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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!!

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.

flowerfriend Fri 15-Jun-12 10:00:17

I am a long-distance granny as well. It's my doing and so I don't complain. I enjoy the life I have in France. When I do see my grandchildren it's for a nice chunk of time. This isn't so bad when they are a little older but I felt they were unsure for the first hours when they were toddlers. The cost of the travelling is a big bit in my modest budget but they come to me as often as I go to them and both ways are relaxed visits. Gally Enjoy your visit for the arrival of your next GC but I am glad to see you are sensible enough not to be making hasty decisions about any move.

julika Fri 15-Jun-12 09:53:30

My daughter lives in New York, has done for the past 11 years. To our surprise and delight she produced a granddaughter 2 1/2 years ago at the age of 40, but it is such a double-edged sword! We visit twice a year and they come twice a year, but it is very expensive as their flat is too small to put us up, so on top of the flights, we have to pay for a hotel as well. Skype is wonderful, but GD has a thick Brooklyn accent and with Skype's distortion, it is hard to understand her. D calls me every other day, but only "Are you OK?" "Yes, thank you, and you?" most of the time. We get on very well with the other GM, but of course there is a bit of jealousy that she can help them out and we can't.
Right now we have a crisis at this end and I would give anything to have my D with me. They will be here next week, but they will go back, of course they will go back and this time it will be harder for D as well, which doesn't really help me.

Mamie Fri 15-Jun-12 08:44:10

Just waved mine off to school (sniff, sniff). Off now to bounce back home across the channel for six hours!
Only six weeks until my next visit, though.

newt148 Fri 15-Jun-12 07:57:09

I have a similar situation and know how painful it is, I'm in Ireland and the family are in UK and the far side of Ireland. But life and time takes its toll and travel is limited and goodbye's so painful..hugs for all us grandparents who reside away. always saying "one day" (smile)

Butternut Fri 15-Jun-12 07:25:58

Gally Some wise words your John has left for you.

Gally Fri 15-Jun-12 07:14:36

I have 3 daughters all of whom were brought up in Scotland. 2 now live in the south of England and the third is in Sydney. Between them they have 7 children and one imminent. I try to see the 'English' ones as often as possible and we all skype, however as I become older it will be more difficult to constantly travel back and forth; they try and visit 'home' a couple of times a year but it's difficult with all the paraphernalia associated with babies and petrol isn't getting any cheaper, so expense comes into the equation. Since the 3rd married an Aussie in 2003, I have managed to visit 9 times and I know I am lucky to be able to do this, but it doesn't make life any easier, especially since being widowed this year. I don't feel I really 'know' my Oz grandchildren that well and feel great resentment towards the other grandparents who live next door to them but give very little assistance, if any, to my daughter who on occasions becomes very homesick and rings me in desperation. Sometimes I just want to get them by the scruff of the neck and ask them if they have ever thought how difficult, sad (and expensive!) it is for me just to be able to see our grandchildren, but I know it wouldn't help the already rocky situation. My problem is to decide what to do - whether to downsize and be near one or other of my UK daughters, leaving 31 years of life and friends behind in Scotland, which would then enable me to spend longer in Sydney, or stay put until such time as I feel a move is necessary; I hasten to add that I am a very healthy, active 64 and don't anticipate becoming dependent on any one in the near future! Like Grandmanorm I am happy for all my girls and their husbands are all gainfully employed. I just feel stretched in 4 directions and incapable of coming to a decision. confused. The late Mr.G used to say if you don't know what to do, just remain with the status quo, and that's what I am doing at present.

Mamie Thu 14-Jun-12 18:30:36

We have pathetic "broadband" in our bit of France and the first English phrase our half-Spanish grandaughter said was "Granny's stuck..."

jorj Thu 14-Jun-12 18:23:12

Ours live in Eastern Canada. Shorter flight than, say, the Aus/NZ, or Western America; but far enough! We have a 10-month-old GS, whom we visited over Christmas and they are coming over for a couple of weeks in the summer (summer? what is that, again??). But we have a regular time for a weekly skype-ing which suits us all - and if we aren't going to be available at that time we email or phone alternatives.

GS and I blow kisses on skype, I tell him about the latest toy I have bought for him, and we were all squealing with excitement when he learnt to crawl the other week and obligingly demonstrated for doting grans. I think he recognises us. We'll see, when they arrive here 'for real'! He might be surprised that we exist in 3-D, off screen!

Incidentally, our dog has learnt to bark for our attention if we are out of earshot when skype pipes up - v. useful!

To Lucyinthesky: I also find Skype difficult to hear, and my son talks so quickly that I can't listen fast enough (he says!). Facebook (which I know can be insecure and we have to be so careful) is fun, though. Now that I have so many new friends and relatives in Canada I really enjoy using it, sharing photos, chat, commenting on something crazy which doesn't merit a letter/phonecall/skype or whatever. And if the other party happens to be online at the same time, you can use instant messaging, too, which can have hilarious results if your instant typing is as typo-ridden as mine!

Life goes on - keeping busy helps, I agree.

uknana Thu 14-Jun-12 18:18:36

Absolutely no difference at all Butternut. My son chose to go to Northern Ireland with his wife (her homeland) and thus I have two beautiful grandchildren that I try to see as often as I can. It is the helplessness of not being on the spot to do the little things that can help our hard-working children now that we are time-rich. Skype is great but you can't hug online. I, too, live at the airport and am picked up and dropped off there! I think it hurts sometimes to feel sorry for ourselves, but we have obviously given them the wings and confidence to do it. It's a bit like the blackbirds that were nesting in my garden. I protected them from cats until I saw the chicks fly and now they are gone.

Speldnan Thu 14-Jun-12 17:37:56

This is such a common situation but so heartbreaking. My son and DIL went to NZ 2 and a half years ago for a 3 year contract which is being extended. Their little girl ( my first GC) will be one this weekend. I have seen her only once when she was a few weeks old and only a few times on Skype . It broke my heart when my son went as he and I were close- when my GD was born the situation was even worse!
For various reasons I don't want to go over there- not least because getting to know my GD would make it even harder to be without her. I am divorced and tend to try to protect myself from pain now- maybe its selfish but I can't help feeling abandoned by my son and angry about my grandchild living on the other side of the world. I talk to them when they bother to take the time but the situation hurts me all the time!
Luckily my daughter and her new son live near enough for me to see them weekly which compensates somewhat. As everyone knows though-one child or grandchild does not make up for another!

Mamie Thu 14-Jun-12 16:35:09

On a practical note I do find it helpful to be able to send presents via Amazon. M and S and Littlewoods deliver in Europe for a low-cost flat rate as well.

Grandmanorm Thu 14-Jun-12 16:32:05

All three of our offspring live abroad. Oldest son in Boston (USA) daughter (middle) in Sydney and youngest son in southern LA.
We all have iPhones and we find that Facetime is excellent for keeping in touch, as one can wander around whilst chatting. Our youngest GC is 5 our oldest 23. They are all at ease using the iPhone, even the 5 year old who chats away quite happily. It is most definitely not the same as having them in the same country, but it helps I guess.
They are all well, happy and all gainfully employed. My head knows this and is happy for them all. My heart on the other hand "often" cries, especially on those long hours on the plane when we leave them.
I often wonder just what we did that they all moved so far away from us. My comfort is that we are all in touch regularly.
I used to send regular parcels but postage is horrendous so I am not sending nearly so many now :-(
Oh, we both have visas for the USA, one never knows when countries may stop ease of entry, so I am now on my second 10 year on and DH on his first.
This wasn't the easiest message to write as it makes me aware again, of just how far away they all are.

Stansgran Thu 14-Jun-12 16:07:41

I am lucky as one daughter lives a forty minute train ride away-tho' at £20 odd for a return I think twice before seeing the DGCs but my other daughter is abroad and I would love to Skype them but she is always too busy so I miss seeing them on a weekly basis. I noticed in information about the role of the aging population in a forum she was running she wrote about skype being the virtual kitchen table. Wish she would follow her noble thoughts in reality. Her sister does a good job in reminding her that her parents exist and for that matter her children's grandparents exist. The elder child phoned me up out of the blue this week and I was thrilled but I think she was worried she would be found out(expensive call)but at least I know she can

Butternut Thu 14-Jun-12 15:51:33

Woohoo! smile absent, as my daughter-in-law would say.

I wonder if it is different when it is sons who leave to make a life in another country?

absentgrana Thu 14-Jun-12 15:43:07

Absentdaughter flew to New Zealand when she was 17 and I knew then that she would never return to the UK to live. Since then, she married and divorced the man she flew out to be with and with whom she had a son, then fell in love with another man to whom she is now married and they have just had their fourth child. She is approaching her thirtieth birthday and I have missed her every day for the past 12 years. I have been to NZ a few times, sometimes on my own and sometimes with Mr absent, the most recent being March and April this year when Finn, the latest addition, was born. She, my son-in-law and two of the children visited us two years ago – we hadn't actually met those two until then. We e-mail, we talk on phone, I send postcards and books and things that have amused me to the children. She sends me photographs. It is horribly painful being separated. After a very long wait and much toing and froing, Mr absent and I now have blue visas pasted into our passports and some time before the end of May next year, we shall leave the UK and settle in NZ. I shall never have to sit on a plane from Nelson to Auckland sobbing quietly into an entire pack of tissues again. smile