Should You Move Closer to Your Grandchildren?

Three couples tell how they made the decision & why. Plus: 5 questions to ask before deciding if uprooting is an option.

By Judy Harch

Ruth and Joe Bodycott had lived in Pitman, N.J., most of their adult lives. When their son-in-law, Scott Hornung, and their daughter, Janyne, decided to purchase a home just outside Pitman, they invited the Bodycotts to join them in living there. A year later, their granddaughter, Mikaela, was born.

After sharing the home for seven years, Hornung made an announcement. He was being transferred to a different state. Before the Bodycotts could react, their son-in-law asked, "Why don’t you come with us?"

It was a simple question... with a complex answer.

Firstly, the Bodycotts had planted deep roots in southern New Jersey. They relished frequent ballroom-dancing events and enjoyed a large circle of friends. Secondly, though they were of retirement age, they hadn't yet taken the leap. If they were going to relocate, they would have to address the looming question. Then there was the expense of moving hundreds of miles away.

In the end, they decided to go to New Hampshire for one simple reason. "This is our only grandchild," says Ruth Bodycott. "We left friends, but can easily keep in contact with them via e-mail. It's family that is most important to us."

Since starting a new life close to Hornung’s job, the Bodycotts have never looked back. They continue with their ballroom dancing and have befriended other couples with whom they frequently travel. Most importantly, they've been able to spend precious time with their granddaughter.

Family First

The Bodycotts are not alone. Eighty percent of adults ages 45 and older think it’s important to live near their children and grandchildren, found a 2002 AARP study that surveyed 1,500 AARP members who were grandparents. And many grandparents are uprooting and moving to follow through on that belief. Some want to lend a hand to families where both parents work outside the home (the 2006 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in more than six million families with children ages 6 and younger, both parents are working). Others simply want to spend more time with their grandchildren.

Edita Kaye, an Internet entrepreneur from south Florida in her late fifties, made a 350-mile move to Jacksonville in order to be closer to her 18-month-old grandson, Daniel. "The move was easy," says Kaye. She packed her computer and cell phone, along with a few other belongings, and unloaded them in a condo across the street from her only child and grandson.

"Now Daniel and I have play dates. We have dinner. And, I’m a babysitter-in-demand," says Kaye. "I've seen Daniel grow and change almost daily, something I would have missed if I only saw him on holidays or drove up to visit every few months."

As a relocation bonus, Kaye’s daughter-in-law recently announced that a second grandchild, a little girl, is on the way.

Portable Grandparents

When their son and daughter-in-law moved to Texas with 9-year-old Camille and 7-year-old Max, relocating was not an option for Jeanette and Richard Sauers of Newark, Del. for various reasons. Chief among them was that their other three adult sons lived nearby.

The next best option was to make a pact to hop on a plane whenever possible to go and see their grandchildren.

"I promised myself that no more than two months would pass between visits," says 64-year-old Jeanette. "It’s all about continuity. Tradition becomes part of your legacy with your grandchildren, whether it’s reading stories or building gingerbread houses. And you have to spend time with them to pass that on."

Fortunately for these grandparents, the financial burden of frequent flying was lifted. Because their son is a commercial airline captain, the couple flies standby... for free.

Going Often, Hosting Often

Whether to relocate from Highland Ranch, Colo. to Lawrenceville, Ga., where their 2-year-old granddaughter was living, was a tough decision for Ronda and Brian Olson. Ultimately, the Olsons (both extremely active in their community) decided that Colorado was a home they could not leave.

So they visit with their granddaughter once a month, paying for airfare out-of-pocket. Some months, they fly to Atlanta. Other months, they help their adult children buy plane tickets to Colorado. "Yes, there's a high cost involved," says 58-year-old Brian. "But maintaining the strong emotional bond our granddaughter has with her ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’ is priceless."

Relocation Checklist

Considering moving to be closer to your grandchild? Before putting the house on the market, Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of 13 nonfiction books about issues affecting family life, suggests first going through this list of questions. "Having your grandchildren move away is hard," says Dr. Newman. "Giving up the life you know can be hard, too."

• Is your child or his/her spouse likely to have job relocations in the near future? Are frequent moves, every two or three years, likely?

• How jarring would the move be in terms of your own social network? Do you make new friends easily? Can you give up the friends you currently have?

• Remember that your adult children will have a life of their own and commitments that won’t always include you. Will you feel cut off?

• If you’re still working, what are the job prospects at the new location?

• If you’re single, what activities will be available to you? Would you be able to pursue the same activities you currently enjoy?


Being the too easy crutch for children by moving closer to grandchildren can be riddled with unforeseen problems, among them, sending the message that children are not capable of raising their own children.

In moving closer, children may feel obligated to see the grandparents rather than enjoying their own little family, learning the coping mechanisms that work, or don't, and interfering with the family attachments that every family requires for survival, simply because there are now more people's desires, wishes, and expectations to anticipate, and satisfy. On top of dual working that parents have, this can be an enormous burden upon children, as much as it can be a blessing.

Which it is depends upon the personalities of the children, as well as the personalities of the grandchildren, and the local demands upon children, all quantifiable factors where grandparents are concerned. These complexities are worthy of considering in deciding whether or not a move will work for all involved, no easy fixes for anyone. who knew being a grandparent could be so hard?

Jr9del on 2013-06-19 07:32:51

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