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Should You Move to Live Near Your Grandchildren?

A grandma is sitting on a couch holding two young grandchildren
In this 2015 photo, 90 year-old Helen Ruth from Tinley Park, Illinois, visiting her great-grandchildren, Lucas and Abigail in San Antonio, Texas.

Ready or not, you are a grandparent! How did this happen so quickly? Wasn’t it just yesterday your own children were hanging from monkey bars and running gleefully towards an ice cream truck?

But now you are going to be a grandparent. Yes, it’s really happening. And life will never be the same for you and your family. Like it or not, you will need to reinvent yourself in some respects. Perhaps you are looking forward to reliving some of those long-ago days that slipped by too easily while you were saddled with the pressures of everyday parenting. Or maybe you weren’t available to your own children that much and this is a second chance to do things differently this time around. Becoming a grandparent presents so many new challenges and choices. Does that include moving to be closer to your grandchildren?

According to a 2002 AARP study, 80 percent of the grandparents surveyed stated it is important to live near their children and grandchildren. But so much is at stake when deciding to move, even under the best of conditions. So think it through; take a critical look before making any life changes. Here are some questions to contemplate.

How well do you get along with the family?

A grandma poses with her young granddaughter
Sherry Rolczynski, of Davis Junction, Illinois looks forward to her “magical” visits every 3 months with Stella, who lives in Georgia.

Would they welcome you into their lives? Living far away can create such a longing to see your loved ones that you may resort to wearing “rose-colored glasses,” forgetting those life-long conflicts that plague some relationships. Bringing a grandchild into the picture can create healing, but for some, it can also deepen those old rifts or cause new ones.

Take a cold, hard look. As those familiar negative behaviors reassert themselves, you may come to the conclusion there’s good reason for the distance between you. And that distance is not just in miles, but it’s emotional and psychological as well. In some cases, living your own lives, while making time for occasional short visits is the best answer for everyone. It’s best to let go of unrealistic expectations and enjoy the positive moments when they come.

And for those who have strong, positive, and loving relationships, having a frank, face-to-face discussion when you visit can go a long way toward assessing the reality of the situation. Do you all fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, or is the relationship fraught with discomfort of one sort or another? Will you become a burden to your children and grandchildren, obligating them to spend time with you? Will you feel resentful when you can’t keep up with their activities?

Karla and Glenn consider themselves very fortunate to have a son and daughter-in-law who eagerly share the kids and welcome them as grandparents into their family unit. But not everyone has that experience. Increasingly, some grandparents are cut-off, so that there is no longer any relationship left. It’s a sad truth: many families are fractured. According to AARP, there is a growing incidence of grandchildren who are deprived of seeing their grandparents. The reasons vary, and the situations require creative efforts at communication, whenever possible. Sometimes the situations are irreparably damaged and there is no good solution.

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At what cost to your own life?

A large family poses for a photo
Michael Brown (in red) and his wife, Michelle to his left, enjoy time with their children and two grandsons, all of Rockford, Illinois

“Penelope and Roger” get along wonderfully with their daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren who live on the east coast. The kids were growing up quickly, and the grandparents wanted to be a part of their daily lives, instead of just visitors. Penelope longed to be there for the preschool plays, the soccer games, and the ballet lessons. So, after much thought and conversation, they decided to leave behind their small Genoa, Illinois neighborhood, where they had lived for over 30 years. For Penelope and Roger, leaving long-time friends, church relationships and the familiarity of their daily lives was a price they could live with, so long as they were nearer to their family.

Moving across the country means starting over again. Are you sure you are ready for that? Even though you will be joining your family, you will still have to reestablish your way of life, from making friends with new neighbors, to finding a new grocery store, dentist, barber, doctor, not to mention the expenses involved in selling the house and finding another suitable home. Some people just don’t want to make this kind of change, losing their life-long investment in their homes and tearing-up roots.

After just a few years things changed. Penelope and Roger realized the kids, though just in grade school, were getting older and already had their own, busy lives, with little time to spare for grandparents. Missing their old friends, church, and neighborhood, Penelope suggested they might move back to Genoa and pick up where they left off.

So if you are thinking about moving closer to your grandchildren and you believe you’ve sorted out the pros and cons, keep in mind that life has its unexpected twists and turns. You simply cannot depend on the young family to provide you with all your social needs. Just as you did before, you have to develop your own life, and let the grandchildren be the frosting on your cake.

What about the other family members?

A large family, including a grandma and two grandkids, pose for a photo
Helen Ruth, with extended family of 4 generations

Christie Dunn lives in Rockford, Illinois, with her husband Kalvin. Although Christie’s older son lives 1,100 miles away, with his wife and young children, Christie lives within a 2-hour drive from other family who need time and attention. Christie’s younger son lives in Chicago; Kalvin’s daughter and young family are in nearby Wisconsin. Christie and Kalvin both have aging parents, their own meaningful work, deep community roots, and a nearly completed mortgage that keep them planted where they are.

Christie frequently Skypes and pays extended weekend visits every three months or so. Recently, Christie has opted for remote work and substitute teaching, hoping to combine income and flexibility for more extended travel.

How often are you willing to move?

There is no guarantee that your children and grandchildren will remain where they currently reside. Life has many surprises and nothing stays the same. New job opportunities may arise, the military life requires frequent relocation, relationships change, or families may split-up leaving you behind. You just can’t second guess all the possibilities of what may happen in life. All that being said, don’t live in fear of potential negativity. Life is also about choices and chances. Make your decisions based on your best understanding of yourself and your family.

Moving soon? Find affordable local movers to do the heavy lifting for you on our mover marketplace.

How would this move affect your finances?

Grandparents with Grandkids
Gary Smith of Rockton, Illinois, with his granddaughter, Kalleigh

You will need to do plenty of research here. To begin with, compare prices and reviews of local movers to get an idea of the costs involved. Do you want a full service moving company to handle everything, or maybe just rent a moving truck and then hire moving labor? A full service company will send someone to assess your belongings and give you a quote, but be warned, a full service moving company is much more expensive that a DIY move.

According to estimates provided by the American Moving & Storage Association in 2012, the average cost of an interstate move is about $5,630, based on an average weight of 7,100 pounds and distance of 1,200 miles. This information is already several years old, so the costs have likely climbed higher.

Look into unexpected expenses, such as packing materials, insurance, disconnecting and restarting utilities, gasoline, meals, hotel stays, and possibly storage. Take a look at our moving guides to help reveal unplanned expenses, so you can prepare and budget for them.

Decide what household items are worth keeping, or whether it’s more cost-effective to downsize, selling some of your own grandmother’s antiques that have been gathering dust in the basement. If it’s just the two of you, this may be the stage in life where having less will free you up, both financially and emotionally. Having less “stuff” can make your move less expensive too.

Moving to live near your grandchildren is no small decision. Your heart may already be a thousand miles away, but it’s even more important to weigh out the pros and cons before you leap into a new life. For some, a move is the right decision, but other times making smaller, less disruptive compromises, will make more sense for your life.

Make the most of your grandparenting role in whatever way it works for you. Do what you can to make beautiful memories, whatever your situation.

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