A post on Babble recently posed the question of whether or not grandparents deserve a say in where their grandchildren reside. It was based on an article that appeared in the Daily Mail last week about a couple in the UK who took their daughter-in-law to court to try to prevent her from moving to Australia with her kids. The daughter-in-law is a native of Australia and moved to the UK only after her first child was born in order to be closer to her UK-born husband’s family. Once she and her husband divorced, she wanted to move back home with her kids.
The grandparents inevitably lost the case, and for good reason. No matter how much you love and adore your grandchildren, you don’t get to supersede their parents. I made the choice a few years ago to move across the country with my husband for his job. We had a one-year-old at the time and were living in the town where we grew up. He’d reached the highest possible rung on the career ladder where we were, and we both knew he wanted something else. When a chance came for a promotion into a new position with incredible potential, we made the decision to go for it.
It was a stressful choice but ultimately we knew it would be the best for our family. I work remotely, so my job wasn’t an issue. The place we were moving was family-friendly with a good housing market and excellent schools. Most importantly, though, we felt like the move provided the opportunity not just for my husband to grow, but for our whole family to prosper. You can imagine my shock and hurt when I shared our plans with my side of the family and got feedback in the form of having the phone hung up on me, guilt trips, nasty emails, and accusations that I was a selfish, traitorous child for for daring to make decisions about my own daughter.
Obviously my situation is less extreme than a cross-continental move that ended in a court case, but the issue is the same: grandparents who feel entitled to constant access to their grandchildren regardless of the mental, emotional, or financial strain it puts on their parents. Grandparents who think the presence of grandkids grants them a say in the complexities of their adult children’s lives. Grandparents who are confused about where the role of a grandparent stops and the role of the actual parent begins.
I understand the intense love between a grandparent and a grandchild and the very real fear many grandparents have that they will be denied access to their grandkids, but that still doesn’t mean they get a say in where their grandkids live. As parents, we have the right to make choices for our families, just as our parents once did, and someday our own kids will be old enough to make decisions without us. That’s how it works. You don’t get to monopolize your children’s lives for all time, and you don’t get to deny them experiences because you find their choices emotionally difficult.
If you want a good relationship with your grandkids, the best thing you can do is be supportive of their parents. More often that not, parents are just trying to do the best they can for their family and keep everyone happy and healthy. We don’t need another battle to fight. Grandparents are wonderful, valuable people who enrich kids’ lives, but they are not the same thing as parents and it’s painful for everyone — including the grandchildren — when they fail to realize that.