10 hour flight to Nairobi and then to Zanzibar became a pain in the neck even though I did it on my own twice so I could see her when my husband couldn't because of work. I thought about her every day and on Friady nights for some reason I usually shed a tear into my G & T! I used to wonder whether it was us and she just didn't want to be near us. We skyped but it was frusrating as it went slow or fizzled out.

I'd stayed close to home and have been in a close relationship with mum and dad throughout my married life. Now they are old and demetia and illness is becoming real worry. This story has a a happy ending. My D got pregnant, got married in the UK and had a little boy whom she took back to the island for a year. We visited and saying goodbye became a complete nightmare. One day they told us they'd found jobs in London and they were coming home!! We were overjoyed! Now I can get on a train and be with her in 2 hours. This weekend I'm babysitting for our GS and will be exhausted but happy. I'm complete now. Life has become 'whole' for me and the GS has given unimaginable joy. I loved being a mum and threw myself into it wholeheartedly and had empty nest syndrome so badly but it's gone now. Thank heavens! I'm a lucky Gran! I empathise totally with people whose children move so far away. It's a bitter pill but one thing that I found to be true, we did have some quality time together when we did see each other! Some consolation maybe?

SueDonim Mon 18-Jun-12 17:50:36

It's interesting to note that others find Skype difficult at times. I do have some hearing loss so assumed it was my fault but maybe it's partly a Skype problem too.

I think my ds has missed home more since becoming a dad. He's remained very 'British' despite 10yrs in the US and now he has his own child, he misses the ability to give him the same sort of upbringing he himself had. Raising him to love Marmite has been one manifestation of that! Books are a subject close to his heart. American children's books are not a patch on UK ones so we send parcels of emergency books, such as the Mog stories and the Alberg tales. I spotted an imprint of the older style Ladybird books a year or so ago and quickly snaffled them up so my Grandson will know all the old fairy stories that mine grew up with.

Taking leaving of each other is very difficult. When they leave us, it's for a 6am flight, which is always grim but especially so in winter. Last Jan, after the snow fiasco the previous year, they booked into an airport hotel for that early flight. We had a family meal beforehand and it was in fact better than leaving at 4am in a taxi. Our little grandson screamed his head off when he realised we weren't staying in the hotel with him, though. sad

yearofthetiger Mon 18-Jun-12 18:17:26

My daughter and my granddaughter only live 150 miles away, so I'm quite well off compared with some of you ladies. But I often wish I was near enough to be a little more "hands on"! My DG is only 6 months old, but we've seemed to have got into a we visit one month, and they visit the next. And Facebook definitely has it's upside!

yearofthetiger Mon 18-Jun-12 18:18:40

GD not DG!

Ariadne Mon 18-Jun-12 18:27:03

We have always been some distance from our children - the furthest is DD in Devon, but, as some of you know, we are moving down there! but that is 5 hours away on a good day. (M25 permitting.)

The quality time with DGC has been fantastic, but DD and I are really looking forward to the fact that we may be able just to meet accidentally in town! What a treat! And the others two DC will be nearer too.

I have watched my children being driven off to boarding school so many times, and cried so much, that separation seems a way of life. But it is nothing like what you truly long distance Grans are going through.

Love to you all.

Greatnan Mon 18-Jun-12 18:45:05

I was living in Monaco when my first few grandchildren were born but I still had a good relationship with them. I was in England for the birth of the rest of them, but then one daughter went to live in Malaysia - I had some wonderful holidays with her. When they returned to England, I retired to France. My other daughter and three of her six children emigrated to New Zealand in 2010 -I have had two very long holidays with them and this year I will also be seeing them at the wedding of one of her sons who lives in Kent. Then I will be going to NZ again next Spring. Eventually I will be joining them in NZ and then I will have to take long holidays in England to see my sister and my other grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
I don't enjoy the two days of travel but I love to hear how happy they are in their new life.
I am Facebook friends with most of them and both my daughter and I get free calls via our internet provider so we speak several times a week. I don't use Skype, but my daughter talks to her son, DIL and two grandchildren every week.

Living in a different country/continent from all my family is not what causes my anguish - that arises from emotional separation from one daughter and three of her four children.

Stansgran Mon 18-Jun-12 18:52:14

What is fantastic is seeing all these other "new" names-are you all lurkers-and we all know how each other feels.[julika] ihad to stay on my own in NY while DGD was being born and I had a very good safe and comfortable studio off Broadway on bus routes etc so next time you go if you wish I will dig out the address

moomin Mon 18-Jun-12 19:59:33

Just picked up this thread (thank you Twitter!) and am in tune with all the thoughts posted here, there are so many of us with our children and grandchildren overseas or miles away in the UK. Forthunately my 2 sons and their families live only 45 miles away so we do see each other quite often, but before my move to Northumberland we only lived a couple of miles away so there was much more contact then.

My DD emigrated to NZ with her husband and baby of 4 months in 2006 and words can't describe how much I miss her and my two grand-daughters. When her husband was offered a job in NZ she asked me my view on them going to live over there (they'd already had a holiday out there to see what they thought of the country, they loved it!). She was worried about leaving me and how much we would miss each other. My response was they had to do what was right for their family and their future, that I was behind them 100% and if I had had the opportunity when I was their age I would have gone for it.

It sounds as if I made the perfect response, which I think I did, but the thought of them being away on the other side of the world was horrendous.

They had another baby born out there, who was born with a health problem (thanks to a wonderful surgeon she fully recovered) and I made a mercy dash which took 3 days door to door. I have visited every year since they went and last year my DD was diagnosed with MS whilst I was out there (a shock to us all as she'd had no prior symptoms) and it was so, so fortunate that I was there at the time and able give lots of love and support, but my, it was difficult to come back home after that visit!

Basically that is the real problem for me, the enormous distance when things go wrong, plus the emotional goodbyes. But . . . they are having a fabulous life out there, are very, very happy and I get to spend 6 weeks every year with them and really getting to know my 2 GDs.

Greatnan Tue 19-Jun-12 06:58:05

Moomin - you were very unselfish in encouraging your daughter to emigrate - I did the same. My son-in-law got terrible grief and emotional blackmail from his own family, dire warnings that they would be back within a year 'with their tails between their legs' . Fortunately they could not have been more wrong as the whole family love their new life. His father and sisters have now come round to acknowledging that they did the right thing, but I thought it was very cruel to try to make them feel guilty.
I notice that on 'Wanted Down Under' several parents/grandparents try to persuade their children not to go because it will make them (the parents) unhappy. Surely the most important thing is for your children to fulfil their dream - if it does not work out (and some people just don't settle) they will need sympathy and support - not triumphal 'I told you sos').
I am heartened to see that, in spite of missing their families so much, all our 'long haul' grannies are supportive of their children's decisions.

dorsetpennt Tue 19-Jun-12 10:40:16

I lived in Canada as a child and didn't see my grandparents until we returned to the UK when I was 9 years old. We went back to Canada when I was 13 and returned to the UK when I was 15. Of course there was no e-mail,jet travel, and very long distance phone calls were expensive and had to be booked in advance. You only got three minutes. So my contact with my beloved g/parents was in the form of those lovely crinkly air mail letters. When I was married my ex and I moved to New York when my son was 20 months old. I always felt so guilty depriving both him and his granny of a lovely relationship.She barely knew my daughter as she hadn't known her during her babyhood. No e-mail again and I have all the letters to and from my MIL.I read these from time-to-time and it's almost a diary of my seven years in NYC. However, we were able to make cheaper regular phone calls and flew home at least once a year. Of course there is now skype and e-mail and what a difference that must make. Sadly, with the demise of personal letters unless you keep all your e-mails, this sort of journal of events will no longer exist. Although I have tracked down old school friends and work colleagues through sites like Facebook etc.

Nonnina Sun 01-Jul-12 18:17:46

There is a place deep in the heart of a long distance gran that is as fragile as crystal. My only grandson turned six months old on the 29th June, and lives in Auckland with my daughter and son-in-law. I saw him seconds after he was born and held him so close. But............three weeks later I had to fly back to South Africa and something inside of me died. I could not explain the pain of seperation to anyone. My heart broke. My husband could not understand as he is a second marriage husband and I crawled into a cacooon of isolation from everyone. My dad passed away in March, my only lifeline here. Yes............I am a Skype granny, but I can't hold my grandson, kiss him, hug him, give him cuddles and sing a lullabye to him. I can not move to Auckland and they will not ever come back to SA. The crystal inside my heart is showing signs of shaterring.

Gally Mon 02-Jul-12 19:37:05

Hang in there Nonnina. As you see there are a lot of us long distance grans and it is desperately sad that we can't be near our beloved children and gc's but it does become easier as time passes; you just have to get your head around the situation and put everything into perspective. Fact - they are there and you are where you are and the likelihood of that changing is not very high; once you've done that - make the most of phone, skype, visits, letters etc.... smile

JessM Mon 02-Jul-12 20:08:25

I'll second that, and it is harder when you are not still with the grandad. I remember Gally saying that you do find a box to put this in. You will. But you sound like you need a good cry.