What's important to prioritize when making decisions for the good of the family
September 2, 2012 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Is it so important our child grow up near her grandparents that we give up the good life we have now?

We live eight hours (by air or by car) away from family. We have an 8 month old baby who has a better than average chance of being an only child. We live in a great city with great jobs and we've been here ten years.

We don't want to move. But we feel that for the good of the kid, we ought to consider relocating to be closer to family.

If we moved, this is what would change:

1) We would go from two excellent (unionized, tenured, well-paid, great benefits, dream job for one of us, favorable scheduling) jobs to one nonunionized, nontenured but otherwise good job, cutting our family income by about half (cost of living adjusted). It would be difficult for us to find two awesome jobs in a new location, potentially leaving at least one of us unemployed for a few years. Neither of us is inclined to be a stay-at-home parent. Our current jobs are arranged in such a way that kid won't be in day care until she's 1 and won't be in day care more than three days a week until she starts kindergarten.

2) We would go from all the things that come with living in a big city where we're happy to living in a very much smaller town or possibly in the country. That's not to say that small town doesn't have its pros but there are reasons I left when I turned 17.

3) Kid would get to grow up near grandma, step-grandpa and other large extended family with all the benefits implied who might or might not still be there in 20 or 30 years. Kid has indicated she would prefer to live in a small tribe with four or five siblings and is more outgoing than either of us. My family is awesome, we love them dearly, but we don't know what day-to-day life might look like because we've never lived close to them as adults.

How do we decide whether point three outweighs points one and two? We read the grandparents thread but that situation was a little different in that they'd already decided to go.
posted by arabelladragon to Human Relations (71 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Use the income and security you have now to bring family to you. Eight hours is a long, but not impossible, time to travel with a wee one. I say stay.
posted by mdonley at 8:19 AM on September 2, 2012 [17 favorites]

Some of my most awesome memories from childhood involve going on vacations to visit my grandparents who lived far away.
posted by Lucinda at 8:20 AM on September 2, 2012 [18 favorites]

Personal experience: I grew up even farther from extended family (12 hours by car). We saw them once or twice a year, and then it's a special occasion. Don't stress about it, unless you're in a child care/financial/medical situation that necessitates having family close by on short notice.
posted by supercres at 8:23 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wait, your baby is eight months old and you already think she's outgoing and would like to have a lot of siblings? What are you basing this on? You sound very happy where you are now; I would think very hard before overturning all of that based on the (apparent, likely to change) personality traits of a baby.
posted by baby beluga at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2012 [61 favorites]

Your kid will have the best childhood wherever you and your partner are happiest. Encourage family to visit, go out there when you can, and keep on loving your life.
posted by kitarra at 8:25 AM on September 2, 2012 [32 favorites]

I can't believe you're even considering moving! Please be wary of giving up actual goods in exchange for hypothetical and contingent goods.
posted by Mr. Justice at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2012 [39 favorites]

Kid has indicated she would prefer to live in a small tribe with four or five siblings and is more outgoing than either of us.

Huh? Isn't kid 8 months old? Can't possibly have or express a preference at that age that meaningfuly asseses the circumstances. And judgment of the kids temperment at that age has got to be super provisional as well.

I wonder what is really making you think of doing this? Nostalgia? Pressure from parents or relatives? Desire for a close family relationship you didn't have as a child?
posted by Jahaza at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

How has an 8 month old baby communitcated to you that she would prefer to have 4 or 5 siblings? I am so confused.

Stay where you are as it sounds like you might resent your kid someday if you move.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

You need to make the adult decisions that are right for your entire family unit, not for her based on what you could do but don't want to.

Kids are fickle and almost always want what they don't (currently) have. I would not be hinging such a large decision on what may or may not be a child's whim. Points one and two are not small issues. What if your child decides she doesn't really like the kids she ends up knowing? What if you have more siblings (because she wants you to?) and she's ambivalent toward them? What if her grandparents die next year and you feel stuck in a place you already chose to leave once before? Imagine your simmering resentment level over time and the staggering weight of responsibility she would grow up with under that if things don't work out the way you are imagining she wants them to.

On preview: eight months old?
posted by cocoagirl at 8:28 AM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is what they made summer vacations for. Send the kid to your grandparents for the summer once that's practical.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:29 AM on September 2, 2012 [17 favorites]

Your 8 month old has indicated they want five siblings?? That is some serious baby sign language you have going there! Kids very often go through a stage of development at one year where they become very shy and scared of strangers, your 8 month old may soon turn into a 12 month old who is indicating you should all live in a yurt far from society.

I grew up on the other side of the planet from all my extended family. I have amazing memories of summer vacations and no regrets.
posted by Dynex at 8:30 AM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Happy parents are the most important thing for a kid at any age. Don't move.
posted by The Toad at 8:30 AM on September 2, 2012 [20 favorites]

No, it is not at all necessary for you to move just to be near the extended family, especially when you compare the good life where you are to the reduced life available there. The kid will be just fine where you are now, with the excitement of trips to visit them as special occasions. And there's the kid's own future to consider, too: as the child of tenured employees, is there a discount available for her higher education?

Ditto for kitarra: her childhood will be happiest where her parents are happy and not stressing over lost careers/lost income/lost security.

(By the way, who brought up this idea? One of those grandparents, perhaps, who is envisioning being some sort of patriarch/matriarch surrounded by their adoring clan, 1950s-TV-style?)
posted by easily confused at 8:30 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Find a stay-at-home parent with a decent number of kids and a personality you love. Pay them to watch your kid. Be very good to them. Voila!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:32 AM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not necessary to live near your family to be close to your family. That said, we were in your situation, left our awesome jobs in a great city and moved to the small town with one income to be closer to family. I am never, not for one second, sad that we did it.

Watching our daughter get to know her grandparents and her cousins is awesome. Our parents help us out constantly. It's much less stressful to see them for a few hours every couple days than to stay with them for a whole weekend. We like the slower pace of the smaller town. We have made friends here much more quickly. The money has been the hardest adjustment.

But we felt compelled to move. It doesnt sound like you are. If you don't both buy in totally, i could see it being sonething you resent.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:41 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that the positive benefits of where you are now far outweigh the hypothetical benefits of moving. Stay put.

I say that with a different position than most of the comments so far--I feel that being near extended family is really important. My husband's parents put no premium on that when he was growing up and now all their grown sons have moved away and they are lonely and sad that their kids just don't understand why they keep asking about the next visit or Christmas plans. My parents put a high premium on it and it pains me that we live so far from them and even over 1000 miles, we almost always see them at the holidays because I can't imagine not. Your family should not demand this of you but think about how you will feel when your baby is 35 and doesn't come home with her kids for the holidays because she doesn't see what the big deal with extended family is (and at that point, YOU will be her extended family). So I understand where the desire comes from and I think you are smart to think about it.

So use the money that you are making where you live to visit often and long so that she will develop those relationships and do the same for you when you are old and she is grown. But your situation is so lopsided that I think you are making the right choice in staying put.

As an aside-any chance your parents are retired and might think about following you? The above mentioned in-laws are in the process of moving to us right now. My kids are really excited.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:43 AM on September 2, 2012

Just because you live near someone doesn't mean you see them a lot. I lived 3 hours away from my Grandmother, I remember being really surprised that my cousin who lived 15 minutes from my Grandmother only really saw my her once a month. We saw her 3-4 times a year, so the difference wasn't THAT huge really.

One of the reasons my parents moved away from their families was to get some privacy too. Seems there were a lot of busybody aunts and cousins who thrived on family drama. I grew up without any of that.

Also, in today's tech age, living away from family isn't as bad as it used to be. Between Skype and other ways to communicate, the distances don't seem that big anymore.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:46 AM on September 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

You don't know that the grandmother, stepgrandfather, and the rest would actually spend that much time with the kids. I have relatives in the next town over who I see less often than I see my mom, who lives on the other side of the country. I wouldn't give up all the good stuff you have now unless I was 100% certain the extended family actually would be there for you -- and even then, I might not.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:50 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stay where you are, and I say that as a granddad who is thrilled to live within twenty minutes of two beloved grandkids. I grew up half a world away from my grandparents, and that didn't stop me from having a wonderful time with them when we visited and keeping extremely fond memories of them. Kids need loving parents and a good immediate environment; the rest is gravy, and you shoudn't give up your main course for a dish of gravy, however tasty.

(I'm guessing "eight-month-old" was an error for "eight-year-old"? Otherwise, yeah, makes no sense.)
posted by languagehat at 8:55 AM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is it so important our child grow up near her grandparents that we give up the good life we have now?

No. Full stop. There is no other consideration. If the grandparents did their jobs right, their children don't need them to raise good grandchildren.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing you are in Spain (judging from your username), perhaps even Southern Spain which may skew the "right" answer even more so given the cultural difference.

Having lived in southern Spain, I've seen children who grew up with grandparents very nearby to have tremendous devotion to them, very happy and seemingly very healthy and nurtured. The ones that did not grow up near GPs were happy but did not share in the joys of an extended family, or the role GPs offer in children's lives, in fact, they did not get "what the fuss about grandparents was all about."

One other note. Looked as though the kids with grandparents around seemed a lot more closer to their GPs than their own parents, likely due to the non-disciplinary role the GPs played.

Good luck.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:00 AM on September 2, 2012

My kids grew up in LA, grandpa lives on the East Coast. He is an epic traveler, and took them, both and separately, on some amazing trips--Galapagos, Australia, Alaska, and so on. The other grandparents weren't as adventurous, but we did drive to see them several times during childhood, and they came here a couple times (both are dead now.)
I was very close to my own grandparents, my husband not as much, and we sort of worked out a compromise for our own kids. And a 10 month old baby's personality will change several times by the time she hits adolescence, so I wouldn't base any life changes on that--babies are fascinated by people in general, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:10 AM on September 2, 2012

How do we know the kid's personality already? Kid is happiest when we go out or if we have other kids over to play. We've made several trips to visit both sides of the family and she's happiest on the days the house is full of people. The days we stay home and it's just her and me are the bad days with much whining. That's a trait that's been stable and apparent since about 3 months. It could change, but having people around is one of the consistent things she likes to the point it's changed my daily activities. I don't mind that. My understanding and experience has been that people generally have the same personalities from babyhood. I had thought she already did the stranger anxiety thing around six months but forgot that it gets worse around a year old. Thank you all for the reminder that I shouldn't put too much stock in baby whims.

Family won't come out here for good reasons. Retirement won't change the calculus. Because they live in the middle of nowhere, video chatting doesn't work and it's unlikely that will change any time soon. They've indicated they'd like to have a life with their grandchild but are unable to meet us halfway on that. That's their right to decide - we aren't only siblings and it's not for us to say we're more important than our sibs or than the lives our parents have chosen. We knew that before we had the baby. We'll see them on major holidays but we'll miss the day-to-day things like kindergarten graduation and band concerts.

The reduced educational cost if we stay is minimal and not worth mentioning. It's offset by the fact we'd have to move to a more expensive neighborhood and pay very high property taxes to get into a better school district if we stayed in this city. That could potentially eat up the bulk of our income. One way or another we're moving to a new house in the next few years, we just don't know where that house will be.

Who brought up the idea? Circumstances presented an opportunity to consider the question in a way forcing an imminent decision. We want to be sure we're doing right by the kid. Family would love it if we moved out to where they were, but they don't pressure us and they didn't bring up the circumstance. They've always been great about letting us live our own lives.

The considering whether or not we'd feel resentful if we left is a good idea. We'll spend time thinking that out.

If she decided to move somewhere else, we'd at least ask her if we could follow (once she was settled.) We don't have reasons to stay in this town after our own retirement if we don't have family here.

We don't live in Spain - we live in one of the best cities in the US (according to US News and World Reports) and are considering moving to the midwest. We like the idea of having family close but don't have personal experience with it.

Thanks for raising all these questions. We were just thinking around in circles and you're helping to raise new tangents.
posted by arabelladragon at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2012

You don't need to move for your child to have a close connection to her grandparents. My grandparents (all of them) lived far away and we saw them two or three times a year. I still managed to grow up adoring them, being delighted to see them every time, and being very much influenced by them in my values and my world view. Down the road, if you have any major changes in your houshold employment situation you can reevaluate, but right now, no there's no need to move.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there another set of grandparents in the picture?
posted by melissam at 9:19 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My paternal grandmother was 800 miles away, which was hard on my dad but it wasn't going to work out for us to move nearer to them. So we talked with her on the phone every day, literally every day. All 3 of us kids got on the phone every night and told her about our day at school, etc. She died when I was 12, but I felt that I really knew her. We were emotionally very close even if separated by a long distance.

We also visited every year and my dad (audio) tape recorded conversations with her during our visits and we acted in little plays with her that he videotaped. Everyone loves these memories of her.
posted by artdesk at 9:21 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

One other thought - family is what you make it - especially in this day and age. I mean, I have some friends whose kids call me "Aunt Nora". I'm not their biological aunt, but I kind of play that role sometimes - going to birthday parties and graduations. If you have lots of friends with kids where you are now, consider spending more time with them to create your own extended version of your family to provide your child with the interaction you've noticed her enjoying.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you really want to surround your kid with family, surround her with your chosen family in an area that makes you happy and feel secure. That's far and away the most important thing to keep in mind. If you're worried about her being lonely as she grows up, just be super awesome about her having friends over and her being able to go to friends' houses.

I'm a military brat. Growing up, we didn't even live in the same province as any of our extended family and there was no such thing as video chat. My parents called their siblings and parents, but I was never forced to talk to them on the phone or anything. It really didn't feel like I was missing anything, to be honest. Now that I'm an adult, I live near one of my uncles and we've managed to bond into a family unit without a problem. Just because you're far doesn't mean you're not family, but there's many other kinds of families and communities available for child rearing.
posted by buteo at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm an only child; I grew up in Hawaii, with one grandmother (mom's mom) in the Chicago area and the other down the street.

That's not to say that small town doesn't have its pros but there are reasons I left when I turned 17.

My mom moved to Hawaii in the late 1950s. That's how crazy living in her town near her mother made her. You know how you got to Hawaii in the late 50s if you weren't wealthy? You took a boat. Think very carefully about why you left.

My mom was a nurse when I was young and when she worked night shifts, I stayed at my down-the-street grandma's; she lived with one of my aunts and her kids, who were older than I was. That meant I was at the bottom of the totem pole and got picked on a lot. I didn't love it. I was an outgoing kid who had lots of friends and peers from pre-school through high school, and none of my closest friends were related to me. They were classmates and the kids of my mom's friends. I had "aunts" and "uncles" who were unrelated by blood or marriage who took me to the beach and puppet shows and whatnot.

My mom's mom would come for visits of a month or six weeks, or, when I got older, I went to her in the summers. I loved those times - they were special grandma times.

I lived with my mom in places where she was happy (because of work and the community she had) and in places where she was unhappy. Guess which ones I liked better?
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on September 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'd agree with everyone else that you should do what makes you happy. At the same time, I think you should do what you can to have as many longer, high-quality visits with the grandparents as possible. I don't know what the research says, but my guess would be that your daughter will remember and feel closer to her grandparents when she spends longer periods of time with them. For example, a two week visit where you all do something together might end up being more meaningful that 2-3 weekend visits. Longer visits will have the added benefit of helping you figure out whether living near your parents will drive you insane.

Also, FWIW, my daughter was super outgoing and loved to be held by anyone at 8 months. Now, at a little over two, she clings to me and her dad and is adamant about saying "No Grandma!" if she only wants to be with us, which totally sucks. I would imagine that this would be even worse for everyone involved if we lived closer.
posted by JuliaKM at 9:28 AM on September 2, 2012

Daycare will have plenty of kids around, honestly, and then school will have plenty of kids. You don't need extended family for that particular benefit.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:33 AM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

For whatever it's worth, and perhaps as a counterpoint to the prevalent sentiment here, I once grew up with extended family, but my parents moved me in mid-childhood, and I can say for certain that my life has been less rich for it, and that visits every few months or years are just not the same. There's a mindset that it's good to surround children with a familial tribe that loves them and is tied to them permanently, and that mindset is quickly disappearing in western countries like the states. I think that's to our detriment, and certainly research suggests it as well. That said, if doing so means unhappy and unemployed parents, I don't have a way to comment on the pros and cons specifically in your case.
posted by namesarehard at 9:41 AM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

You are right that your daughter will probably sometimes wish that she lived closer to her extended family, but all the benefits that you described of being in your current location would seem to far outweigh that consideration. Happy parents will help make for a happy kid. Financially stable parents will help make for a stable kid. A diversified and interesting city will help make for a diversified and interesting kid.

By the way, you seem to be implying that being at home with parents is better than being in daycare. I don't necessarily agree. My daughter has been in a Montessori school (which I don't consider to be daycare) since the age of 13 months and has absolutely thrived there and loves it. We are still able to spend a ton of time with her every day, so she interacts and learns from us every day but also learns many things at the Montessori that are easier taught and experienced there, and she has a lot of fun too.
posted by Dansaman at 9:47 AM on September 2, 2012

We just had to make this decision and we moved. My family is amazing, my parents just retired and wanted to play a substantial role in childcare, and we do think there's no substitute for proximity (sometimes, I mean, you can't do daycare via Skype). We also had to take a massive job risk and move without anything lined up.

But! We moved from LA to London, to a very comparable neighborhood with all the fun hipster stuff we like to do. We also gained hugely in terms of future maternity leave, job rights, healthcare and rights as a queer family. And I'm still finding myself resenting this move occasionally, even though really it's awesome for everyone. In your situation I'm just about certain I'd stay put. Good luck, I know it's a really hard thing to contemplate. Feel free to MeMail me if you like.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:47 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

How do we know the kid's personality already? Kid is happiest when we go out or if we have other kids over to play. We've made several trips to visit both sides of the family and she's happiest on the days the house is full of people.

She likes being sociable and likes stimulation. That doesn't at all mean 'wants to live near family'. Getting on with family is not at all a guarantee (as mentioned above) but having friends and play mates around is much easier if you live in a city than in the country (from a purely logistical and 'pool of potential friends' perspective).

Kid has indicated she would prefer to live in a small tribe with four or five siblings and is more outgoing than either of us.

This just says to me that the only potential effort you need to make to keep your child happy is for YOU to be more sociable and thus be in a position for her to be around other kids. So make sure you're friendly with other families that have kids, or put her in a play group when she is old enough. That is really the only sacrifice that you may need to make, which is significantly more minor than 'quit both your jobs and make an expensive move to an area with no guarantees at all'. It's a damn sight cheaper, too. With your extra income you can make family visits.

It sounds like the child wants to be near people. Not family necessarily. That's easy to fix and maybe you're getting distracted by 'people = family' because you maybe don't have any friends with age appropriate kids for her to play with?
posted by Brockles at 10:13 AM on September 2, 2012 [14 favorites]

I grew up in a rural area in the midwest where I had a lot of extended family. My parents moved there to be closer to family and because they loved the land which had been in the family for several generations. In the end they felt out of place educationally, professionally, culturally and politically and were never really happy and that was clear to me growing up. I got to know my grandparents very well which was cool and there were other extended family around but I never got too close to any of them (because they weren't really culturally compatible with my family).

I would guess that I had a much more isolated childhood than if I'd grown up in a city within close proximity to a lot of other kids where my parents were an enthusiastic part of a vibrant community rather than somewhat reluctant semi-outsiders.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's possible that you'll enjoy your hometown now as an adult, but I have a feeling the reasons you left will creep up on you. The way you've written this question, I honestly don't see any good reasons to move. On the other hand, sometimes people experience an unquantifiable peace living among relatives and loved ones, and things like career become less significant to them. It's really dependent on your feelings and how well you know your own personalities.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:38 AM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of you has a dream job? Do not give it up just so that your daughter can be closer to her grandparents. You are happy where you are- stay there! The best thing you can do for your child is to be true to yourselves. It sounds like things are pretty good as they are- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
posted by ambrosia at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2012

I grew up in Boston with one set of grandparents in North Carolina and the other in West Texas. We typically spent time with them at Christmas (they visited us), summer vacations and perhaps one additional visit from them each year. I in now way felt deprived or cut off from my grandparents because of the. I suppose we might have been closer if we had lived in the same town and sees each other on a weekly basis, but on the other hand that doesn't mean we would have liked each other more. More to the point, it's not like I felt I had a "grandparents-sized hole" in my life. This us what I knew, so it seemed normal and natural to me. And if you stay where you are, the same will be true for your I'd as well. You know what your kid will notice? If you are unhappy because you moved someplace you don't really want to live and work.

Generally speaking, if grandparents want to spend more time with their grandchildren, they are the ones who do the moving, not their children who are in the middle of settling down and building their adult lives and families.
posted by slkinsey at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Remember that your kid will also obtain benefits from growing up somewhere cosmopolitan - it's not as though your daughter won't get anything out of living in a city/college town. And unionized jobs with good health care? Your daughter will benefit from that, especially if she has a serious illness as many children do - and from access to better doctors as IME you often find better doctors in larger places.

Also, I grew up in a family which, for other reasons, abandoned the whole professional track/culture/happy-parents-with-good-jobs route to live in a much more provincial place closer to family. The closeness to family did not outweigh the unhappiness of my parents, IMO as their child. I often wished as a kid that they could have had the jobs and life they wanted.
posted by Frowner at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think it was worthwhile growing within 1-2 hours of my extended family and growing up with my cousins and knowing my aunts and uncles well. One set of grandparents was on the other side of the ocean, but they spent a lot of time in the US, and we saw them at all major holidays and other times.

But that was easy to manage-- my parents were able to have good jobs and live in the cosmopolitan area and live near our extended family. I don't think my parents would have done it if that weren't possible: they were choosing between relatively equal career options, not making a choice between living near family and giving up a career. So if it's that important to live near family (where "near" is 1-2 hours away, not next door), hold out for a good job in a good neighborhood. Besides, the kid is 8 months old-- the decisions don't need to be made now.

It's probably worthwhile to have your parents stay for a week or two at a time on a regular basis and see them on holidays and then figure it out from there.
posted by deanc at 11:09 AM on September 2, 2012

Growing up, I lived six hours by plane from my grandparents. I love them a lot, but I don't regret living far away. I have great memories of fun family vacations visiting them every year, and that was fine with me. Remember that whatever situation your child grows up in, that's what they'll consider normal. For me, normal was spending a few weeks visiting my grandparents every summer, and I had a perfectly happy childhood.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:28 AM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I grew up around tons of family, even great grand-parents for a while, but my father did not like his job and my mother quit hers to look after her kids and missed it - I think things would have been better for us overall if my father had stuck to the job he wanted in the middle of nowhere (farmer) and my mother had become a teacher like she wanted. Being around so many family almost made it worse as many of them did have jobs they loved and much more money and my parents were sometimes resentful.
posted by meepmeow at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you have too much to lose by moving compared to what you'd supposedly be getting. Period. Stay where you are. The only reason I'd say to change your current lovely circumstances is if someone ends up ill and caregiving becomes an issue.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:59 AM on September 2, 2012

I grew up 3,000 miles away from one set of grandparents, and within a fifteen minute drive of the other set. I feel about equally close to my grandparents, and like they contributed about equally to my childhood, though if I were forced to choose which ones I'm closer to, it would definitely be the far away ones. We visited them for at least a week every year, and they spent at least a week visiting us every year, and we sometimes went on other vacations with them. We talked to them on the phone often and sent each other letters in the mail.

It sounds like you'll be much happier where you are now, and, if the kid is as outgoing as you suspect she'll be, she'll have no trouble making friends in the city. That, as you probably know, can be much harder in a small town. Even if you would have to move within your city to get her in the ideal school district, in-town moves are much less expensive, and won't disrupt your lives as much. Plus, dream job! Remember that once she's in daycare (even if it's only 3 days a week), the rhythm of your daily life is going to change drastically; she'll be getting a lot of people-time and playtime at daycare, and that might be enough to balance her extroversion with your more introverted ways. That schedule is much more like what you'll be experiencing for the foreseeable future-- you're never again going to have the exhausting 24 hour-a-day challenge of keeping her entertained between the two of you.
posted by dizziest at 12:14 PM on September 2, 2012

All anecdotal and every family is fundamentally different, but we moved far away from family when our two kids were 3 years old and 1.5 respectively. We flew home once, when the children were 8 and 6 years old and family flew out a handful of times to visit for a few days, and then we moved even further away from our home province when the children were 11 and 9.

Suddenly we are in the same neighborhood as one grandparent (!!!) but grandparent has a busy active life and we don't see her much. We are busy and active too, and the three grandparents still in our original home province are busy and active even though the guilt seeps out around all conversations. Guilt without answers, as it were. They make us feel bad but they don't have any logical solutions on how to fix it. Just 'why can't you move back' comments. All the time.Even though none of them have ever volunteered to help out with childcare/finances or even the cost of hosting a holiday family dinner.

The bottom line is we've had to move to make sound career and financial decisions about what is best for our immediate family and with emails, phonecalls, letter and picture exchanges we do the best we can. It's not ideal, and it's not a picture-perfect multi-generational brood with everyone being super-close but really unless the grandparents are going to give up all sorts of time and money to help achieve such an unrealistic picture of life close by then we can't give up a system that works for us.

Our kids are growing up with the same values, and understand that family is important, they just get their values and experiences through different means and we have to work a little harder to keep in touch. They are resilient and for what it's worth, don't miss what they've never had.
posted by pink candy floss at 12:19 PM on September 2, 2012

You are a happy couple, with a good life, good jobs, living in an area you like. You are talking about moving to a place where you are going to lose your jobs and income, and live in a place where you will be much less stimulated and won't enjoy the area.

By doing this, you are going to become unhappy yourselves. This will in turn cause your child to grow up in an unhappy family. I cannot imagine any reason whatsoever why this might be a positive thing for your family or your child.

If your child likes spending time with other children, than go to library storytime groups, and find a local meetup parents group, and go to playgrounds during the day where other parents are, and sign them up for preschool once or twice a week, or...well, any of the other hundreds of things which gets your child in a space with other child. There are millions of other parents doing the same thing (myself included). The days when me and my son stay home all day are the hardest, which is why I have tried very hard to build up a community of people with children the same age. I started going to the library playgroups when my son was about 8 months old, and now, a year and a half later, we have a large group of friends who we see almost every day.

As for family, assuming that you stay (which I really think you should), your child will grow up loving the vacations to see grandparents and other extended families. These will be fun fantastic trips filled with great memories.

Your child will not spend their life angry that they didn't get to live their life in the same town as their extended family. That's not how things work. You grow up in an environment, and that is what you associate as "normal". They are going to grow up thinking that it is normal to see their grandparents a few times a year. There will be no resentment there, because that is what they will grow up with. If you had been living with your family until your child was 6 and then moved away, that would be a different story, but that is not your situation.

So, think about 5 years from now. What would you prefer to be your future, living happily where you are, a couple who likes their jobs and city, who can take that happyness and put it towards their child, or a couple living in a small town, just trying to make it through each day, with much less happyness to give to their child?
posted by markblasco at 12:31 PM on September 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

When I finished my PhD studies in Germany I moved back to my hometown in the midwest because of my parents. They, and my siblings, had gently indicated that they needed me and hoped I would move back home. There were post-doc opportunities in Boston, DC, SF, you name it. I let my heart lead me back to Cleveland, which isn't a bad place, but the post-doc I took was a disaster. My parents ended up not wanting anything to do with my newborn daughter. After I made the move I got a lot of grief for moving for my PhD, not visiting enough etc. I feel pretty resentful that I moved to be near them and they did not do what I expected, it was clear to me that it was to be all their way or no way. I should have done what I wanted, not someone else. My bad.
posted by waving at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

"How do we know the kid's personality already? Kid is happiest when we go out or if we have other kids over to play. We've made several trips to visit both sides of the family and she's happiest on the days the house is full of people. The days we stay home and it's just her and me are the bad days with much whining. That's a trait that's been stable and apparent since about 3 months."

Yeah ... babies can't really entertain themselves. Of COURSE they're happier surrounded by other people, and different people, and changing parades of people. They need other people to entertain them. They're biologically wired to be interested in other humans. If she learns to read, gets to chapter books, and still can't spend an hour in her own company because she needs the constant stimulus of other people, THEN we're talking about serious extroversion. NOW we're talking about how babies don't really do much and almost everything they do is eating, sleeping, or engaging with other humans.

Even fairly sociable parents of children who are very shy find themselves spending far more time being social with other parent-child duos. Until they're mid-grade-school-ish, a large portion of their daily stimulation and entertainment necessarily comes from other humans. It's just pretty much what you have to do with small children. It doesn't mean she's a social butterfly or an extrovert. It means she is learning how to be a human by watching and interacting with other humans. When she gets pretty good at humanhood, and starts working on reading or computer programming or soccer, you'll start to get a better idea of how extroverted she is.

"we'll miss the day-to-day things like kindergarten graduation and band concerts."

Would the grandparents go to these anyway? They're pretty boring. A lot of grandparents think one of the benefits of grandparenthood is NOT having to go to excruciatingly dull kid "occasions" but instead just getting to hit the high points like holidays and the zoo.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:11 PM on September 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

As a grandma, I hate that my youngest daughter and granddaughter are a time zone away, but I understand and respect her mom's reasons for living there.

IMHO, I'd say stay, and make communications with the extended family a large part of your life. Send tons of pics, and request them. Make it an unbreakable rule to call at least once a week to grandparents and one other party--aunt, cousins, whomever. Get the kiddo a phone with preprogrammed family numbers as soon as she can reliably converse.

Write letters, postcards, notes, and teach your daughter to write. Send grandparents her first scribbles and tracings around hands and feet as she grows. Always let her 'sign' the Christmas and birthday cards from you. Buy packs of postcards and address them in your printer, then allow her to stick the stamps and doodle or 'write' as she wishes.

Fly as often as possible for vacations such as Christmas or in the summer, and don't be hesitant about occasionally gifting a ticket to fly family members that can't really afford to travel. After all, you're making the bucks. Remember that when school starts grandparents and even other extended family usually love to take the grandkids for all or part of the summer. You can even invite a cousin or two to stay with you for a couple weeks.

All that said, start socking away your money. Save like there's no tomorrow. If you can, make do on one salary for your living expenses and save the rest. In later years you might want to be near your parents because of health concerns. You might find in ten years the city or the job has changed to the point you want out. You might decide that you've had enough of that lifestyle, and everyone wants to move. You might not. But you'll at least have a nifty little nest egg to do something with. Living on one salary might help you put some perspective on things.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:17 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

No. The grandparents will not even visit? Not worth it to uproot your whole life.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:33 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband has wonderful memories of spending a couple weeks at a time with each set of his grandparents during the summer. It was a great change of pace and enjoyable for all of them. I think you'd be better off keeping your jobs (I'm envious!) and looking into something like that. Moving seems entirely unreasonable.

Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 1:45 PM on September 2, 2012

My parents live about 1300 miles away; my FIL and his wife live in Hawaii. My MIL lives about 50 miles away. I love my parents very much, and they live in a reasonably cosmopolitan town in the midwest where I can imagine being very happy.

I would never move to be closer to them in a million years. Not unless, say, my husband was no longer in the picture and I had a medically fragile child for whom daycare was an impossibility, or something like that. I live HERE. It does not appear to be screwing my kids up any.
posted by KathrynT at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2012

I have to say it seems crazy to me to even contemplate it. I grew up about as far from my grandparents as you can get in the USA (us in rural MN versus them in Southern California). Our parents live between 2 and 3 hours away from us and our only child and while we see them a lot more than I saw my grandparents, it's not nearly so often as you might think - and all our family relationships are excellent, it's just life. Many friends an family worth of experience in just about everything in between (from living in the same house to living in different countries). In my experience the children with exceptionally close relationships to their grandparents predominately live in the same town. As special as this can be I think it isn't remotely worth it compared to loving your jobs and where you live. What's best for you and your partner is an incredibly important part of what's best for your child. There are many opportunities for social access especially in a city. Finally, setting too much stock in a very young child's happiness and behavior during a "special event time" (when there is all kinds of brand new stimulus, attention and positive regard are in exceptional supply, everyday rules and routines are likely laxer, etc) is likely an error. Fussiness, whining and bad days are part of the package. They will show up regardless of the environment.
posted by nanojath at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2012

The reduced educational cost if we stay is minimal and not worth mentioning. It's offset by the fact we'd have to move to a more expensive neighborhood and pay very high property taxes to get into a better school district if we stayed in this city.

You live on Mt. Washington, no? Would you necessarily have to pay a lot more for housing in a decent school district? I ask because there is a really big range of housing prices in the East End, many feeding into high-quality schools (Minadeo and Colfax both are good and getting better, with highly involved parent-teacher organizations.) If you want fancy-suburb-style school quality, you might look at Aspinwall or O'Hara, which feed into the Fox Chapel school district. You're already in the city, so your property tax rate would stay the same -- you'd just want to look for a property that is assessed at about the same amount. The Squirrel Hill/Greenfield border might be a good place to look for less expensive houses in a good school district.

We lived on Mt. Washington and didn't see a whole lot of kids and made only one friend: our landlord. None of this is likely if you live in the East End. We just had a baby, and my mom was visiting from the East Coast and eventually got kind of irritated at all the friendly neighbors stopping by to see the baby and bring gifts of shoes/cakes/clothes. One thing you might do, given your flexible work schedules, is come to some kid-centric stuff in the East End: the Squirrel Hill library has tons of programming for kids, including a baby-and-caregiver songs-and-stories time every Tuesday at 10:30 and 11:30. (It's on hiatus for September, but the Main Library in Oakland has the same program on Monday mornings at the same times. Plus the carousel across Schenley Plaza, which our kids have loved at that age.) In the immediate future, there's what used to be called Storywalk, which is next Saturday, Sept 8, at 10am in Frick Park. The website makes it seem like it's primarily aimed at preschoolers, but there's lots of music and tons of other children, so our babies have all loved it, too.

I think Mt. Washington is a fairly insular neighborhood, and I can imagine feeling a little lonely if you didn't grow up there, and having a harder time making friends with kids the same age as your little one. You might not have to spend the bulk of your salary on housing to live in a different kind of neighborhood.
posted by palliser at 2:19 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mom came from a family of twelve kids. Although we had relatives around, it wasn't all of the family and it apparently wasn't enough for mom. She unofficially adopted extra people (some of whom I called "Tante" -- German for "aunt") to fill out the empty space. We had huge Christmases, with all kinds of makeshift eating arrangements to accommodate the crowd.

Then I grew up, married a soldier, and had two kids. At Christmas, it never felt like Christmas to me. Even if we managed to visit relatives, the insanely large Christmas crowds mom arranged routinely never happened in my adulthood. I thought my kids were missing out on something. At some point, I discussed it with my kids. The looked at me horrified. They told me bluntly I was nostalgic for something I missed and they would have hated living like that.

Whatever your child grows up with will be their "normal". I made sure my sons got to visit with and meet relatives. They got to keep in touch with the ones which personally mattered to them. They didn't have to put up too much with anyone they didn't much care for. My kids are much happier with how that worked out than I was with my situation growing up. I had a lot less input into the matter and, honestly, cousins and others that were important to me while growing up did not keep in close touch when I moved away and saw me exactly once, at someone's funeral, when I moved back home for several years. None of them so much as called me. And I am fine with that, actually. I don't want to rejoin "the family circus".

I will add that crowds = lots of activity. Maybe baby is just bored when you stay home. My oldest can be like that and was more so as a baby, but he isn't really an extrovert. There is nothing wrong with being a people person but given that eight month old kids don't have deep meaningful conversations, I would try to be more entertaining and see if that solves the problem. Eight months is too young to judge them accurately in that regard.
posted by Michele in California at 2:39 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have a "family of choice" where you are? I think kids benefit from an extended group, whether or not it's biological.

I agree that you can bring family to you - cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents - and you can have an annual family vacation to see the family. My son is quite close to his cousins, though he grew up more than 8 hours away from them. Facebook has made it easy for them to stay in touch.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on September 2, 2012

It sounds like you have a great life. And it doesn't sound like you guys would have an as-good or better life if you moved.

I have a wonderful, loud, crazy-making, enormous family on my mom's side. They live a five hour drive away. We spend Christmas, Mother's Day, and a couple of random trips, usually centered on birthday parties or someone's graduation there. My brother and I spent a month there in the summer, starting around age 6 or 7 (basically once we were old enough to feed and dress ourselves somewhat reliably and potty-trained). We have a close, lovely bond. In fact, I just got home from a weekend trip there that involved a huge family picnic and sorting through old pictures while drinking gin. (HIGHLY recommended!) It's funny that I read this question just after leaving my grandparents' house because I was marveling while we were looking at all the pictures at how many of them I'm in and how many of the events I remember (or at least know the story). I don't feel left out. I love my family and we're all pretty close. We talk weekly. The advent of Facebook means we can jag each other ALL THE TIME. We text. We Skype. And a few times a year, we eat lots of food and play board games and torment each other in person. It's great.

And one of the best things is that, while I love all of them dearly, I GET TO LEAVE. Sometimes my family drives me bugshit. They drive me a lot less bugshit 250 miles away.
posted by Aquifer at 3:18 PM on September 2, 2012

There are so many good answers here, but I'm going to hold off on marking a best answer while we mull. All these points of view are very helpful, even when they contradict each other.

The other grandparents live on the other coast. They haven't made it out here in eight months but they're able to skype. Moving to their coast isn't in the cards and we anticipate seeing them every year or two. Kid is definitely going to have great memories of visiting them.

My family isn't being willfully obstinate by not visiting. They have a farm, among other obligations, and it's very difficult for them to take more than three or four days away from it. It's just who they are and we've known that since we chose to move here. They can make it out here for very brief visits 1-3 times a year. We can make it to visit them at least 2-3 times a year for longer visits.

We are burbinites and do not live on Mount Washington. We're looking at moving to points north. I'm not happy about the commute but haven't found a way out of the tangle. Even if I put the kid in cyber school or home school, I want her out of this neighborhood before she's old enough to notice things.

We do many activities and we have met many lovely mothers and children. Thank you for reminding me that once she's in day care, it won't be such an exhausting endeavor and the extroversion might be a temporary trait. I looked at putting her in Montessori now but scheduling with work didn't allow it for now. I'm in the process of working out some kind of care situation with another family with kids. I didn't mean anything negative about day care, and I think she'll get a lot out of it, but have been lazy enough not to figure it out before now. CLP has great children's programming and that's what we've been doing since Northland doesn't do summer stuff. Thanks for the story time suggestion.

Because we were childless for so long, most our friends are also childless. We can't say we have a chosen kid-friendly family for this kid right now but I can see where that will come.

The reasons for moving would be for my husband to have a more interesting job and to be closer to family. We'd have cleaner air. This particular circumstance is in small town but if we decided it was worth leaving here, then we could move to a smaller city about two hours from the family where we might both be able to find decent jobs. That's why my question is mostly about how much grandparents matter and my list of changes is a little vague.
posted by arabelladragon at 3:44 PM on September 2, 2012

What if you move and then your parents don't turn out to be the ideal sorts of grandparents you hope they would be? What if they are so busy with their own lives that you still only get to see them once a week or so and end up feeling neglected? What if they favour your siblings' kids over yours? You can't know how well this will work out.

And the (very rare) times I hear of a dual-career academic couple with double employment considering moving, my heart sinks on their behalf.

I think that potentially leaving at least one of us unemployed for a few years is incredibly optimistic. If you can't negotiate a spousal hire with this current job offer, you should assume that the other person will have to find a new line of work or get used to being a stay-at-home parent. Do you still want to move if that is the case?
posted by lollusc at 3:51 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

If the grandparents are operating a working farm I think you might be over estimating how much time they would have to spend with your kid. They're going to be tired after a day of hard work, and babies are exhausting. It's common for people to live close to family and rarely see them. If that's what ended up happening after the move, would you regret it?

3 - 6 visits a year sounds like a lot to me, I'd only see either of my grandparents once a year when I was a kid.
posted by Dynex at 4:36 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a lot of "might be good" to give up living in a place you like. I just moved from Pittsburgh back to the midwest a year ago and had a baby. The grandparents all live conveniently close; there's one set or another here visiting practically every other weekend. It's great for them! But I still wish most of the time that we'd never left Pittsburgh, where I had friends and a job. Call me selfish if you like, but I would put my own happiness before that of an 8-month-old, whose needs are flexible, and who will probably grow up to love Pittsburgh if that's what she knows.
posted by daisystomper at 6:04 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I moved from a job I liked in a city with no family to be close to our families specifically to make my partner and our child happy.

It fucking sucks. I'm working on not hating it but it's been a struggle. I hated my job until I quit (hate probably just doesn't cover it - I was suicidally anxious by the end). I don't actually like being this close to our families. As much as I love them, they aren't friends, they aren't support the way friends are.

There are a lot of extenuating circumstances (one being that it was easier to live within my anxiety set boundaries in the city I love - up here it's harder but living a life restricted by your anxiety disorder is not the best choice to make) but the sanctimonious BS about sacrificing everything for your child and being happy about it are just that, bullshit. You end up a fucking shell of a human being and that is no good for anyone.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:49 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi there, your future daughter sounds a lot like me. I am an only child, and I grew up in San Francisco (best city in the country, and no one will convince me otherwise!) while my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all just outside the New York metro area. My mother and father both had jobs that made traveling often difficult, so we made it to the east coast usually once a year. Because my parents were the ones to move so far away, everyone expected us to come see them. Very rarely did anyone come visit us. So I only saw my family as often as we could visit. Once or twice a year. I was a very social (and endlessly talkative; sorry mom!) child. I loved the time I spent with my cousins, but I also made incredibly close friendships at school, in chorus, in soccer, at the rec center, etc. My parents had their own circle of dear friends, few of which had children my age.

**Flash forward to today**

My cousins and I are absolutely like siblings. I was just my (only female) cousin's maid of honor, and I totally cried giving the toast. We couldn't possibly be closer even if we'd grown up across the street from each other. I think we appreciate the connection we have even more for the distance between us. My grandfather passed away a few years ago, but my grandmother and I are also very close. She's 92, and I was the first person she called when she decided she needed to take a cruise of the Baltic. We had a fantastic time. She drank more than I did at the vodka tasting in St. Petersburg, and is the only person in my family who is more enamored of cheesy gift shops than I am. We even had rousing debates about politics without killing each other! How many family members can boast that?

One of my very oldest best friends I met in 2nd grade. Her parents and my parents became fast friends. Her dad coached our soccer team, and my dad taught us how to make rudimentary motors with copper wire, magnets and a battery. Along with various other friends (single, partnered, young, old, with/out kids) our families have Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners together every year. They are absolutely my family too.

So I ended up with more family than anyone has a right to hope for. They are crazy and weird and wonderful.

Your daughter will be fine. Move/stay where you will be happiest and make sure you raise your daughter valuing family, however one ends up with them.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 9:54 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

As your daughter gets older, there are going to be a lot of options that help her enjoy her extroverted side and don't require you to up and move - I got a ton out of Girl Scouts, attending summer camp, having friends with big families, etc. It's not as if the choice for her is a life of solo play OR move to the Midwest - the options will increase and there will be many ways she can enjoy being around others.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Because we were childless for so long, most our friends are also childless. We can't say we have a chosen kid-friendly family for this kid right now but I can see where that will come.

Please don't make the mistake of assuming that your close friends who are childfree won't have the interest or capacity to be very involved in your child's life.
posted by desuetude at 7:52 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, as you move through the various groups your child will be involved in, you'll meet and make friends with other families with children. Your friend set will be undergoing some additions and change.
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My folks live in MD and my sister (and her two girls) live in IN. As much as my mom wishes her granddaughters were closer over the years, she did some things that I think helped build the relationship.

She read/made up bed time stories for the girls a few times a week. They have both mentioned those as happy memories w/Nana. They always came to MD for 2 weeks during the summers (until teenage years with work/school/band schedules interfered). On years that they did not come to MD for Christmas, she and my Dad went out and visited them.

I think it is important to have those relationships, but that does not need to dictate where you live.

Like you guys, my sister had offers from east coast, but when she factored in the increased cost of living, she was going to make significantly less. My folks got that concept. They didn't/don't always *like* it, but they understood.
posted by Librarygeek at 8:06 PM on September 3, 2012

Please add my voice to those of the child free who love kids. So many people assume that I don't know anything, discount my past experiences with exes w/kids, assume I don't want the responsibility, don't like kids all kinds of craziness :/

OTOH, I've found it difficult to find community of people w/o kids online who are not anti kid. Some of us have reasons for not having kids of our own. So I knda see where some of that reputation comes from :/
posted by Librarygeek at 8:09 PM on September 3, 2012

Sounds like theres pressure from Grandma influencing this decision, from what you typed out, it doesn't sound like any of you want to move at all, and there would be no benefit for any of you (except for Grandma)
posted by el_yucateco at 7:59 AM on September 4, 2012

Hmmm... neither of you wants to be a stay-at-home parent but moving would mean that one of you would be unemployed. That right there is kind of a problem. I mean, if you are looking at a salary cut, and one of you is going to be unemployed, at that point that unemployed person is pretty much going to have to be the stay-at-home parent.

Babies seriously don't care who their friends are, just that they're friends. They don't care if it's family or not. You say you live in a big city. Great. Start getting in touch with other families in the area. Your lovely child can have plenty of "aunts" and "uncles" and "brothers" and "sisters" who have absolutely zero relation to them.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:29 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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