Many grandparents ask themselves this question at least once. It can come as the result of many different kinds of circumstances and emotions. But careful evaluation should be done before we jump in the car and drive off on a whim. Some serious questions about our own lives need to be answered along with assessing the true situations of our children and grandchildren.
So the answer to this question is, “It all depends.” But answering these 9 questions will help you to arrive at a conclusion that is best for all.
1. Have You Talked to Your Kids about the Idea?
The last thing you want to do is spring something like this on your son our daughter. You might think they’d love to have you around all the time, but have you asked them? This is not the kind of conversation to have while watching a little league game. If you’re serious about the possibility, find a way to get together in person (not on the phone—not even FaceTime) to discuss it. Maybe go on a mini vacation together so you can focus on hashing through the expectations and practicalities of this decision. The following questions can guide you into making the best choice for all involved.
2. What Is Your Housing Situation?
Do you own a home you’d need to sell or rent out? Are homes in your area and price point selling well right now? If you decide to rent your home, do you know someone who could manage it for you? Would the income from your current house be enough to buy or rent a place near your grandchildren?
Our out-of-town kids live in a very expensive city for housing, and we live in one of the most reasonably priced areas of the country. Our house would only sell for about one fourth of the needed amount to buy a place near them. However, if your situation is just the opposite, then you might be able to swing a move—at least in the housing category.
Do you plan to move in with your kids instead of buying or renting your own place? If so, do they have a room or suite, or even a cottage, available to you? Have you discussed your plans with them? We joke about moving in with our son and his family. Even though they have a guest bedroom, they are not equipped for us to move in—nor do they desire it.
3. What Is Your Income Situation?
Are you retired? If so, your income will not be affected by a move. But if not, can you afford to leave your current job at this stage of your career and life? This question needs to be answered for both you and your spouse if you have one. If you are working and still think a move is realistic, what are the job opportunities where you’re going?
Will the pay and benefits be enough to allow living without too much of a squeeze from your current lifestyle? The last thing your son or daughter needs is worry about your financial well-being.
4. How Much Time Do You Plan to Spend with Your Grandkids?
Will you be the primary daytime care-giver, or do you mostly just want to be able to attend all the activities in which they’re involved? The level of your anticipated schedule should be communicated ahead of time to the family. Unmet expectations can cause family drama to spring from a simple desire to be closer. On the other hand, so can unfulfilled needs.
5. Is the Situation Fluid?
If your child’s life situation prompted your desire to move, is it temporary or permanent? For example, our son suddenly became the single dad of a two year-old. He remained single for a few years, but then he remarried. Our immediate desire in the crisis of the moment was to uproot our lives and go help him.
However, he couldn’t support us, and my husband couldn’t leave his job. In the end, his need didn’t last forever, and our best interest really was to stay put. We managed to visit him more often than we might otherwise have and coordinated our trips with specific times he most wanted our help.
Sometimes, we just have to realize our limitations—and try to determine the best long-term outcome for everyone.
A crisis can seem to call for a quick decision, but often a temporary solution can be found. This will give time to consider all the ramifications of moving. In our case, if we had moved, we’d have wanted to move back in a few years. Our other son married and began a family. We now have two sets of grandchildren to consider.
6. What Are the Long-term Probabilities for Your Son or Daughter’s Job?
Our society is increasingly mobile. Most people in the workforce today will not keep one job for their entire career, unlike those of the Baby Boomer generation. Sometimes a career change prompts a move. Sometimes it happens as the result of a company downsize or other corporate reorganization.
And sometimes a new opportunity comes along that is just too sweet to resist. While some of these can be foreseen, some pop up quite suddenly. If you choose to move, how flexible will you be if your grandchildren’s family moves? Do you think you’d be happy in their location if they no longer live there?
7. Do You Have Other Grandchildren Where You Currently Live?
A related question is this: do you have other grandchildren living in a third location, or more? So the real question becomes, will anybody in your immediate family feel left out if you move? What are the dynamics of your relationships with your children? Will they change if you move? Is the change worth it?
If my husband and I decided to move now, our son who lives here would feel as if we love his children less than his brother’s. Or if another child lived in yet another city, how would we decide which family deserves our devotion enough to move to them—and which others don’t?
You can see the tangled web weaving, can’t you? Again, a crisis in one family might seem to precipitate your move. However, try to find a way to push the decision out to a less stressful timeframe. You’ll be glad you did.
8. How Old Are Your Grandkids?
It can surprise grandparents when the child who lived for every visit from Poppy and Mimi suddenly changes as a teen. Now he merely offers a flippant wave in greeting and then dashes out the door to go spend time with friends. Understanding the life stage of your grandchild can make a big difference in deciding whether to pick up stakes and move.
A preschooler will spend more time with you, and an elementary child will want to see you at every activity plus play games with you at home. But by this time, school takes up most of the day. And a teenager really only wants you around on his own terms.
Grandparents become like pleasant elevator music in a teen’s life—but hopefully she also knows she can find a safe landing place with you.
Given these dynamics, you may decide to wait a few years before making a move. Or you might realize the years have already flown by and if you don’t do it now, the opportunity will be gone. Possibly, you’ve out-waited the years your grandchildren will live at home.
A move to them no longer makes sense. But you still desire to live in the location where their parents do. There is no law stating you can’t move where you want to and when you want to—as long as you’ve thought through the logistics and possible side outcomes.
9. Have You Prayed about It?
Anytime we make a decision, we ought to be talking to the Lord about it. But prayer is especially important when considering a major life change. While the Bible doesn’t speak directly to this question, it does offer counsel on interpersonal relationships and passing down spiritual heritage.
I’ve written in a previous article about how grandparents can leave a legacy in this area—regardless of where we live.
The Lord may lead you to someone who can give wise input that you need. He might speak direction to you through a sermon or podcast. Remaining open and tender to the Holy Spirit’s direction will help you gain confidence that the choices you make please Him.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether you should move to be near your grandkids, but there are a lot of issues to consider. Hopefully these questions have helped you manage the almost magic magnetic pull of your grandchildren—in a grown-up way.
Kathryn Graves, author of the book Fashioned by God, is a style expert, fashion coach, and Premier Designs jewelry consultant. She is also a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, and holds a degree in Psychology. Kathryn helps women discover the source of real beauty in Jesus, freeing them to gain confidence in their personal styles. She is Mimi to three grandsons, and loves to play with color, both in fashion and interior design, and painting with pastels. You can learn more at KathrynGraves.com or find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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