Moving Closer to Grandchildren: Yes or No?
August 9, 2017 12:11 PM   Subscribe

My daughter and grandchildren live in a foreign country. I hate that my grandkids are growing up without me. Should I move to their city? Snowflakes inside.

I'm in my early 60s and underemployed. Eventually I will be priced out of my beloved Bay Area. That may happen sooner rather than later if I don't find more work in a hurry. (At the moment, I am applying for work both here in the US and also in the other country.) The idea of leaving the Bay Area makes me sad, but eventually I won't have a choice.

My daughter and her family live in Europe. As I have dual citizenship myself, and lived in their country earlier, I can legally move back. But that means, most likely, living outside of the US for the rest of my life.

I love and miss my daughter. She loves and misses me. My relationship with her is complex but mostly positive. And her children are a delight. I don't want them to grow up without me. That said, the Bay Area is the only place that has ever felt like home. The vast majority of my friends and support network are here. Also, the area fits my personality; I am a chatty gal who likes to talk to strangers. That works here but is NOT OKAY where my daughter lives. (And the weather is dark in winter. So dark!)

At the same time, I don't recognise the US any more. Trump's election has taken a genuine toll on my health (and that of lots of people I know). Even without Trump, the stress of worrying about paying (and keeping) health insurance has been enormous. Whereas day-to day-life in this other country is often easier because of how healthcare and taxes, for example, are managed.

In an ideal world, I'd stay in the Bay Area and visit my grandkids for half the year. I can't do that. But if I move to their city, I will probably be able to come visit the Bay Area for 3 or 4 weeks every year until I'm too frail to travel.

Have you moved a long distance to be closer to family? Or have you had family members move to be closer to you? Tell me your stories. What worked? What didn't work? What should I avoid or consider while pondering a move that will shape the rest of my life, most likely? How did you make a hard move easier?
posted by Bella Donna to Human Relations (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you discussed this idea with your daughter? What does she think? I'd posit that an important factor to consider when moving long distance to be closer to family is how the relevant family feel about it.
posted by bimbam at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oops! Oh golly, yes, I've discussed it with her. "We'd love to have grandma close by," was her response.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:29 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Will you be fully retired in Europe? How will that fare for your finances? Would you have enough money to travel to a sunnier, more social region, particularly in winter? Here's a discussion of cities that are like San Francisco but aren't SF on the City Data forums, and it includes mentions of Paris, Singapore, Melbourne, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, London, Barcelona, and "most of the large cities in Central Europe."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

My inlaws bought a condo here in our city to be closer to family (not just me and my husband and our son, but also various other extended relations), and it's great. I really love that my kid has four grandparents close by most of the time (inlaws kept their home about 3 hours away as well and go back and forth). Relationships all around are quite good, so there's no "ugh no please stay away so I only have to see you at Christmas" situation. I love having the whole family close by.

If you don't get a job in Europe, how would you go forward? Would you just be retired? Savings? What' the financials here?

To be honest, I'm also a dual citizen and while I love love love my city that I've lived in most of my life, the only things keeping me in the US right now are my job and my family. If I had neither, I would nope out post haste. If noping out would also bring me closer to family, I'd get there double-time. But that's just me.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:34 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

More some questions to think about than actual direct advice.

Are you expecting to have your own life in the new country, or would your whole world revolve around grandkids & family? That is a lot of stress to put on your daughter & her family if you've got no other plans other than be near them. Even if she's super excited for you to go. Even more so if it's a more reserved country where it is harder to make friends and you wont' be working. You say you've lived there before, so if you do go you might want to make sure you have plans in place to make your own life & not just that of being Grandma.

As the person that moved away from my mother, I do have to mention that I would find it weird if she moved here now as I've been away so long the person she thinks I am has little connection to the person I've become. I love her dearly but it would be hugely stressful for me as she keeps trying to push me back into the box of her expectations of me as I was when I last lived near her. Your daughter has had kids, she is now in the role of a mother, do you see her as that & respect that?

What is your daughter going to expect of you if you go? Full time on call babysitter or a more hands off approach? Will you resent that? What is your relationship like with her partner? You don't have to be best buddies, but you have to remember your daughter & grandkids is his family too (sometime my mother has problems with she can't figure out why I'd prioritize him over her in some situations, though that is getting better the longer we're married).
posted by wwax at 12:36 PM on August 9, 2017 [13 favorites]

Mods, I will stop answering after this: I can't afford to retire in the Bay Area nor in the foreign country. I need to work either way. That said, my living costs should be significantly lower in the foreign country because of subsidised healthcare and drug prescriptions and lower housing costs.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

How easy or hard is it for you to find friends and feel at home in new places?

Because situations where one person moves to another place to be with someone else and then has ONLY that other person to keep them happy, and is lonely and depressed otherwise can breed resentment and poison relationships.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

was here to raise several of the questions asked by wwax. especially that you have your own life. I'm hugely greatful that my mother has been around to have a close relationship to my daughter and to help with the ever-changing mess of childcare, but we're busy all the time and she feels neglected despite our best efforts. that's partly her personality and phase of life, but it's an easy trap if you have nothing else to fill your mind and days...
posted by acm at 12:39 PM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

From a daughter's perspective:

My mother lives in an Asian country that is a much farther plane ride from us than Europe is, and she often laments that my son is growing up without her. She yearns to live with us, but she takes care of my ailing grandmother (who I wish could move here, but is too frail) in our home country. Once my grandmother passes, my mother would like to come live with us. I do believe that as my son grows older, and as she grows older, they will benefit from each others' company. I often wish that she was around now, as my boyfriend and I both work full-time, and my son is looked after by a nanny. I feel that if my mother was around, my son would get just so much extra love and affection and even education (she's an educator), that we are not able to give him. Most importantly, my mother would bring him a sense of his roots, something that is of extreme importance to me as he is growing up very far from where I did. We hope that my mom can come live with us when she's ready.

I don't think that there's any significant downside to you moving to be with your daughter. You will be able to make friends in this other country (perhaps this will be a slow process, but it will happen.) Your daughter and her kids would love to have you. In my opinion, society in general seems to be moving in a direction that no longer values family relationships, and the stress of having to think about day to day healthcare and tax worries only adds to what I feel is an added burden to not growing old without family.

As others have said, you do need to make efforts to occupy yourself outside of your daughter and her family, and that's something my mom and I have talked about. My boyfriend and I have full time careers and we travel for work, so her independence - for her sanity and our own! - is paramount.

Most of my cousins that have migrated to the United States from South Asia have their parents live with them. I can tell you that their kids adore having their grandparents around, their lives are enriched by the stories they tell and the traditions they keep, and when they've passed on, their children and grandchildren are at least thankful that they were around to say goodbye. I know I haven't really pointed out much in the way of practical considerations, but from an emotional family perspective, I think this idea has more positives than it has negatives. Grandmas are awesome, and I don't think anyone should live without them if they possibly can! Good luck to you.
posted by Everydayville at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

And regarding living close to kids and grandkids: we live really close (about a mile) from my parents-in-law, which has been great since we moved here 5 years ago. We're close with them, and they've taken our boys when they're sick and my wife and I can't stay home, and for some date nights or general "stay and play with Nana and Grampa" days. My parents are two (big, western) states away, so we see them only as often as they travel out here, and drove there this summer. It's a bummer we can't see them more easily.

My wife and I, and her parents, moved here (New Mexico) because it's cheaper than California, so I completely feel for you. We left behind our friends and moved away from some of my family, but we've made our own lives here. There was a period of adjustment, but that comes with most any move.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:42 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another daughter's perspective:

My mom has had many opportunities to move closer to me and my now adult kids. She never did. My kids are now adults and the only relationship they have with their grandma is seeing her on Christmas, and that's only if she shows up (she often cancels last minute). They don't speak to her, they don't even know her.

Other than family and friends, I really don't know what else matters much in life. It makes me sad that my mom chose to not be involved with us.

If you can be closer to your grandkids, do it.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:49 PM on August 9, 2017 [11 favorites]

I think you should move if you feel like you can really commit to building your own separate life/friends/etc. in the other country. My grandmother moved to be closer to my parents after my grandfather died, and while it has been positive in many ways, a major struggle has been that she has been highly resistant to making new social connections. This has put a TON of pressure on my mother (her daughter) to be almost her sole social outlet, meaning she is lonely a lot of the time (as my mother works full time and has her own life going on), and also my mom ends up very frustrated and resentful because no matter what she gives, it never seems to be enough.

A benefit of moving now may be that you will have the opportunity to develop your own social connections and networks now, while you're relatively healthy, rather than trying to do it when you're elderly and perhaps have severe health problems (at which you may need to move closer to your daughter anyway, given that your daughter is unlikely to be able to manage you being hospitalized and in nursing care in SF from Europe -- sorry if that is grim, just thinking about realistic possibilities!).
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:49 PM on August 9, 2017 [9 favorites]

As someone who grew up with both my grandmothers in another country, I wish they had been closer to me. I understand why they didn't move, (they had many kids and grandkids still in their home country, didn't speak the language, etc) and I don't begrudge them that at all, but I wish I had known them better, spent more time with them, asked more questions, known their lives. I can't ask them any more.

I treasure the sliver of memories I have of them. Playing cards, learning recipes, telling me stories of their life. My maternal grandmother was a real character. Those memories are too few and far between. I feel their void acutely, even years later, doubly so because both my grandfather's died when I was really little, and I never got to know them at all.

It sounds awful, but when my grandmother's died, I cried but... it felt as if I were crying for a stranger. The impact was very little. Sure, I miss them. Yes, I loved them. But I never got to bond. I think back and it makes my heart ache. I only met them a handful of times. Everyone kept saying they'd visit us more, fly over 'one day, one day,' but one day never really came, and then they were gone. And I know that they regretted not seeing us more, before they died.

I mean, I know it's the age of Skype and stuff, so being a presence in your grandkid's life is much easier, but nothing beats being there-- spoiling them a little. There's a solace in a grandparent, that I didn't have in my parents growing up-- I see it in my nephews when they interact with my mother-- she is there to love them unconditionally and spoil them, and she is way more tolerant than she was with us. I felt that from my grandmother, but only for a moment.

But having said that, your happiness matters most, because it's what you have to live with. There's no point moving if its going to make you miserable; that doesn't do you, or your family any favors. While I am sad I didn't have my grandparents around, it is what it is, and it was okay.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is, if you feel your home is truly the Bay, then the move might be a bad idea. But if you are feeling the ache for your family, know that it will probably get worse as time passes-- as it did for my grandmothers-- and these are moments without you that will never come again. Personally, I feel that is more important than a place, but I've always felt that home is where you make it. YMMV.

Best of luck.
posted by Dimes at 1:20 PM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

As someone who recently bought a house with an in-law apartment and had said in-laws move in.

It's been wonderful. They're happy, our kids adore them, and the collective lives of all the adults have improved a lot. It's glorious.
posted by French Fry at 1:35 PM on August 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hopefully another daughter perspective is ok!

We live about 15 minutes from my parents and I love that my son is growing up with them and getting to know them so well. He feels so comfortable in their house and although only 4, has stories about them that I hope he'll always remember. He adores them and they, him.

My partner's parents lived the same distance away and were having a very similar relationship, but they just moved about 2 hours away (for half the year) and the other half they'll be a 3 hour plane ride away. I know their relationship will never be the same and it's pretty sad.

While yes, it's nice to have grandparents nearby when your kid is sick or you want a night away, it's also more about expanding his family and giving him even more people who love and care about him.

My closeby grandparents did that for me, as a kid. Another grandmother was a 3 hour plane ride away and I rarely saw him. I think she and I always regretted it and when she passed away, I was sad - mostly for what I didn't know about her.
posted by jdl at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am almost your age and want to move closer to my children as soon as possible. Here are a few things that I think are in favor of your moving sooner rather than later.

Even if you stay healthy for a long time, age discrimination is a very real thing in the US. Assuming that it is in the other country as well (and maybe it's not), finding a job will get harder the longer you wait.

I was blindsided with a cancer diagnosis last year. I am fortunately doing very well and was able to manage without my children needing to take care of me, but I'm very aware that it could have been much more difficult. I hope you stay healthy for a long time, but the older you get, the more likely it is that something negative will happen in regard to your health. You do not want to have to move during a health crisis - or worse, have a health crisis that keeps you from being able to move. Also, the more healthy years you can have with your grandchildren, the better.

And I happened to have amazingly good health insurance. Most people have no idea how expensive cancer treatment is - I certainly didn't. During my eight months of heavy duty treatment, my chemotherapy without insurance would have been $35,000 a month. Now I'm on maintenance chemo, which I'm supposed to stay on for the rest of my life, and that's $16,000 a month. If I had a policy where I had to pay 20% of my treatment expenses, I would have lost my house. I am pretty terrified about what will happen when I retire.

No doubt you will always miss the Bay Area, but you've said that you will not be able to stay there forever anyway. If you move sooner, it will be much easier to build a life for yourself where your daughter and grandchildren live.
posted by FencingGal at 2:06 PM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Something else to consider is what happens as you get older, and your health and support needs increase. Are you confident you will be able to get the support (medical and otherwise) you will need in the US? Living in a country with semi-socialised medicine, the idea that you're one bad accident away from disaster in the US, to me, is quite scary. As you get older, if you have the option of moving to a country with a functioning medical system, I'd seriously consider it. A lot of US citizens would be jealous of your dual citizenship!
posted by smoke at 3:57 PM on August 9, 2017

Sorry if I missed it, but any helpful specific advice here would really rely on which European country we're talking about. All the concerns upthread about support, insurance, health care are easily addressed in The Netherlands. It will all be cheaper and better than anything in the states, health insurance, long term elderly care, etc. If you work, you'll even contribute enough for a small pension.

As a complete internet stranger to you, I would totally do this.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:05 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

In an ideal world, I'd stay in the Bay Area and visit my grandkids for half the year. I can't do that. But if I move to their city, I will probably be able to come visit the Bay Area for 3 or 4 weeks every year until I'm too frail to travel.
I think you have answered your own question here and just need some reassurance that it's all going to be ok. If you want to be near your family then move. It's not as if you are going to be a cultural stranger there. The Bay area is not going anywhere so you can always visit. Time is not on your side so make the most of it.
posted by adamvasco at 4:53 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just spent a couple of weeks with my 4 grandchildren, the children of my three sons, who all live in the same town about 1,000 miles from me. All of us are in the US. I wish I could spend more time with them, they're such a pleasure. Only one of them, the youngest, age 2, has another grandmother and he sees her almost every day. The others have lost their other grandmothers in the last few years.

I'm planning to work another 3 years and then I expect to retire and spend several months a year near my kids and be a fulltime grandma, whatever that might mean. ( I refuse to live there in the winter!) Unfortunately, my oldest grandchild will be starting college then and I deeply regret that I've never been in a position to spend much time with him, and I hope we can find ways to make up for that.

It is harder to make new friends as we get older, but it's also become a hell of a lot easier to keep in touch with old friends. You'll also meet people in whatever job you get and have neighbors. Go for it!
posted by mareli at 5:03 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another thought: if you're a renter can you sublet your place for a year and go try it out?
posted by mareli at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you are inevitably going to have to move anyway, you might as well bite the bullet and go. Sounds like other than friends, you do have enough support otherwise to make it feasible.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:56 PM on August 9, 2017

Since you have to leave the Bay Area at some point, why not try a temporary move to Europe - give it a year and see how it goes? Worst case scenario is that you'll have spent a year getting closer to your grandchildren.

I'm an American with dual citizenship who grew up on the US and lives in England. I do think in general that living in Europe is much easier on older underemployed people than living in America. However before moving South I spent 5 years in the cold, dark rural north of Scotland and hated it. If where your daughter lives is anywhere like that it might be too depressing- I would find it to be anyway. What about moving somewhere in Europe that's warm with a decent community of expats that's a quick, cheap plane trip or longer road trip from where your daughter lives- would that be an option?

Also you don't mention what you do for a living but I would think the ability to find work in any new location you choose would have to be a major consideration.
posted by hazyjane at 11:13 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

One thing I didn't see mentioned above that I feel is worth mentioning: I'm an American living abroad, and I too have been extremely upset about the recent political situation there to the point of it affecting my health and sleep. I really don't have any support for dealing with this in my current country - in fact, I have to hear people make jokes about it constantly which makes it worse. As much as I may criticize the US, it hurts to have other people do it (sort of like when others criticize your family) - the daily comments, jokes, and insults are very hard to take and I expect it will be like that anywhere in Europe right now.

I'm not saying you shouldn't move - you have many factors to consider - but wanted to bring up something that hadn't been mentioned yet.
posted by whitelily at 1:29 AM on August 10, 2017

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