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When Grandparents Aren’t Involved

My kids have some awesome, loving grandparents. The problem? Those grandparents aren’t involved in my kids’ lives. My husband’s parents live out of state. Mine live a few towns away. Neither side comes to visit our kids on a consistent basis. And it breaks my heart — because my kids are flippin’ awesome. 

I honestly don’t understand why the grandparents seem too busy to really get to know my kids. My kids regularly ask questions about their grandparents, and I find it difficult to restrain myself from giving a bitter response. It’s not my kids’ fault. It seems that mature, grown-up, empty-nesters have a lack of desire to spend time with my kids. 

So — when my husband and I get really frustrated or hurt about our parents, we make a pact that we won’t be like them.

When our kids have kids, we’re going to be there all the time. Not really, of course. But I sure as heck plan to be a major part of my kids’ AND my grandkids’ lives. I mean, being a grandparent sounds awesome. It’s like I get to be the cool mom without having to discipline and do all the dirty, hard work of potty training, chore charts, homework and life lessons. I just get to hang out, make memories, and spoil them silly. And they’re an extension of me, so how is that not the most awesome relationship ever?!

At times, I get angry and jealous of my friends who have grandparents close by that actually help them. I have friends that go out of town on a regular basis without their kids because the grandparents watch them for a long weekend. Some friends even maintain a weekly standing date night because grandma and grandpa understand the importance of nurturing a marriage amongst the craziness of raising a family. I even know girlfriends who can call up their mom on a particularly awful mothering day and grandma comes swooping in to rescue both daughter and grandkids. 

Ugh. I’m breaking one of the Ten Commandments because I really, really covet that. But I don’t have that. And I doubt I ever will. 

It stinks that I’m not the confrontational type. My parents and in-laws may never know just how hurt and angry their lack of involvement makes me. My husband thinks I need to step up and say something. And I probably should. Not saying anything hurts me more than anyone else. 

But how do you tell your parents that they suck as grandparents?

Whichever way I spin it, it just sounds so petty, mean, and condescending.

So I can’t end with a nice, neat list of how to survive motherhood without involved grandparents. Instead, I want to encourage you moms (and dads) who DO have this to be so grateful for their parents’ involvement in their kids’ lives. Thank your mom for letting you have a day out without kids in tow. Thank your parents for watching your kiddos so you and hubby can have a date night. Thank your dad for coming to your kids’ soccer games and cheering them on. However they’re involved, thank your parents for helping you through this messy life of parenthood.

Because involved grandparents make it a little easier to shoulder the everyday parenting duties.

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17 Responses to When Grandparents Aren’t Involved

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    Brittany Montoya June 19, 2018 at 8:56 pm #

    Totally understand.

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    Paige C June 21, 2018 at 2:19 am #

    Amen sister! I am the confrontational type, well I believe in clearing the air and expressing my feelings. However there really isn’t a good way to bring this up.

    My in-laws live out of state however when we lived near them we had no support. I’d like to say it is because they have jobs (which is true) but the truth is they just don’t want to step out of their own lives. My parents live out of state and are retired, they retired 10 years ago… so it’s not like they are new to the game and experiencing leisure for the first time. Yet they are constantly on the move, busy with their clubs, and don’t seem value their family or visit more than once or twice a year.

    I don’t feel it is my place to speak to my in laws, With my own I’ve tried to broach the subject. “She is asking for you” “why is [insert any random group or event] more important than seeing your grand kid” even going as far as expressing my concerns over the fact that I had absentee grandparents that passed while I was still young. How much I love my parents and I want my child(ren) to KNOW them. They agree, say they will face time more, maybe even move to TN part year… and nothing changes.

    I love them, all of them. When they are around, they are exceptional grandparents. They love my daughter ferociously. They just aren’t around.

    Here is the silver lining; because though I confront issues head-on, I also don’t believe in focusing on things that are out of my control and can add any weight to this thing called living that can be a heavy burden at times…. We are stronger parents for doing it alone.

    We appreciate the small moments or even stealing time for errands i.e “dates” with our spouses… who says mail isn’t sexy? We learn to find resources and means of support outside of family, like ordering groceries online for pick-up rather than shopping in store… then sitting in the car for a few minutes longer than necessary. Just taking in the silence… no?… just me? Or finding friends that we picked to love and support rather than just having the same DNA.

    Oh and I’ll make one last point…. Having parents around might seem easier on paper… but then I’d have to DEAL with my parents… Have you ever met a grandparent that doesn’t judge you for you parenting or make friendly “suggestions” JJJJUUUUSSSSTTT enough to drive their child batty? So hang in there. You are doing GREAT!!!

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    SR July 2, 2018 at 8:06 pm #

    I would be with my grandkids all the time if I could be. My employer would likely object, however, to me missing work to pull that off, and my son might want some space from having Mom around so much. Our kids and grandkids are what keep us rooted to where we live instead of moving elsewhere. I’m ask if I’m encroaching on their family time and try to balance just how much time to seek without being an annoyance.

    Some people don’t know what you need unless you ask. It would be nice if they were more intuitive, but it seems they aren’t. Parents are supposed to advocate for their kids, so outside of your comfort zone or not, if your kids aren’t getting the grandparent experience they crave, speak up! The grandparents who aren’t hearing anything may assume they’re doing what is wanted; they may be picking up on a vibe that no one wants to “deal” with them or the advice/experience they have to offer, or fit them into the family calendar.

    Say something now before it is too late to do so. Say it more than once.

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    Tempest July 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

    My “mother” lives 7 minutes away from me. Refuses to come to her 1st birthday party. Refuses to come to the baby shower. Rolled her eyes at getting a original sonogram picture for Christmas. Says that my daughter isn’t really named after her great grandmother because we chose a variation of the name instead of exactly spelling it the same. My mother who made the beginning of the pregnancy about her and how i should’ve felt obligated to tell her personally. The same woman who on my paternal grandmother death bed refuse to even acknowledge this 8 month old across the room from her in the waiting room while introducing her 4 year old grandson.

    You’re truly not missing out nor your kid truly not missing out when adults refuse to own their actions or inaction when it comes to how they engage with a child and make a point to be in their lives.

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    Pixie July 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm #

    Playing devil’s advocate here, but do you and your husband take the children to visit the grandparents? It is a two-way street. Also, you can’t fault someone for living in a different state. That’s not exactly convenient for frequent visits.

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      Chris July 15, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

      My thoughts exactly. Also, not all grandparents have an empty schedule. Some are still working 60 or more hours a week.

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    Michelle July 5, 2018 at 12:52 pm #

    Love this article and love Paiges response. Good to know we aren’t alone!

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    Becky July 5, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

    We’re in the same boat, however, I don’t tell my kids their grandparents love them. I don’t ever want them to separate love and action. If you live an hour from your grandkids but never call them and rarely see them outside of holidays, that’s not love that’s self centeredness. Love does life together. Love cares what’s going on in your world. Love is there to celebrate successes and comfort during hard times. Love doesn’t merely want pictures of little darlings and tales of their accomplishments to brag to their friends.

    Personally, I’m a poop or get off the pot kinda gal. I think if they’re not going to be an asset in my kids life, they’re certainly not going to be someone my kid has to get over either and I want nothing to do with them. It makes my inner momma bear roar when I hear my sweet 6 yo boy ask why he doesn’t see his grandparents. It breaks my heart to know he takes it as a rejection of him. What I wouldn’t give for him to have the grandparents I had growing up. You’d think after all these years they’d be sick of themselves.

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    Kim July 5, 2018 at 6:49 pm #

    This was our lives as parents of young children. My inlaws retired and moved out of state while I was pregnant with their first grandchild. They visited 1-2 times per year. My own parents died before I had children. We were fortunate to have aunts/uncles who stepped in and filled the gap somewhat. They also lived out of state, but visited more often or had us there, and allowed us a bit of that support. They made an active choice to involve themselves in my children’s lives and my children loved them for it. My inlaws, notsomuch. They know they are their grandparents and they love them in a distant way, but there is no real relationship. It is very sad. My FIL made a comment when my boys were in high school that maybe they’d like to come spend a week with them. We said “Sorry, but you missed that chance. They have their own lives, jobs, activities now. The time for building that type of relationship was when they were young.” My inlaws have moved back to where we live so that we can help them with THEIR LIVES, and needs. It’s really a bit ironic. My children live in the area and see them at major holidays. They are just not part of their lives. You have to grieve what you hoped would be and make the best of what there is. That’s all you can really do, because you can’t change someones heart or priorities.

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    Tina July 5, 2018 at 9:16 pm #

    There should be some sort of “adopt a grandchild program”…I am in my early 50’s and am blessed with 3 grands who I see frequently and am involved with their lives…they tell me often they want what i have…I many friends are dying for their kids to marry and have kids…some know it will be a long time, (or never), and they would make incredible foster grandparents…I don’t know how this could possibly work…but I think it would bless so many families.

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    K Flanigan July 13, 2018 at 5:46 pm #

    I completely understand this. Except for me, my parents are elderly and cannot take care of themselves much less my eight year old. But my ex-in-laws are just now retiring and barely spend time with my son. They may travel the 45 minutes to watch him play in a sporting event, but off they go to live their own busy life. No inviting him over for the day/night. No asking him out to family outings. If there’s a school event they may/not come depending on their calendar. I don’t feel it’s my part to force them to be grandparents. My mom and dad see my son at least twice a month because he’s with me all the time and he knows they adore him and llok forward to him visiting. I feel sad for my boy because my parents won’t be around too much longer, yet his other grandparents are in their 60s and barely know him. I don’t have any grandparents to come get him and take him out and take him places. I do get jealous of the friends that have kids who are close with their parents and my son doesn’t get to experience that with his. But he is loved none the less, and family is family regardless.

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    MaryJo July 13, 2018 at 8:10 pm #

    I totally feel for you because as a young parent years ago, my mom and dad had both passed and my in-laws lived only an hour away but couldn’t be trusted with young kids.
    I vowed and told my kids often that once they grow up and have kids, that I would show them what a grandparent should be like. And I kept that promise when the time came. I would call my daughter’s friend and plan dates for the couples so my daughter and son-in-law could have couple time. I also would use 2 weeks of a 4-week sabbatical and take the grandkids to my house. We would do ‘daycations’ every day going to some park or beach. The kids would be taken back home after the two weeks, much to this grandma’s dismay. I also took the kids for weekends at least twice a month.
    I love kids and still do this with other people’s kids because my grandkids are now teens. If you lived near me I would be thrilled to watch your little ones so you and your husband can have couple time. Maybe some woman at your church (if you have one) who is missing having little ones around like me would be the person who will do this for you. I hope you find someone!

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    Cindy July 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm #

    Maybe just ask them why. You may be very surprised at the answer.

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    T Pratt July 15, 2018 at 10:03 pm #

    Sometimes kids don’t want the parents around, don’t want them to be grandparents. As a pushed away grand parent, this hurts beyond belief. I want to get to know my grandson better, but I’ve been pushed away. Before you judge me, and think I must be a horrible person and done something bad, I have not. It’s a long complicated story.
    Look down at your shoes? Are they the same shoes as are on my feet? Have they walked where I have walked? No, so please don’t try to understand.
    Just know there are also many hurting grandparents out there that would do anything to have a closer relationship with there grands.

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    Sue Schwemin July 18, 2018 at 10:51 pm #

    I love being a grandma! We love being grandparents! However even tho daughter has 6 kids with one on the way we are not asked to babysit very often. I was a preschool teacher for about 10 years and taught Sunday school as well as kids whose divorced parents were going to counseling at our church. Now I volunteer in the Pediatric Unit and the Pediatric ICU unit. I love kids. If you ever need a babysitter or just a day out for sanity. Please feel free to contact me. Your little darlins will be spoiled rotten with crafts and fun games outside and dancing….

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    Linda B October 16, 2018 at 10:08 pm #

    It’s possible they are trying to stay out of your way, not interfere. Have you specifically invited them to events? Just a thought from another perspective.

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    Stefanie August 25, 2019 at 7:20 am #

    My MIL, who is retired and lives less then 10 minutes from us hasn’t seen my kids since Feb. That’s 6 mo. And I’m guessing we won’t see her till Christmas. She doesn’t even call them. I try to tell myself it’s her loss, but I’m sure my two teens wonder what they did to deserve being ignored.

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