Gransnet forums


Long-distance grand-parenting

(40 Posts)
Jane Fri 06-May-11 21:44:42

My daughter and her husband now live in the USA and my daughter is about to give birth to twin boys. She wants me to stay with them all after the birth so that I will be able to help her, but I am unwilling to go immediately as I feel that they should bond as a family and experience all the anxieties and joys that being parents brings before I make an appearance. How soon should I go? How long should I wait?
I feel very worried about making a relationship with children so far away. My other grandchild lives 250 miles away in this country, and much prefers her other granny because they live in the same village. Has anyone any advice about how to conduct long-distance granny relationships?

twinklepickers Fri 06-May-11 22:01:46

I think you are right in not wanting to be there immediately but perhaps your daughter thinks she's going to need practical help in the early weeks and that's why she's asking. I would wait a maximum of six weeks.

Have you tried Skype or other video chats so you can keep in touch?

I find you really have to make visits regular for it to work long distance. Although I do remember having a glamourous elderly auntie when I was a child we saw once a year who seemed very special because she came from so far away (with presents) so looking at it another way, to the children, you may not be physically present but still very important. smile

lifestillrelevant Sat 07-May-11 11:30:22

My advice is to try and accommodate your daughter's wishes as far as possible. If she wants you there for the birth or soon after, my personal opinion is that you should go then. Not wait. She may be overwhelmed with the twins immediately after the birth and your presence will probably help her enormously. In later years the twins will love hearing how granny was there when they were born.
If the bonding issue is the only reason why you want to leave going there, then I think forget that and go. It's up to your daughter and son in law to tell you if they are worried about not bonding and clearly they are not..
What worked for us as new parents does not always work for our children when they become parents.My grandchildren are 3 and 5 and I adore them but it's been a steep learning curve for us. I have realised that our way of bringing up children can be very different from this generations' and I have learnt not to take over or interfere. My daughter knows best and did even before she had her first child smile. It all works out well so I should just go when your daughter wants you to.

jangly Sat 07-May-11 11:45:16

I wouldn't wait any longer than a week, or two at the longest, after the birth. You need to bond with your grandchildren from the word go, probably more so as you will not be able to see them very often.

With the other little grandaughter in this country, I would say communicate with her as much as possible. Send her little letters, via her mum if she can't read yet. And post little treats to her, like a little bracelet or a small knitting/craft set. Anything to keep you in her world. When she is old enough you could perhaps buy her a simple mobile phone with a pay as you go voucher on it, with the strict instructions it is to be used for text messages only. Then you could communicate by text.

You've got a very un-level playing field to work on so cheat by being the granny that buys the nice things! Sounds materialistic, but any port in a storm.

You could also join her up to some clubs where a magazine arrives periodically, such as the rspb club for children.

bluegran Sat 07-May-11 21:06:46

Being a long-distance gran is difficult. By the time we travel to get there we are too tired to do anything. Also daughters-in-law don't want interference. So we conduct our relationship over SKYPE, its a blessing.

GrannyTunnocks Sat 07-May-11 21:56:55

My first granddaughter was born in Germany and we did not see her till she was 4 weeks old. The waiting was terrible but we could not go earlier as we were both working and did not want to book holidays till we were sure the baby would be there. I was there when our grandson was born (not at the birth but looking after his sister) and it was so good to see him so soon. They still live abroad and we try to see them as often as possible and we have a great relationship with them. We have 2 other grandchildren nearer home and it is so good to see them often. Try to see your grandchildren as soon as possible and keep in touch with them by letter, skype, phone etc. All the best to your family as hope all goes well.

DorsetMeg Sun 08-May-11 09:49:26

My son and his wife live in the USA. His Mum had to return to work six weeks after he was born and I went out for three weeks to look after him then. It was one of the best times of my life, I went from working long hours as an accountant to being a fulltime carer. The first day on my own with him was also my youngest sons birthday which felt surreal. I felt privileged as not many Grans get to spend so much one to one time with a new born. I went back over 9 months later and he seemed to know who I was, again I spent a lot of one to one time with him. As a long distance Gran you have to think of the positives, Skype and email help as well. I get a lot of videos via email that keep me in touch I also found that my son was on the phone over every little rash or rise in temperature.

Jane Sun 08-May-11 15:21:00

Thank-you to all who responded, particularly Lifestillrelevant and Jangly.
My DD and I have discussed it again over ichat and texts, and I am to go out 2 weeks after the babies are born, unless they are still in hospital of course (twins often come early...).
I also really appreciated the advice on how to make a closer relationship with my grand-daughter who lives so far from me and so near to her beloved other granny, and intend to put it into practice.
Isn't gransnet helpful!

lifestillrelevant Sun 08-May-11 22:46:32

This is great news Jane. Yes I am liking Granset too

purple Sun 08-May-11 23:48:34

Sounds like it's too late, but being there at an early stage can positively help the new family to bond. With a granny there to deal with all the practical things - shopping, cooking, washing etc - the parents can concentrate on the baby - or babies in your case - and you need to be in the bonding queue too! Hope it's a happy time for all of you.

absentgrana Mon 09-May-11 13:40:45

All my grandchildren were born and live in New Zealand. My daughter wanted Mum at the birth of her first child for reassurance and practical help. I can't described the magic of seeing my grandson born when I was hit with the same tsunami of love that overwhelmed me when I gave birth to his mother. I am not so old that I have forgotten how uncertain you are as a new mother and how tired you can feel. If your daughter is expecting twins, don't forget that a Caesarean is a possibility and, in that, case she will need even more practical help. As well as a bit of housework, some nappy (diaper) changing and cooking some meals, what your daughter probably needs most is "Magic Mummy" who provides that sense that everything will be all right. Your her 'Magic Mummy", however much you don't think of yourself that way. By the way, you'll probably have a wonderful time and come home feeling rejuvenated even if you have been a working gran.

Butternut Mon 09-May-11 16:38:20

Having grandchildren abroad is not easy, so I would jump at every chance you get to go and visit. If you daughter wants you there - just go. Both of my grandchildren are in America, and I have been fortunate in being there shortly after both births, which I wouldn't have missed for the world.
They have their American Granny who lives very close by, so there are times I feel quite envious of her ability to be with them so often, particularly at special times like birthdays, Easter, Christmas etc. However, my son and marvellous daughter-in-law makes sure that my time with them is very special. I find skype a wonderful thing! Thank goodness for technology.
We are flying out in 2 weeks, and they have just bought their first house. Can't wait.

NannaJeannie Mon 09-May-11 22:40:33

We have long distance grandchildren, but at least they are in this country! We live in Preston and my daughter and her partner and 2 wonderful grandchildren live in London. They are 19 months and 6 months old. I am recently retired and with my senior railcard am fortunate enough to be able to visit for 2 days each week. I start early in the morning on Monday and return home late on Tuesday evening. I cannot imagine life any other way. I am able to take them out to the shops and the park or to playgroup. I do odd jobs in the flat. Daughter gets a break or is able to go out with her partner. I am usually so shattered on the Monday evening I go to bed very early, so I do not hang around under their feet. I love my grandchildren in a different way from our daughter, being older I find I notice their innocence and developmental stages far more than when our daughter was born. I find every moment with them special and I love the look on their faces when I pitch up on Mondays. This special time will end soon enough when they get ready to go to school.

I would be interested to know if there are any other long distance granny travellers out there grin

Mamie Tue 10-May-11 17:20:41

I live in France, have two grandchildren in England and two in Spain. I visit the ones in England five or six times a year and look after them in half-term and holiday weeks unless they come to us. Much harder with the ones in Spain and Skype plus an annual visit is as good as it gets. I guess it is about finding different ways of being a Grandma and making our time together very special.

nannyeileen Tue 10-May-11 18:04:05

I live in England and two of my grandchildren live in France, their parents have split up and my son recently married again. He loves his children and has them as often as he can, but I only have the opportunity to see them twice a year and then only for a few days. The language barrier is also a holdup as I know no French, they are learning English but are very shy at using it.

You have a golden opportunity of not only visiting America, but bonding with your grandchildren at birth. Have you thought how lonely your daughter could be without her family around her at such an important time in her life. How can you possibly not go because of protocol.

Go and enjoy your grandchildren and the golden time with your daughter, or you could live with regrets.

At times like this, a daughter needs her mother.


GrandmaAnge Tue 10-May-11 22:22:21

Probably unlike our own childhoods and even raising our own children, our grandchildren are born into a rather different world where families are often split by geography. So, why not celebrate the difference?
Our four live in New Zealand and, rather than have no relationship outside regular cards or the occasional Skype, we go out each year to visit and get to know them all over again.
Yes, we're lucky to be able to but it also takes determination to keep that relationship alive and be part of our grandchildren's - and our daughter's - lives. What's more, we've had wonderful holidays and learned to know and love our Kiwi grandchildren as individuals. How lucky are we!

Granieee Wed 11-May-11 09:05:32

Hello Jane, I'm a long distance Gran we are in the North East and our Grandchildren live in the South East, we visit as often as we can. Our DIL has been so generous with us, she never finds excuses for us not to go, especialy as they live in a small bungalow.
When the boys were born she said come down for a cuddle!! To be honest we couldn't wait. They are now 13 and 10 and although their other Nan is local she doesn't see them that often.
So, if your DD wants you to go and money is not a problem, could you stay in a hotel so you can see them during the day and go back to the hotel at night?
Whatever decision you make, go over and enjoy being with your DD and her family.
Love and hugs

yogagran Wed 11-May-11 16:54:36

Some of these comments really helped me as I am faced with the prospect of my son, DIL and three year old g.daughter moving to Canada in the next few weeks. I have found it incredibly difficult to cope with this but knowing that lots of you have the same problem and have different ways of coping with it has helped tremendously. Thank you smile

Butternut Wed 11-May-11 17:32:36

Finding the money to travel to America to visit our son and family is not easy - it takes determination and a frugal mindset to make it happen. Having that focus makes it all worthwhile.
Skype, google 'chat', facebook and email all help enormously to bridge the gap.
Every year I send a calendar full of photos of us and our lives here which my daughter-in-law is saving so that the grandchildren will have a picture history book. I also send postcards to the grandchildren regularly - even though they are still young.
So......there are many ways of staying in touch and developing a lasting bond.
We are also learning to embrace the difference in our cultures.

Yogagran - I know how difficult you must be finding it at the moment - so I wish you all the best!
I know it's easy to say 'embrace the change' - but that is the only way to move forward with our children's life choices..............and it works.

grannydjs Wed 11-May-11 23:14:37

We are long distance grandparents to our daughter's two young children 28 months and 13 months and we travel once a month (260 miles) to see them for long weekends. We also have two granddaughters aged 14 and 11 living locally, who insist on coming with us at every opportunity (school hours permitting). The children love each other to bits and the younger ones just love all the attention from the two older ones. We schedule our trips to alternate with their other grandparents who also live away so that the children have regular contact with both sets of granny and grandads, and, needless to say Mum and Dad are always pleased to see us all as it means they get some time to themselves as we babysit whilst they take the opportunity to go out for the evening.

LovesHerGrandKids Thu 12-May-11 07:51:27

Don't be worried about it smile
I am blessed with both short and long distance grandparenting, my eldest grandkids, 14 and 12 years old, live a short drive from us, whilst my youngest two granddaughters, five and three, live all the way in Australia...and we all keep in touch...since we've learnt to use Email, it's become a lot easier to email one another every week with news of what I am doing and news of what the girls are doing, and they come over a few times a year and we go over there a few times a year. When my five year old granddaughter was born, I was lucky and grateful that my SIL's mother was over there to help my daughter through all the trials and tribulations of being a brand new mum, but I went over there a few days later and I offered help, didn't force it on my daughter and son in law, and I kept my distance unless I was asked for advice or was needed whilst my daughter and son in law went for a lie down. Having the best of both worlds, LD grandparenting can be tough but very rewarding as you see a (currently bottom toothless) granddaughter grin at you from the other side of the world.
All my love and don't worry

jackie51 Thu 12-May-11 14:06:11

I would listen to your daughter ,if she asks you to come then thats what she needs .An extra pair of capable loving hands is what she is asking for .Just think of all the behind the scenes things you can do to make it a little easier of her,.just book that flight,

Swedenana Thu 12-May-11 14:16:05

Hi there!
My perspective is a little different in that I'm the one who moved away from my grandchildren, moving from Scotland to Sweden a little under 3 years ago. My eldest grandchild (my daughter's first son) was 7 at that time and I had him every other weekend up until I moved. My daughter lives in Denmark and her son currently still lives with his father, whom she split up with when her son was 4. I made the decision that I had to be the one to keep the contact as much as humanly possible because it would be all too easy to lose that, not being biologically related to the custodial parent. My son and his wife have a 2 year old daughter and they're still in Scotland so it cut me to the core not to be able to be close by to share in her earliest days, but that was the price of my decision to move away. As others have said, Skype is brilliant and I travel over to see them all as often as I am able, even if it means little more than a long weekend. I also have my grandson over to stay every school holiday and I'm ecstatic to report that he'll finally be moving across to join his mum this summer, just in time for the birth of his little brother. I'm now looking forward to having both my grandsons, little and large, just a short train ride away over the Öresund bridge. Being a long distance grandparent is hard, hard, hard - but the compensation is that time spent with the children is eagerly anticipated by all parties and precious beyond words.
Alex will be moving across at the end of June and his little brother is due in July. August will see a big family get-together in Denmark, the first time I'll be able to cuddle all 3 of my grandchildren together. I can hardly wait!
Now, if only I could persuade my son and his lovely wife to move over here, I could have all 3 of my precious little bunnies close at hand.... blissgrin

dorsetpennt Thu 12-May-11 14:28:38

My brother and I lived our early childhood abroad in Canada and the Far East. My grandparents always sent us letters, even when we were really little - if they went on holiday or even a day trip we would get post cards. We didn't see them once for 7 years yet we 'knew' them when we did finally meet up. Nowadays there is the phone, visiting home is a lot easier with air travel and of course there is skype. My granddaughter lives in London I live in Bournemouth but we skype once a week. So as she is only 2 years old knows her 'Gaggi' - don't ask why Gaggi, she made it up.

kayel Thu 12-May-11 15:40:59

Jane it sounds as if you have come to an agreement with your daughter about when to go. I also have a daughter, son-in-law and grandson in America, with another one expected in September. I miss them all terribly, but as others have said Skype is a wonderful invention. When my grandson was born we went out 2 weeks later, so that they had time together and were more able to cope with us visiting. This time, however, my daughter has asked if I can go out before the baby is born to look after their 2 year old if they suddenly have to dash to the hospital in the middle of the night. She has made friends, but doesn't have any relatives near who could help out in a situation like that. The problem is how early do I go and when do I book my ticket back?!

I have visited 3 or 4 times a year since my grandson was born and my husband comes with me once or twice and we have a holiday over there as well. With going to see them, we don't tend to get other holidays because of the expense of the flights.

It isn't an ideal situation to live so far away from our grandchildren and thank heavens for email and Skype!