Grandparents answer a call
More are relocating to live closer to their adult children and grandchildren.
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Explaining her rationale, Ms. Anderson says, "When we were raising our family, we were isolated. I felt my boys grew up without that extended family connection and family history. Now it's fun hanging out with the 6-year-old and talking about the old days when his daddy was a boy."Skip to next paragraph
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Not everything about moving at this stage of life counts as fun. As Anderson quickly discovered, "You're starting off with a whole new set of things to learn. You need an adventurous spirit. It's a little like moving to another country. It does require a sense of openness."
Moving is not for everyone. "Almost every grandparent wants to be with his or her grandchildren and is willing to make sacrifices, but sometimes it is wiser to say no and visit frequently," says Susan Newman, author of "The Book of NO." "Having your grandchildren far away is hard, especially knowing your adult child is struggling, but giving up the life you know may be harder."
Many who do relocate insist that the tradeoffs are worth the sacrifice.
"The move from a quiet country town of 15,000 to the teeming tri-state area around New York City was hard," she says. Within two years, she and her husband of 30 years were divorced, an event she calls "traumatic." He returned to Ashland.
Today a resilient Ms. Eckhardt says, "I love being near my daughter and have adored watching the grandchildren grow. If I'd lived across the country and had only seen them occasionally, none of this could have evolved."
To those considering a move close to their children, Eckhardt offers this advice: "Be prepared for surprises. Make your own friends. Have your own life. Enjoy the grandkids but don't volunteer to be the full-time baby sitter. And take the opportunity to tell them the family stories."
Others who have relocated emphasize the need to consider the cost of moving. Employment can also be an issue.
One of the biggest challenges for Mr. Hammonds has been reestablishing his business in Seattle. Every six weeks he travels back to the Bay Area for a week.
Calling her parents' move "monumental," daughter Liz DeBord says, "The sacrifice my parents made was significant. They left nearly 35 years of dear, close friends, as well as their church and community organizations. My mom retired as a kindergarten teacher…. Selling their home in this economy was not as lucrative as they'd anticipated. There's also the Seattle rain – not to be underestimated!"
Yet whenever a challenge arises, Hammonds says, "When we put our arms around our granddaughter, it makes it all go away. Our children are the center of our universe."
Garza still misses her friends and family in Brownsville. But, she says, "It's all worth it, because my grandchildren mean the world to me. If I was back home, I'd be worried about them. If I had to do it over, I would."
Before you rush to the aid of offspring
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
• Is your child or his or her spouse likely to have a job relocation in the near future?
• How well do you get along with your son- or daughter-in-law?
• What are your expectations for this arrangement?
• Are you being taken advantage of in terms of time you will be asked to spend with your grandchildren?
• Is your son or daughter too dependent on you?
• Are you moving for your adult child or for your own reasons?
• How jarring will this move be in terms of your own social network? Do you make new friends easily? Can you give up the friends you have?
• Will you feel cut off? Your adult children will have a life of their own and commitments that won't always include you.
• If you are still working, what are the job prospects in the new location?
• What activities are available?