Half a century ago most families stayed in the same area. You lived your life in close proximity to most of your relatives. Children would marry and move away from home. This “moving away from home” usually meant a few miles, or at most, they established their roots in the next town.
There is an old Dutch proverb that says: “A happy new home is one where you can’t see the smoke from your parent’s chimney.” That may be true, but everyone you knew lived within an hour of each other.
Things changed dramatically in the last half of the 20th century and North American families are now spread out geographically.
Children went to the city to further their education and never returned to the area where they grew up. Maybe they met their future husband or wife and ended up moving across the country when they married. Good jobs required moves and relocation if you wanted to move up the ladder. Transfers moved families all over this country. You’ve done your best to keep in touch, but it’s just not been the same as living near your family. Some of your grandchildren are already as tall as you and you don’t feel you really know them as well as you would like to.
Retirement gives you a lot of choices
Should you stay where you are or have you always wanted to move closer to your children and grandchildren? Do you know for sure that they want you closer to them? Will you be able to make new friends when you move or will you be relying totally on your family for the relationships you need in your life?
Will you end up becoming a baby sitter, cook, cleaner and gardener for your adult children? Maybe you can’t wait to be able to help them out, but you need to consider these things in advance.
What about your son-in-law or daughter-in-law? How do they feel about having you closer? Have you been open with each other and talked through all the issues in advance? Do they have blended families and how will you grandparent role fit with stepchildren?
Maybe you are moving because of guilt. You feel that you haven’t spent enough time with them or they want you near because they feel guilty about not having made enough effort to get together with you in the past Adult children and their parents sometimes play games with each other. Adult children may send messages they feel their parents want to hear or messages that will not upset their parent, rather than what is true. So, be careful and above all be honest with each other before you pull up stakes.
What if you follow the kids and they don’t have time for you?
Remember, their life is probably a balancing act right now. They are responsible for many things and many people, and their schedule may be very full! You probably have expectations about the help you would like from them at this stage of your life. Can they meet your expectations and will it be a joy or a burden for them?
“Knowing what it would be like” is often difficult to achieve without “actually doing it.” If you move, you would be wise to arrange for help from other sources for some of your needs so as not to rely totally on your family and overwhelm them. Make it a comfortable transition for everyone involved.
Do you get the feeling they want you closer?
If so, you are the most fortunate person in the world! Seize the opportunity… Family is everything!
© Allen Unrau, used with permission
This article was written by: Allen UnrauPhoto Credit: Annie Spratt