Grandparent timeshare?
October 14, 2006 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Polling all grandparents - would you be willing to move/spend part of the year in a different city in order to spend lots of time with, and provide daycare for, your grandkids?

It looks like, for professional reasons, I will be living in a city that's about 8 hours by car from my parents, and a 2 hour plane ride from my boyfriend's family. Neither one of our families has any grandkids, but they would very much like them. The idea has been tossed around that either/both sets of grandparents could spend part of the year near us, helping to raise the grandkids & generally being a part of the grandkids' lives. My parents have friends & 1 sibling who are essentially providing day care part of the week for their grandkids, and reputedly loving it. In part I'd like the help, but also in large part I want my kids to spend lots of time with my lovely parents (who are older - 65) and his parents (who are more like 55), and our parents want to spend lots of time with what they hope will be lovely grandkids. (We talk about part time because they have such a connection to where they live, and I would hate to completely transplant them from that.)

So my question is, first of all, is this too much to ask (or too much to accept if they seriously offer)? They have lots of friends and a fun, established life where they live.

Also, what would the logistics of such a part-time residence entail? (Assuming, for now, that we wouldn't have an in-law apartment, or anything like it.)

None of this is anywhere on the horizon, but I'd be interested in your take on the idea. I've always wanted family involved in my kids' lives, but modern life/career is making that look undoable, particularly since we come from different cities, so both sets of grandparents couldn't have the grandkids to living near them, and neither set particularly likes the idea of the grandkids living near the other set.
posted by n'muakolo to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not a grandparent but have had the conversations your describing with my in-laws and my Mom. In my case, we're talking 600 miles to my in-laws and 2,000 miles to my Mom's. Mom would have moved if it weren't for my mentally retarded sister. My sister is in an awesome program which has no equivalent here and she would not transition well to an area without her established friends.

Is it too much to ask them to relocate? Yes. Financially, could you or they afford the cost of an additional residence? Wait for them to express an interest in such a relocation.

Is it too much to accept from them? No. If they decided that it is financially sound and overall doable proposition, let them come.

You mention that neither likes the idea of grandkids living near the other set. Just accept this and move on. This is normal. They both will love the children very much and be jealous of the time the other gets to spend with the children. There is nothing you can do to change this about the grandparents and you'll drive yourself crazy trying to make everything equitable. Trust me. I know this from direct experience. There will be an unbalanced number or duration of visits. There will be an unbalanced number of phone calls. It just is.
posted by onhazier at 7:16 AM on October 14, 2006

You don't mention if you and your husband are only children. If not, then it's worth considering how your siblings would feel and react, and what the grandparents would want, should more than one sibling have children some day.

You also don't mention finances. Can you or either set of parents afford two homes - one near you, and one where they live now? What about travel expenses to and from these homes? One option would be for them to share the cost of a home near you, and 'time share' it.

I do think you all have a good idea, one that could work out for everyone after a lot of frank discussions.
posted by LadyBonita at 7:39 AM on October 14, 2006

IANAGP, but my parents and I have both gone to help out with my sister's kids. Just for about a month, though, and living as a guest in her home, so it's a different situation.

I think it's too much to ask, but not too much to accept if they offer.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:18 AM on October 14, 2006

Do you live someplace cool, where they'd be likely to want to visit a few times a year anyway? As in a timeshare-worthy, summer/winter-home type of thing?
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:49 AM on October 14, 2006

I think it might be worthwhile to carefully discuss the difference between "daycare" and "spending lots of time with the grandchildren". The former is not easy, it is a job with specific hours that are dictated by the needs of the parents (i.e., you will need a daycare provider who covers the specific hours while you are away at work).

The later notion of spending time with one's grandchildren implies that the scheduling is 'at will,' that the grandparents will largely decide when they are available.

I'm not sure how a part-of-the-year childcare arrangement will work if your and your BFs jobs are year-round. It's a huge disruption to switch daycare arrangements, both for you and the child. While it's relatively easy (as 'easy' as it is to find good and affordable daycare, which isn't easy at all) to find part-of-the-week childcare, it's very difficult to find a place which will hold your spot open for more than a few weeks absence unless you pay them to hold the opening, which means you'll be paying for care which you aren't using. Who will be covering the childcare when neither set of grandparents are available?

From my own experience: my in-laws jumped in with both feet when our son was born and provided a significant chunk of daycare once we returned to work; they also live less than three blocks away (we moved near them, they would never have moved). Once our son entered school, they reverted to an at-will arrangement. On my side, my dad (who lives about 2 freeway hours away) preferred an at-will arrangement...he spent a lifetime looking forward to traveling in his retirement and that's what he's doing now. His case is worth keeping in mind as it took a lot of honest discussion before he was willing to admit that he really didn't want to offer daycare.
posted by jamaro at 9:00 AM on October 14, 2006

Thanks for the answers so far.

Money is a consideration, but I don't think it would be prohibitive. We do live ina cool area that they all like to visit, and lots of people live here for months of the year. We both have much younger siblings who don't have kids or plans for kids any time soon, but that is a consideration too. Both parents have strongly expressed an interest in actually providing daycare, but that seems like a lot to accept when they could be enjoying their retirement, so that's why I was mentioning the other option of just having them be nearby so my kids could see their grandparents a lot, rather than on occasional holidays.
posted by n'muakolo at 11:08 AM on October 14, 2006

My sis has done something similar; our mother has always provided her with daycare. This was great for all when the 1st child was an infant. Not so easy when the 1st was 2yo and the 2nd came along. Sis cut her work hours back and when the oldest was 3 she put him in preschool 2 mornings per week. And then #3 came along, when the oldest was 4, the 2nd just 2 and everything got a lot crazy. One more year to go until the oldest is in Kindergarten full-time. Sis and her husband now run their own business so her time is more flexible, but still she needs a lot of childcare help from Mom. Poor mom is tired from minding 3 little ones, but reluctant to say anything because she knows the help is needed and doesn't want the kids with 'strangers'. Soon it will all ease up but for the next year it's going to be rough. The other grandparents live nearby but prefer the 'at will' visits. My mother still gets jealous about the other grandparents spending time with the kids :)

My neighbor, a grandparent, has a set up that works a lot differently because the grandchildren are school age. Her divorced son has custody of his twins. He drops them at her house in the morning because he needs to be at work before school starts. They take the bus from there. After school they are either at her home or go to the Boys & Girls club for a coupe hours. My neighbor is still able to work part-time and take vacations - her son simply makes other temporary arrangements (such as dropping them at my house to catch the bus with my children).
posted by LadyBonita at 2:46 PM on October 14, 2006

"Grandparent" is as fluid and incomplete a term as "husband," or "co-worker," or "daughter," or "lover."

Re-read what you've written here:

The idea has been tossed around that either/both sets of grandparents could spend part of the year near us

We talk about part time because they have such a connection to where they live

modern life/career is making [the idea of having family involved in my kids' lives] look undoable

neither set particularly likes the idea of the grandkids living near the other set.

And consider this part of jamaro's response:

[My dad's] case is worth keeping in mind as it took a lot of honest discussion before he was willing to admit that he really didn't want to offer daycare.

Has either set of prospective grandparents been involved in your idea-tossing? Could you and/or your BF be more flexible about your own work options? What's with the competition/resentment between the in-laws?

Definitely talk this over with both sets of prospective grandparents. Keep an open mind as far as your own choices. Realize that you'll never figure out everything in advance.
posted by vetiver at 6:04 PM on October 14, 2006

My parents moved from wtgn ("big" city) to the deep south (cold!) when my brothers family moved there, so they could be closer to the grandkids, and help care for them. (Brother is a farmer, and wife is midwife). Retired early, and sold the house to do so.

But they didn't move to Tokyo when I had my kid!
posted by lundman at 5:53 PM on October 15, 2006

I believe this is common in Asian cultures, and I also know of some [Chinese I think] folks that have actually sent their kids across the ocean to live with the grandparents for the first two years. I had dinner Friday with a guy who moved his parents from Shandong to Shanghai so they could help with his son. He got an apartment that was big enough for everyone and they kept their old house.

My parents and I have talked about this before. My mom made it very clear that she and my dad would love to live near me and be in my kids' lives, but she is not into being a caregiver. She's "already raised her kids" and not interested in doing it again. There's a big difference between being in the same city for the sake of spending time together, and having them provide daycare services.

Also, FWIW, I just returned from a weekend with my grandparents. All of my cousins live in the same city with my GPs, and pretty much completely take them for granted. When the GPs see my brother and me, it's thrilling for everyone since it happens so rarely. I'm not saying that being 8 hours apart is good, but because my cousins see my GPs all the time, they don't seem to be important to my cousins (two older ones missed my grandmother's 80th birthday party because of work [a hostess at a pizza chain] and a softball game). My grandparents have commented a few times in the past several years about the fact that they are basically ignored by my cousins whereas they always get the full attention of my brother and I whenever we are all together.
posted by ml98tu at 7:23 PM on October 15, 2006

Hi, I've been thinking about this overnight. My BF grew up in the same city with one set of grandparents and was very close with them, no "taking for granted" or anything like that. They used to go to football and baseball games and just generally be around for stuff and I know he has a ton of happy memories of their times together. I think my cousins are just little shits (and maybe their parents as well by not instilling the value of family, etc.) and hopefully this is the exception rather than the norm.
posted by ml98tu at 6:18 AM on October 16, 2006

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