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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.

harrigran Tue 25-Sep-12 12:34:20

Welcome GrandmaPam. When my first GD was born I visited every day but went home at night, I live in the north east and 40 minutes travelling from DS and Dil. I think they thought they could manage without help but after a CS it was a case of all hands on deck. A very different story for second GD, an elective CS and coinciding with GD1 starting pre-school. DH and I moved into DS's and took over childcare and meal preparation and so on. Worked quite well as DIL became ill with chest infection and needed medical care too. We stayed only until DIL said she thought she could manage and DS was on paternity leave too.
I think it is important not to outstay your welcome and do what we always say ... bite your tongue, they have all these books you see that tell them how to do things properly hmm

Greatnan Tue 25-Sep-12 12:08:41

My daughter in NZ has no very young children but I know she values her privacy and she is often busy with Riding for the Disabled. I am quite happy to borrow her car and take myself off for the day,exploring the wonderful countryside of South Island. They do take me for days out but I make a point of giving them some money for each week I am there as I know their petrol bills increase. On my next trip in Feb/March, which is for six weeks, I am taking one week to go down to Fjiordland and another to have a snorkeling trip, probably to New Caledonia. I have also offered to house/dog/cat/sheep/teenager sit if they want to have a few days away on their own.
They know I don't need babysitting and am happy on my own.
They had several holidays at my various gites in France and they usually bought all the food for the whole family, which was very welcome. I get on extremely well with my SIL but I would hate it if I thought I was encroaching too much on his good nature.

GrandmaPam Tue 25-Sep-12 11:56:47

Thanks Butternut, Annodomini and Johanna......unfortunately it would seem (yet again) that my husband is actually wiser than me! I did think of asking my son for his opinion, but he's so nice that he would never say 'don't stay with us'! I think we'll book in B&B and just re-assure them that we will stay all evening if they want to go out - we will literally just be sleeping away. Also Johanna....I agree (yes!) that three days is going to be enough - not for me, but for them. It is a life-changing thing for them, and they will definately need time on their own - don't want to eat into my son's paternity leave too much!
I'm so glad I joined this forum....I feel so much better

johanna Tue 25-Sep-12 11:50:01

Agree with butter: your husband is spot on.
Dare I say that three days is probably enough?

annodomini Tue 25-Sep-12 11:46:11

Tell them you are booking in to a B&B. If they throw up their hands in horror and look hurt, perhaps you could stay with them if they look relieved, then it's the B&B. My parents came to stay when I had my babies and I was very pleased to have them, especially the first time when I was very anaemic after the delivery and felt a bit weak and watery!

Butternut Tue 25-Sep-12 11:34:42

Hi GrandmaPam - Hoping all goes well ......

Several ways to go with this I feel. First is to ask your son what he thinks would be best for your daughter-in-law and the new baby - after all this is a time where their needs are the more important as it's such a special time.

Personally, I'd book into a B&B - and take it from there. You can still be as hands on as possible - but just giving them their own time and space at each end of the day.

Think your husband is spot on.

GrandmaPam Tue 25-Sep-12 11:25:18

I've just registered so not sure if I'm doing this in the right place, but this conversation thread seems to be pretty much what I'm after.
I'm about to be a first time Granny (any day now). We live in the north of England, and my son and his partner in the south - apart 6 hours drive generally. Baby is due any day (5 days over at present), and we are planning to spend a few days with them week beginning 7th October - so all being well, the baby will be at least one week old.
My husband and I can't agree on where to stay; I want to be able to help them as much as possible, so stay with them to be on hand. He thinks they will need to still establish a routine, especially at night-time, and that we would be better staying in a B&B but just spending days with them (or just with baby, letting them get some relaxing time on their own). He asks me to try to remember how it felt to be new parents, and how would we have felt if our parents (for me, specifically my inlaws) came to stay one week in...I can't imagine, because we didn't have that scenario, as we lived close by.
I don't know what to do for the best? Has anyone got an opinion?

Greatnan Thu 26-Jul-12 19:02:44

Flying granny, I know what you mean about having to stay for several weeks to make it worthwhile. I have been to New Zealand twice and each time stayed for six or seven weeks. I have a very good relationship with my son in law, but I did worry about outstaying my welcome. Now they have asked me to go and live in their garden in a little prefabricated cottage, I know he really means it when he says he is glad to have me around!

FlyingGranny Thu 26-Jul-12 18:58:27

My username of Flying Granny says it all: 3 grandchildren in Quebec, Canada, my daughter gets up early on odd Sunday mornings for a good long phone chat courtesy of 18185 calls at 1/2p a minute, we prefer it to Skype and calls dropping. 3 grandchildren in Quito Ecuador, their ADSL uploading time is not good and small children twitch around out of focus and apart from sticking their face into the camera to show me a new tooth they'd rather scamper off to play. The time differences are quite a problem.
Two more grandchildren in Italy. At least I can afford the occasional five seats on Ryan Air for them to come for visits which is impossible for the transcontinental families, so it's up to one of me to fly. Then I worry about invading their space for a STAY as opposed to dropping in for a coffee and how the son-inlaw or d-inlaw feels about that, or even one's own children for that matter. Not easy.

My 9 yr old GD in Italy is a whizz at writing colourful emails full of emoticons, exclamation marks and the most wondrous Italian phonetic spelling of English, one has to take a run at it and read with a strong Italian accent. I circulate them to a few friends who relish them almost as much as I do.

Greatnan Mon 02-Jul-12 20:43:48

It is easier when the gc are older and can keep in touch by Facebook, e-mails and phone. I am in contact in one way or another with seven of my ten gc on a regular basis and get news and photos of my great-granddaughters too. I have found emotional estrangement far more difficult to deal with than geographical distance.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

GD not DG!

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!

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

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?

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.

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.