The Dilemma: Our 39-year-old daughter and her husband had a much- hoped-and-tried-for child last year. They live 150 miles from us, so we have only limited contact with our granddaughter. Our son is 29, in a relationship and lives not far from us. He says they don’t want children. My other daughter is 32, lives locally, and has been single all her adult life, but would like to find a partner and start a family. We see both these children regularly. Our fourth child is married, lives in Australia and will stay there. Recently, our eldest daughter asked us to move near them so that we could play an active role in our grandchild’s life. We are in our early 60s, retired, and could easily move financially. We would love to play a big part in our grandchild’s life, but it would take us away from the others, who might give us grandchildren one day. Should we live our lives in the here and now or wait for what might or might never be?
You’re an all-or-nothing kind of guy, aren’t you? If you’re wondering how I know you’re a man, you’re pragmatic, detailed and entirely unemotional approach to your dilemma is a dead giveaway. I’m sensing nuance is not your thing, but embracing a degree of flexibility might actually be your best option in this scenario.
Before we get specific, may I say a quick “Hallelujah” for the grandparents of this country and beyond. Across the nation and across the globe, the lives of many millions of working men and women are improved and their children’s lives enriched by the selfless dedication and commitment of grandparents.
Perfect grandparents eager to do your duty and torn between the grandchild you now have and the ones who may arrive in the future… Does it have to be such an all-or-nothing choice? You say you are nimble and portable, your ties being mainly to your children, near and far-flung. Why not make a virtue of your no-ties retirement and set out on an adventure that isn’t stamped in stone? How about doing some creative thinking? One thought would be to rent out your current home, use the income to pay for somewhere close to your granddaughter and try out the location and the hands-on grandparenting experience without committing forever?
I’m also not sure, despite your clearly magnanimous impulses, that the rest of your lives should be entirely focused on your grandchildren. Living vicariously through our grown-up children is on a par with abandoning them in adulthood – two extremes of a situation that calls for compromise.
With time on your hands and money to support your ambitions, there are many things you and your wife could be doing – learning new skills, discovering new passions and setting yourselves new challenges. Consider all your options, not just the ones involving your kids’ procreation plans.
Your motivation is admirable and your commitment to your children exemplary, but your plan for the next half of your life could do with more spice. After all, your ability to enrich the lives of your grandchildren will depend partly on how full your own lives are.