Considering Long Distance Grandparents

Growing up, my grandparents were always a big part of my life. We’d see them at least a couple of times a week, be it trips to the seaside, dinners at their house, them watching me play football or me going to theirs on a Monday to watch WWF on Sky Sports.

This already close relationship got even stronger when they moved into our garage – we did have the garage converted into a granny flat I should point out, it’s not like we attempted to crowbar them in-between the cars! So, they were (and continue to be) a big part of my life, even if my Grandma is the only one still with us now.

It’s therefore a really shitty situation that both my parents and Hay’s parents live so far away. Mine are 3.5 hours away to the North East, whilst the missus’ folks are 4 hours to the North West. We are (and they are) doing everything we can to ensure they feel included and can bond with the little one, but there is no getting around the fact that distance is a massive bitch.

Grandparents and brother meeting baby

My parents and bro cooing over Baby L when they met her for the first time

Unfortunately though, nothing can be done about the distance. It is just the situation that we are in. Hay and I slowly migrated further south, first through Uni, then jobs, and now we are very happily settled in Hertfordshire. This is now our home and I’d very much doubt that we’d ever move back up country. With both sets of parents, or should that be grandparents, happy in the environment they’ve been for years, it is also highly unlikely they’d make a move closer to us unless circumstances changed drastically.

It is a huge shame that our parents can’t just pop by to say “Hi” to us and the little one or take her on an outing for a few hours. Both Hay and I feel really guilty about this as it is us that moved away. It feels a bit like we are depriving our parents of Baby L even though that’s obviously the last thing that we want. There’s then also the fear that when they come to visit they feel like they can’t get involved or they don’t want to step on our toes by trying to make up for the time that they’ve missed because they’re in our house.

There’s not a lot of point in wallowing in self-pity though. It’s more productive to just get on with life and enjoy the time we have when we’re all together. Both sets of parents have been great so far in travelling to us, with mine having been down three times and Hay’s being down twice with a third visit in the pipeline.

Grandparents meeting baby

Hay’s parents looking smitten when they met Baby L at 5 days old

We have been doing a number of things to try and alleviate this distance – I’ve not quite finished my teleportation device yet, so we’ve had to make do with the following methods instead. They’re nothing too revolutionary, but it is definitely helping us cope with time apart and we hope that our proactivity has helped the grandparents cope with the distance and feel involved:

  • Video Chat Via Skype:  It may not be as good as being face-to-face physically, but when distance is involved, it is the next best thing. We’ve Skyped a few times with each set of parents and they seem to have enjoyed the experience of seeing the little one. Despite a few teething problems to start with (I blame the older generation and technology!), they all seem to have realised that video chat is a decent substitute and is much better than just looking at photos or talking on the phone. I hope that we continue to have regular Skype chats which means that the grandparents can watch her grow and interact, whilst Baby L is continually reminded of them as she grows.

 

  • Created A Dropbox Folder For Photos:  During her short 9.5 weeks of life, we’ve taken A LOT of photos. And I mean a lot. There’s only so many you can email over to parents or upload to Facebook without sending yourself (and all those “friends” on Facebook who you don’t talk to) insane. So we decided to set up a Dropbox folder and send the link to our nearest and dearest. We then regularly add photos to this folder every few days in order to keep the grandparents up-to-date with what’s going on and how Baby L is changing each day. This means that we are continually giving them photos for when they get the chance to look at the folder, rather than them chasing us or feeling out of the loop because we haven’t been proactive in sending them.

 

  • Give Them A Job(s):  When both sets of parents came down to visit the first two times, the missus and I were still very much finding our feet. Breastfeeding, changing, bathing, soothing etc were all still pretty new to us, so I guess we didn’t feel too confident involving others in this at the start. This meant that when the parents came to visit, they would have a cuddle and push the pushchair, but not necessarily get down and dirty in the nitty gritty. That changed when my parents stopped by for the third time though – both Hay and I made a conscious effort to include them in as much as possible. They bathed her, changed her, fed her a bottle and got her ready for bed on the first night, then looked after her during the day as Hay and I went to the cinema to have some much needed alone time. Although these are small things to us as we do them every day, they were huge, particularly for my mum, and I think they really enjoyed the experiences.

 

  • Blog And Share: I started blogging as The DADventurer a few months before Hayley gave birth. It was a place for me to record our experiences and it also gave me a different topic to write about rather than just football / betting as my day job. I always intended the blog to be a memory for us and thought that you awesome strangers may take a fleeting interest, but I didn’t really think friends and family would read it. Despite this, both sets of parents have been to the blog regularly, which actually is a pretty good thing as it means that they see and hear about things in a way that you can’t explain over the phone. Again, hopefully it has given them an insight into our lives and made them feel included despite the distance. I’m not suggesting you set up a blog, but thinking of ways to share stories, musings etc has worked for us quite well.

 

  • Arranging The Next Visit:  It sounds pretty obvious, but we’ve found that nailing down the date of their next visit, whilst they are with you, works quite well. Rather than waiting until a few weeks later and then trying to book in a visit, agreeing a date means that everyone knows what is happening and gives everyone something to look forward to. Everyone is busy nowadays, so it may not be feasible for the grandparents to just come down in a few days time. Therefore, arranging something well in advance stops any issues occurring and even has the added benefit of travel or hotels can be booked when they are cheaper.

 

So there we go. These are the five things we are trying to do to ensure that the grandparents are as involved as they can be with the little one despite living a few hours away. Do you have any hints, tips or ideas on how best to cope with long distance? Are your parents on the door step, and if so, is this a good or bad thing in your opinion? Let me know below!

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  • This is super frustrating for me as my husbands mum lives 2 minutes away, his dad lives 20 minutes away and we very rarely see them, yet my mum and dad live 2 hours away and would love to see them all the time but not able too!

    • I can imagine! Nothing like being on the door step but not taking advantage when others would love to be so close. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • shannonagains

    You’re right – distance is a bitch. Similar to you, I grew up with a set of grandparents a stone’s throw away… they lived in our driveway (in a huge caravan – this was in America). Now my parents are in Oregon and inlaws are in Scotland. We’re in London. Skype/Facetime certainly make it easier and we’re getting as many trips in as we can, but it still sucks. Like you said, it’s best not to wallow and just get on. I try not to think about it too much. That Dropbox idea is great though – I hadn’t thought about that. #binkylinky

    • Makes me feel bad for complaining about a 3.5 hour drive when your folks are in the States! Exactly – just got to get on with it as worrying or being annoyed won’t change anything, but still super frustrating! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Joy and Pops

    Lovely post and some good ideas. My parents live in Spain and we rely heavily on Skype, it has made a world of difference. My dad has always worked away (merchant navy) and I still remember growing up with only one letter a month back from sea (even before email – feel so old saying that at only 32!!) so we both love Skype!
    My husband’s parents literally live around the corner and see the girls everyday, which is lovely but does make me miss my parents more sometimes.
    Hadn’t thought of Dropbox, great idea.
    Xx

    • Thanks 🙂 As I said below, makes me feel bad for complaining when other people’s parents are abroad! Wow, what you describe makes it sound like the 1960’s! Must be nice that your husband’s parents are around the corner, but yeh, like you say, I can imagine it makes it even harder for you.

  • Mum in a Nutshell

    I couldn’t live without FaceTime to see my niece & nephews. The great thing is my baby niece knows who I am when we do get to see her thanks to this wonderful piece of technology. great post thanks for linking up with #binkylinky

    • That’s awesome and exactly the type of thing we want. With tech nowadays, being able to see someone and interact is the same whether its virtually or physically, but obviously the latter is preferable. Great that your niece recognises you.

  • Twinmumanddad

    I used to see my mums parents once a week when I was growing up and my dads parents usually just on special occasions. They both lived within a 30 minute drive. I think it’s important that grandparents play a big role in their grand childrens lives. Sadly my twins won’t really know of their grandparents. I like your ideas, they’re great. Thanks for linking up to the #binkylinky

    • Yeah, I think grandparents play an important role, both as advice and as babysitters! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Agree with your point wholeheartedly. Mr. Small People Big Ideas’s family is a v. large, v. close family, all in Canada. We get by with weekend Skype and daily (ahem, sometimes hourly) sending of photos and videos. A helpful thing, I’ve found, is to make sure visiting time isn’t just visiting everyone, but they get some one-on-one time with the children too, because it’s just not the same with us around. It has to be a conscious thing because it doesn’t always feel right leaving when the grandparents have come to visit, but I think that grandparent/grandchild one-on-one time is so valuable and one of the big things distance families can miss out on 🙂

    • Yep totally agree – the spending time alone is something we found useful last time. If the grandparents are given full responsibility (if they want to) and you go out, then they aren’t reliant on you to tell them or show them what to do (or take over!). Helps to bond and feel part of it all. Wow, Canada, that’s a looooong way!

  • Victoria Welton

    I am so with you on this. My Mum is now 2 hours away and Ross parents are 45 minutes so not dire but still a bit of a distance. I love your tips – I need these in my life! Thank you for linking to PoCoLo 🙂

    • Distance is still distance, even at 45 minutes. I grew up in the next village to my grandparents, so anything over a 5 minute drive feels a long way away 🙂

  • Merlinda Little

    My parents is 24hours away by plane. The last time that they saw my son he is 4months old. Now he is 4 and they havent seen him still cuz the plane fare is expensive.Technology is a great help for us to connect with them as well. My mother who’s got poor eyesight reads more like look at the blog so I make sure that my photos are massive! I dont what ill be w/o the net. #pocolo

    • It’s a shame when things like cost come into it. I guess I’m lucky that we can just jump in the car, whereas a plane is so much more expensive and more of a hassle. Yeh, technology is such a help. Haha, bless, I like that you make the photos big on your blog 🙂

  • Lovely post, my in-aws are in South Africa and it’s so hard to see them once a year at best, my own parents are 15 mins away and it makes such a difference having them here for love and support. We skype my in-laws when we can and call but we really miss them. Thanks for linking up x

    • Wow, South Africa is a long way. And I’m complaining about 3.5 hour drive. At least the likes of Skype help to make the distance more manageable. Makes me wonder what people did 20, 40, 60 etc years ago. 🙂

  • DadWithoutAMap

    Great post. We’ve just been back to see Baby B ‘s grandparents, my mum and dad, in Newcastle. I agree it’s so hard not being able to see them more easily. When I moved away many years ago I didn’t appreciate how they must have felt. Now I’m a dad the thought of being miles away from B is awful. They come to see us every couple of months but it’s harder to travel up there without a car. Thank goodness for Skype!

    • Good point. As a youngster, we move away from home for education, work etc, but ultimately we are leaving the people that raised us. Thinking about that with our little one, as you say, isn’t a nice thought. Cheers for the comment 🙂

  • Allison

    Great post. As an expat mom I too struggle with all the emotions of feeling guilty and yet trying to also just “get on” with life. But I do feel like being faraway from home has in part defined my experience as a mom. I know there are so many different struggles that long-distance families face and so I recently launched a website http://www.closertothekids.com for long-distance families with young kids. One of our main focal points are specific, easy ideas to make it easier for kids to stay close to family that live far away. Hope you will find it helpful with your parents and in-laws.

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