When I became a grandma eight years ago, I wished I didn’t have to drive two hours to see my granddaughter. Whenever I visited, my daughter showed me the latest house for sale in her neighborhood. But I didn’t want to move. One of my friends told me: “I’d never relocate near my grandchildren. I’d be giving up too much and it’s such a big risk.”
Recently, I met three grandmas who took that risk. They sold their homes and moved to the Bay Area to be near their grandchildren. Being a native San Franciscan, I know it’s easier moving to the Bay Area than leaving it! Still, these grandmas left family and friends they’d known for 45 years to be closer to their grandchildren. I’m awed by their courage to start over at this stage in their lives, as well as their commitment to their grandchildren.
Mary Ann and her husband raised their three children in Hawaii. After 17 years there, they moved to San Francisco. When they retired in 2000, they moved back to Oahu where they intended to stay. But when all three of their children settled in the Bay Area, the pull was too great. In 2007 they returned to San Francisco so they could be closer to their two grandchildren, 6 months and 2 years. She babysits her daughter’s son two days a week and watches her granddaughter every other week so her parents can have a date night.
Born and raised in New York, Judy sold her home, quit her job, and said goodbye to family and friends last August. She moved to an apartment in San Mateo to be near her daughter and her partner and their five-year old son. She tells people it was like “getting on a train and not knowing where it was going.”
She took the risk because she knew her daughter needed her help and she was willing to make the sacrifice. Three nights a week she stays overnight with them so she can take her grandson to school and help with the housework and cooking. She’ll be even busier when her daughter gives birth to twin boys this month.
Judy’s son and four other grandchildren, ages 8 to 18, still live in New York. She used to visit them once a week. She recognizes the huge commitment she’s made but considers it a blessing to be able re-live her days as a parent and re-learn all the fun things she did with her children when they were growing up.
Anita sold her home in Santa Monica, where she’d lived for 45 years, and moved to an apartment in Berkeley last November. She wanted to be closer to her family and always wanted to move to the Bay Area. She gave up old friends she’d known for 40 years, yet she’s noticed that people in Berkeley are much friendlier than they were in Santa Monica.
Now she babysits her 2-year-old grandson every week and has a bigger picture of him and his personality. Her challenge is keeping her mouth shut when she disagrees with her daughter or son-in-law’s parenting style. She tries to remind herself of the advice a psychologist once told her: “You can never change the way parents raise their children. But it’s important to raise children with grandparents close by.”
Here are some things to consider about moving near your family.
- Getting to know your grandchildren as they grow up.
- Getting help from adult children with decisions such as budget and long-term care.
- Getting help with daily life such as shopping, transportation, and doctor visits.
- Getting emotional support when your spouse or partner dies or you become ill.
- If you didn’t get along with your children when they were young adults, moving near them usually doesn’t make it better. You may have to face the fact that your children may not want you to be that close.
- Your kids may move somewhere else because of a great job opportunity or better education for their kids.
- You may end up doing more babysitting than you want.
- If your kids live in different places in the country, who do you move near?
- Location, weather and cost-of-living may not be what you like.
It may be the best move of your life, but before you pack up and move near your kids, make sure it’s something you think has a good chance of working out.