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Dilemma: my daughter is moving far away

Katharine Whitehorn / 02 February 2016

A reader is concerned that her adult daughter moving away means an end to the family home and visits from her grown grandchildren.

Woman and daughter
A reader is concerned that her daughter moving away will mean her grandchildren will not visit

Dilemma: daughter moving away

My daughter is going to marry her partner and they are planning to live in the north of Scotland, a very long way from me – I am in the Midlands – and even further away from her children who are in their early twenties and live in London.

My grandchildren come up to the family home about once a month, which is when I see them.

Am I being selfish in hoping that they won’t go so far away? They both work from home so could live in any lovely part of the country within easy reach of me and the children.

I do feel that the children depend very much on coming to their family home if they are ill or unemployed. My house is too small to accommodate them and their belongings.

Katharine Whitehorn’s advice

I don’t think you are being selfish; of course you’d much prefer to have your family around you. But that isn’t the way life goes these days. I doubt if the grown-up children are going to be all that upset by the move – they might indeed hugely enjoy their holidays in Scotland, and anyway they are firmly into their own lives.

It sounds as if the marriage and move to Scotland is a final commitment for your daughter and her partner to their own lives – a new beginning for them – and I doubt if you could stop it.

What if they reluctantly gave up their plans to stay near you, and you only lasted a few more years? But you might be able to suggest you visit them a couple of times a year, or even that you move into their old house and sell yours, so that they, and the children, could still come back when they needed to.

Perhaps, too, you could broaden your friendships outside the family – and don’t believe anyone who says you can’t make new friends later in life.

I receive many letters along these lines and they do get me thinking. Do we see less of our grown children than people used to do? 

When sons and daughters probably lived in the same village – or at least county – as their parents, the problems of meeting were certainly less. Many partings, though, were far more final: in Ireland they would hold an “American wake” for anyone emigrating. 

Now, the chances are that a parent or youngster will take a cheap air flight from time to time, ring up on Skype, send letters and photographs on email; they can be far more in touch than they would have been even 50 years ago.

But even when families aren’t separated by too much distance, there’s a complaint that crops up over and over again in your letters: older, Saga-age parents who don’t see anything like as much of their grown children as they want to. And they complain that they only do meet when they, the oldies, suggest something, only talk when they pick up the telephone.

Distance aside, I think there are reasons for this. As couples nowadays so often have their families at an older age, they’re more likely to be sandwiched between two generations who need them, children and parents. 

Inevitably they have less time for Mum and Dad; and if the mother works as well, maybe no spare time at all. And they have probably not been brought up to think that their parents have the first claim on their duty and time: most of us encouraged our children to enjoy a freedom that our grandparents would have thought ridiculous.

However, we can’t go back and educate them again, so what to do about it? I think once we’ve got into the habit of being the one to suggest a meal, an expedition or an invitation to come for Christmas, we’re probably stuck with it. And we shouldn’t feel insulted if they don’t constantly ring to ask us to go clubbing with them –would we have tried to include our parents in all our festivities?

I’d say we’re justified in making a fuss if, as happened to a reader who wrote to me recently, her sons came to stay but spent all their time in the pub watching football. But the sad truth is that if we grumble too much about not seeing them often enough, we’ll actually see them even less: our best bet is to give them as pleasant a time as possible when we do meet. 

There’s always a place for food as mother used to make it, and the chances are our homes will always be calmer than theirs.

Read our tips for being a long-distance grandparent.

Our readers say...

We also asked our Facebook followers for their advice...

"They have a life to live and so have you change your lifestyle and embrace it."

"Using everyday technology like Skype and FaceTime! Show her now how these work and use them before you move so she will become comfortable with using these! Then you will see and speak to them on a regular basis!"

"It's important that as much as family are important friends are too. The benefits of your daughter going away is that you have a new place to visit!"

"She will only be a phone call away and with modern technology today there are other visual ways to stay in touch."

"My daughter and two granddaughters were in Australia, they are now in America. Closer but still too far away. They have to lead their own lives just like we did. I left my parents when I was 18 to live in Australia. I missed my family and came home to UK after two years. I miss them but we all have to live our own lives."

"Did you or did you not bring your daughter up to be an independent woman as she brought her children up to be independent. You can count on yourself and no one else. Are you worrying about her and the grandchildren or is it yourself that you are concerned for."

"I think you are all missing the point here. Reading between the lines I think this lady needs the close contact of her daughter and grandchildren that she has been used to and she is feeling a little scared and vulnerable by it all. I can understand that as my daughter and grandchildren live five minutes away and my son 30 mins away, I would hate it if I didn't see them regularly especially as I am now on my own. I have friends and do my own thing but still need to see them regularly, we are family."

"Interesting that all these comments are minimising the pain and implying she should pull herself together as it were... actually it hurts like hell when the familiar pattern of family status quo breaks up, and you just have to get on and deal with it. But it is not easy and platitudes about modern technology and lovely visits don't help one jot! She knows all that already. Why do we always have to pretend to be tough and "coping". How about just empathising with someone...? Much more helpful to those who are feeling deep sadness. That said - I wish my grandchildren were as close as Scotland. They are in Thailand and not living with their father (my son) so I do not have any contact at all. Yes one gets on with life and friends and volunteering etc - but the sadness is ever-present, deep and visceral."

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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