Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Pro/Con List

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?



  1. Yep - families are complicated. I think all your questions and concerns are valid and fair. It is important to not place high expectations on the whole situation. Make your immediate family your priority (which you have). Choose a place to live where you are all comfortable and have the schools you want. If possible have a chat with the grandparents - "hey we know you are busy and we don't want to overwhelm you but we would like to see you guys regularly and for the kids to develop a good relationship with you as their grandparents - we don't need babysitting, we don't need you to host us - we just want to spend time together relaxed" - no matter what it will take time and adjustment. I agree with you - you don't want your kids to see what you see. Good Luck
    Chey xo

  2. Oh, this is so frustrating. I know the feeling because we live this scenario now. My in-laws live a few miles from their other son, daughter-in-law and one year old grandbaby. They provide free childcare every single day, gave them a downpayment for a new house, and sold their OWN car to pay for a new roof for my brother-in-law, etc. When they had their baby, they literally bought EVERYTHING for the baby...furniture, clothing, carseat. And a year and a half later, they still supply every single diaper the baby wears. I'm due with my first baby in four weeks, and they just informed us that they aren't coming to visit or meet the baby for a few months because they have to stay home to "take care of(the other baby)". OH BOY. (We live 27 hours away.)

    I vote that you shouldn't make your decision of where to live based on your in-laws location or convenience. They either will decide to make you part of their lives or they won't, but you can't do it for them. Good luck!

  3. I think you should live where you and your husband want to live. Since the grandparents haven't vocalized an opinion or wish to help, I would pick the area that is best for your family.
    We are very lucky with family. My parents live very close by and help out whenever they can. When the kids were little, they would get mad at me if I DIDN't bring them over/let them babysit. My in-laws live in a different state. They come visit whenever they can and are a wonderful help around the house and with the kids.
    As far as how your in-laws interact with you and your family, I would say look at the relationship they have with their daughter. Maybe they are closer to their daughter? Maybe because it's their daughter's children they feel more comfortable caring for them? I know my parents love my sister-in-law, and they want to care for my brother's son as much as they can, but they feel they have to hold back. They fear being overbearing on my sister-in-law. I definitely see a difference in how my parents interact with me and my sister-in-law. They love their grandchildren the same, but when my kids were little, they spent more time with my kids than my brothers.
    Anyhow, that's just the dynamic I've noticed in my family. Hope it helps! :)

  4. This is the exact same family dynamic we will be moving to but the difference is I don't want my kids to know their grandmother AT ALL (because she is mentally ill, evil, messy, etc you name is she flies the crazy flag) and my father in law has grown on me but he is easily distracted. What is NOT normal is the relationship YOUR inlaws have with their daughter. You can't change that. All you can do is LIVE YOUR LIFE FAR FROM THEM and know your SIL will be jealous of you (if not to your face behind your back), your MIL might even be jealous of you too (mine is) and you can't seek their acceptance. Live your life, let your husband see what he doesn't want to see: no matter how much he tries his parents have their head up his sister's ass and could care less about him or his situation and one day when you have a birthday party or holiday gathering and "forget" to invite the grandparents they might ask "well why didn't you invite us?" you can say: "oh my goodness we've live here for years I had no idea you wanted to be a part of our life in THAT way. Please feel free to come to our events. You are always welcome." And when your kids ask why they dont' see their grandparent's more or why the "other" kids get so much more attention be honest: well you see your aunt and uncle made poor decisions for their family and they are not independent enough to care for their own kids and responsibilities. THAT is the exact way NOT to live. MAke sure you and hubs are on the same page about your message to your kids. Moving closer to THAT kind of family situation will force ALL issues in your marriage whether you like it or not. I can only hope you and DrH are on the same page about passing judgment (nothing wrong with using examples kids understand of how NOT to live-it's important as kids get older to give them expectations and don't just assume they learn this stuff because they dont and if you don't talk about it they might interpret things the exact way you hoped they hadn't), setting goals and living your life. As others have mentioned LIVE your own life. The life of a surgeon family is VERY different than the life of non-surgeon family. Live farther away so they can't judge your car, your trips to the country club, your gardener, housekeeper or babysitter or preschool. The grandparents will come knocking but for now, play hard to get. Don't force yourself on them. Let your husband see what YOU see and find a therapist who can help you two navigate these waters. I speak from experience. I lived THAT exact situation. Putting your head in the sand will only lead to anger and frustration on your part. Think ALL these years you sacrificed your husband away from home because he was training....do you want to sacrifice him now because he spends is free time seeking his family's acceptance and he wants his parents to want the same things he wants? Sounds miserable! Focus on your nuclear family. Enhance those bonds with the six of you and I promise when grandparents come knocking your life will be so full you'll have to go out of your way to welcome them and then the dynamics will be "normal". Grandparents doting on YOUR kids and SIL and her husband just having to "live with it". Just be glad that sister doesn't live WITH grandparents like one of my MANY SIL's!!! And here is the most important question: would you have chosen this job in this city if there was no family present? I hope the answer is YES. you don't want to move to a city hoping for a relationship with people who don't want the same thing as you.

  5. I hear you in the fact that in-law relationships sure are complicated! My in-laws live in southeast Asia, so in a sense we have it "easy" as they will never drop in unannounced, but it's pretty hard to feel like part of the family. But my husband's sister lives near them, and my MIL, like yours, sees our niece and nephew every single day. Then I have my MIL asking why we don't come and visit, while my husband says he's not interested in going there any time soon -- ARGH! I leave him to negotiate the relationship! The weird thing is knowing that whenever they do come to visit in the future, I'll be with them day-in and day-out, and I barely know them.

    Anyway, I feel for you! I hope you're able to find a happy medium between having your own life and developing a closer relationship with your children's grandparents.


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