I was making one of my famous pro/con lists when I realized that this exercise just wasn't going to work. Most of the pro's also turn out to be con's.
Now this list has been in the making for at least six months. Right after THE job interview I was coming to grips with the fact that although we had been waiting for years to be closer to family, I didn't really expect closer to be that close. I was thinking single digit hours away, not in their backyard.
So what are the PRO's of living in the same city as your in-laws?
That is where I have to stop and remind myself that just because I think something is a pro, doesn't mean that things are going to work out that way. I mean, how often do things go just as according to plan when you haven't discussed your plans with the other party - you just suppose that they would want to do what you want them to do?
It will be great! Free babysitting, family dinners, afternoons at grandma's pool, etc.
Well that could happen. The reality is that my in-laws (who would be the ones in the backyard, my family was sensible enough to live in a tiny rural town that doesn't need a neurosurgeon, let along a hospital) already have an established routine of taking care of grandchildren and have since the first was born 8 years ago. They are the second set of parents to these children. It just happens that the grandchildren I am speaking of aren't the ones that I produced.
See, their daughter lives 1 mile away from them and has two children. Daughter and son-in-law both work and the grandparents pick the two children up after school every afternoon and keep them until 5:30 when one of the parents come to pick them up. They even take care of starting the homework and sometimes feeding them. Often they will watch the kids on the weekends or evenings, too. I know if I had already spent the afternoon taking care of two kids, the last thing I would want to do when those 2 left is watch another 4 for the evening!
In addition to that, the grandparents both volunteer with their church three days a week. They are 75 and 68 years old. They are involved in so many things. By the end of the week they are exhausted. And rightfully so. I know I am exhausted!
They are so involved with the lives of these grandchildren that the line between parents and grandparents is rather blurry. From the time they were infants the grandparents provided childcare while the parents worked. When the parents filed bankruptcy and lost their house, they purchased a house for them to rent a mile away as an investment (since the market had just bottomed out) and because they wanted to make sure their grandchildren had a good place to live, with good schools. They even sold their convertible so they could buy a car that would allow them to transport their two grandchildren without having to do the car swap with the parents every time. Their lives are entangled.
They have been in this pattern for so long that I am frankly afraid that our being in the same city with them is going to interrupt their lives or perhaps more afraid that our being there won't interrupt their lives at all. That we won't see them more than once or twice a month unless we initiate it.
This kind of happened this past spring/summer when we lived 15-20 minutes away from them for two months. We hardly saw them. Despite the fact that they knew where we were, passed within a couple of miles of our house twice a week, and that we had nothing to do, and no where to go. We were just waiting, living out of suitcases, passing the time, by ourselves. When we did get together it was awkward and didn't seem natural. Probably because it isn't normal or natural for us to be with them... we didn't get to visit them very often, and in our history have only been to visit them 3-4 times for a week at time - but never in their home.
We don't know how to have a casual family relationship. I know that sounds really odd. All of our experiences with them have been scheduled blocks of time, usually in our home. That meant we had places to go, things to see, food to try, we were out and about because they were our guests. We would see them 24/7 for a week or two at a time once a year. Never for a couple of hours here and there, or to just swing by unannounced. We have always know when we would see them, how long, and what we would do well in advance.
I am probably making a mountain out of a mole hill. I don't know how to reconcile my feelings about this situation. I want to have a healthy relationship with them. I want them to be a part of my children's life. I want my children to have some of their time and attention that has been showered on their other grandchildren. I don't want my children to see what I see.
This has also played a part in choosing a part of town to live. We are going to a large metropolis area so there are several communities that we are looking at. Do we try to find a place near them? Do we find a place that is near where they volunteer so as to be in their path? Do we find a place on the other side of town? Does any of it make any difference? Will any one location guarantee that we see them more than another?
My husband likes the area near where his parents live, but I don't think I could live that close. If we aren't going to see them much anyway I would just as soon live far away so I can blame the distance as the reason we don't see them.
Who would have thought moving near family could be so complicated? I had romanticized the idea without considering that it required that people act and behave the way I think they should and would want to. I didn't take into account that I might be delusional and setting myself up for major disappointment.
Free babysitting? We don't need it now. I will pay someone to watch our kids, it won't be the end of the world.
Family dinner? We will still have them, we will just be the ones to invite them and if they come they come, we will still eat.
Afternoons at grandma's pool? No, we are going to get our own pool!
Can anyone tell me what a normal, healthy, family relationship looks like?