Having my mother in law from the Dominican Republic is always so bittersweet. The boys really enjoy the company of their “Abuela” despite the fact that she goes to bed with the roosters and wakes up with them. I see how happy they are to see her as they are getting older, and it really makes me happy. It also makes me sad for their sake, that she lives so far away. The last time they saw her was two years ago and the last time they saw their Abuelo, my nine year old was six months old. I often sit and think how can grandparents be so absent in the lives of their grandchildren? My mother lives a borough away and she is absent as well. Am I the only one feeling this way?
I use the grandparents of my children as a prime example of what I REFUSE to be as a grandmother. Abuela lives in DR and she NEVER calls. She claims the calling cards are extremely difficult to purchase. I totally understand that, but she has long distance on her phone service. Many times my husband has told her to call and hang up, and he will call her back. Her excuse, “they still charge me”. I don’t care how much I have to pay, I would pay a million dollars just to say, “Merry Christmas, I love you!”, just so my grandchildren could hear my voice. They will forever remember that I took the time out to call them no matter what the cost.
Abuela has missed birthdays after birthdays and holidays after holidays. The boys still accept and receive her when she comes because they just want a grandmother I gather. You would never know that she was away for two years as they cuddle up to her and love spending time with her. Her response, “Ellos conocen familia” (they recognize family). In my heart it hurts that they only get one week of her, every two years. If she only knew all the beauty she has missed- does she even know?
Since the death of my father, my mother has traveled back and forth to Puerto Rico. She has missed countless birthdays and holidays as well. She lives the life she didn’t live when my father was alive. She doesn’t want to be held down and therefore has never stayed a night with our boys, babysat them for the weekend and her motto is, “you make your bed, you lay in it”. I’m okay with that, in fact I didn’t have my children for others to take care of them. My boys weren’t a mistake and therefore they aren’t a burden, but they do have grandparents. In my eyes, that’s what grandparents are for. Grandparents are the extension of that child’s parents. They should be able to spend quality time with them and create memories. Tell me what grandparent doesn’t want that?
Writing this post is even more difficult because my children have two grandmothers who are alive and a grandfather but they don’t get to see them. I often think, “am I the only one that thinks this is odd?” Grandparents who don’t play a role in the lives of their grandchildren? It’s hurtful and I want more for my children, but I don’t know what to do and where to begin. Is it even worth talking about? They have missed so much time- one is going to be four and the other is ten years old. They can’t ever get back this time and guess what? That’s something THEY will have to live with for the rest of their lives!
Weigh in: Do your children have absentee grandparents?
((Eileen)) — I feel your pain. I grew up with very involved grandparents — especially my father’s parents who stayed with every summer — and when I first became a mother that was my frame of reference. Needless to say, I was very disappointed and mourned the fact that my children didn’t have that as their grandparents live far away and work full-time. (My grandmother was a stay-at-home grandmother.)
Now that my children are 9 and 6, over the years, I have established a community of honorary tios and tias right here in California. I mourned and let go of the fact that my children will never have what I had in terms of involved grandparents. But that’s okay. I know what kind of abuela I will be when I grow up. 🙂
Eileen Carter-Campos says
Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
I completely agree with you!
It’s just such a shame…but yes, life does go on 😉
Chelsea Nolan says
I feel the exact same way. It truly makes me mad, although I don’t express it ofcourse. My ex who is my sons dad is an emotionally abusive person w narcissistic tendencies. His family lives in FL* west Palm Beach!!* We live in alabama. I completely understand that it’s not anyone’s fault for the long distance situation. However, it is so very wrong how they quit talking to him -he’s 4- quit facetime etc but the worst is the fact that they literally wouldn’t event call to say happy bday or merry Christmas, and it was the first year they didn’t even bother to send so much as a card. I don’t expect money or gifts at all, it’s not about that, however, for the past 3 years it became a thing that he would get a package in the mail and be so excited and it was a couple little gifts. And I wouldn’t be as bothered if they hadn’t done it the previous years, but the sudden change is plain wrong to a child, and he is well aware of it. Just the other day he said “papa Tom and mimi love daddy but not me ” !!!! I literally have never talked badly about his dad or the parents or anyone to him. He formed that all on his own. Children can seriously feel and know deep down. I appreciate reading this. Whenever I feel bothered or sad about soemthing I google it. And it makes me feel that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I wish the best of happiness to you and your family☺
I can understand where you are coming from. My mom is a wonderful grandmother to my son. She adores him and is always wanting pictures and videos. My MIL on the other hand is not as “attached”. She’s in her own world and contacts us occasionally. The big difference is that my son is my mom’s first grandchild and my MIL has a few already. Regardless, I think that grandparents play an important role in a child’s life and should always be in touch with them.
Eileen Carter-Campos says
Thanks for reading and commenting!
I understand–the funny thing is both my children were the first grandchildren
on both sides. I can “kind of” understand my MIL because she’s in DR…but my mother?
She’s in one borough away– NO EXCUSE!!!
I guess I will use them as examples of what I REFUSE to be!!!
Ana Z. says
I completely understand you. My parents are amazing grandparents to Lucas. We live close by and they see him every day. They are always there for him and have never missed any celebrations. My grandparents as well. Lucas is their first great grandchild and although they live in Miami, they call me to check up on us and we do the same. We visit them whenever we can and they also come here. But, my husband’s grandmother who’s like a mother to him because she raised him, has very rare been there for Lucas. She lives about 40 minutes away but doesn’t make an effort to come visit. She doesn’t drive so I understand. But she does have family members who can drive her here. We often times visit her during the weekends but I rarely see her trying to make a connection with Lucas. She has never been present for Lucas’ birthdays and was not there for his birth. One thing that bothers me is that she’s not like that with her other grandchild. She flies to Miami to visit him and all. But, like you said, those who are not involved are the ones who have to live with that.
Great post. 🙂
My boys don’t see any of their grandparents. My parents are divorced & live across the country. My in laws live 35 miles away & have nothing to do with us or our boys, unless we call to go to them. My husband has spoke with them about it & it’s excuses & they say they aren’t welcome in our home, which is totally false. I’m at my wits end about it all & pray things change.
I have issue with my in laws as well. my daughter is 3 1/2 and for the first 8 months of her life they seemed happy and involved with her, once their favorite younger son had a baby girl that was it for my daughter. they even sold their house my husband grew up in and would have paid off in a few years to a brand new spanking house just a mile away from their younger son. they don’t call or text my husband to see our daughter and she often asks about them. it hurts me to see my parents are the only ones on her life and when we do visit the in laws they’re always watching everything our daughter does and gets on her if she gets into her cousins toy chest they’ve dedicated for just the other granddaughter but not ours. so sad and upset when we visit only twice a year, only live 45 minutes away, no interest in my smart, beautiful,precious daughter.
I totally understand although in my situation my parents live 1 mile away!! Yes 1 mile. My daughter is almost 4 and has yet to have one play day at gmas house or to spend the night. Breaks my heart really. She is too little to understand what she is missing but I wish she had involved grandparents. There will be weeks that go by with no contact and never just pop in visits. I don’t understand it but know I will not be like that when I have gkids. She is quick to want pictures to show off to work friends but has yet to put out any effort to spend time with my kids. I wish it was different but what can you do. It sucks when you see how involved other gparents are and I yearn so bad for that.
I am a grandmother of 2 beautihul granddaughters. I live 5 minutes away, but have very rare contact because my son and daughter in law shut me out. I feel your pain from the other side.
Silver Chic says
From another perspective: I am also a grandmother of two school-age granddaughters who I moved from quite a distance away (with my husband) to be close to. They have another grandma (my DIL’s mother) who is not married and has been very involved in their lives since birth. (She was not as involved as she should have been when my DIL was growing up so this is her chance to make up for it with the two granddaughters and so she has made them her whole life).
I, on the other hand, was able to be a SAHM to my own son and my daughter (who also has kids in another city). I loved every minute of being a MOTHER and am so happy I didn’t work when my two kids were growing up. Maybe I got the mothering need out of my system but now that I’m a grandmother I find it more difficult than being a mother. With my own two kids I felt so loved by them but my grandkids are much more critical and I don’t feel like they are happy being around me. So I have turned to other things
to find happiness (hobbies, travel, etc). I do still see the kids/grandkids for holidays, etc. but it’s not like I thought it would be.
I’m just happy that I had such a wonderful MOTHERING experience so I can accept the more absentee role that I play as a grandmother to the five grandkids I have.
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What a beautiful yet heartbreaking scenario. It is both children and the absentee grandparents that will lose out. Unfortunate. I love all of my grandchildren, their little hugs and kisses.. their “I love you’s” and snuggles are the best. I even love my kids friends babies, like they were my own. Because in my heart, they are all grandma’s kids. Sorry for your situation and no, I don’t understand un-involved grand parents.
Billie Jo says
I have the opposite problem. I want to be involved but the parents (my biological son/gf and my stepdaughter/bf) refuse to allow us. I totally feel for you as I know what it feels like wanting that connection. My heart and prayers go out to you and your little ones. I would do adopt them as my grand babies, they are very gorgeous, precious. Hugs
I feel your pain. My mother was horrible narcissistic grandmother and my MIL pretends to the giant extended family to help us , that she the perfect grandmother, and she doesn’t unless my husband forces her. She misses every piano and dance recital, birthday party, every important event of my child except the big holidays where all the family gathers, she puts on show for a day. I’m tired of her and how she states to family how involved she and her husband are. I’m sick been having doctors appointments and MIL made me drive to get her before I went to my appointments and then acted angry that I didn’t schedule doctor appointment in her town. She talks about family and how family takes care of each other, when I brought this up when asking her to sit she ran out of the room screaming at me. It kills me that relatives and friends tell me everything she does. She’s very charismatic and fun and would be great grandmother if she put forth effort, but she’s just a bit phoney.
I also grew up with very involved grandparents, we used to live with them every summer, and they visited or even visited every Sunday, have big family meals, they brought groceries and helped with everything. My husband’s grandparents practically raised him since his mom was a single mom. Now that we have 4 kids and are expecting another we have grandparents that could care less. One grandma lives about 40 min away and doesn’t even bother with Christmas or birthdays, just sends a check, and throws a royal fit if we ask her to help when someone is hospitalized. She’s retired and has money and doesn’t do anything with her time at all. The other set lives 1500 miles away and they don’t really care either unless we drive 9 hours to see them at my sisters house. Then often don’t see their grandkids until they are 6,8,10 months old and then don’t bother much with them. It’s very hurtful especially when they spend lots of time with their other grandkids. What makes it even worse is that the family that we have here is very involved and with the aunts and uncles they are very good to our kids and are very involved in their grandkids lives all the time. My kids see this and are very hurt by their grandparents not caring. I guess you can’t expect everyone to care.
My Oldest son lived with and was raised by my mother and stepfather. They chose to keep my Dad and step mother at a distance from my son who is now 20 yrs old. When I had my youngest son my husband and I lived with his mother and Stepfather.
He never knew his dad. When my father in law passed away 4 years ago my son’s grandmother moved away to another state we live in MA and she moved to GA. She didn’t say goodbye. Doesn’t have contact with our son and she’s on his social media. It’s mind blowing. I grew up with Sunday Dinner and holidays shared between the 2 sets of grandparents.
Meanwhile I have a 4 yr old grandson and I have been kept from him for the last yr and a half because his other grandparents and mother. I have cards and presents for every birthday, Easter, Christmas and Valantines day. He will get them.eventually. I only get pictures from other people. It kills me so how grandparents,aunts, uncles OR parents can be absent I don’t understand. Even though my Mother raised my oldest I wasn’t absent.
I can totally relate to all of the comments here. My mother for the longest time complained for years how she didn’t have any grandchildren and now she has 4 and has little to no contact with my son or my nieces. My son barely knows my parents and the couple of times in which he has seen them, my dad gets insulted because my son won’t just run to him and hug him. My son is 7 and my parents have never called to talk to him or wish him a Happy Birthday. Although my parents are not involved in my sons life, my father has recently gotten on some kind of religious bandwagon about the fact I don’t take my son to Sunday School and Church!
Then there’s my father in law. A couple of years ago, he was at our house when our son was to celebrate turning 5 and at the last minute right before our son was to open his presents, my father in law asked my husband if the big gift we had purchased and put much thought into giving to our son could be from him!!!!! My husband gave in!!!! This is from a grandfather who can drive, doesn’t work and does have enough money to buy his only grandchild a gift!!!! The man is simply lazy and won’t get off the couch to go to the toy store or even visit the Internet to buy a gift! To make matters worse, my father in law only seems to want to shower my son with attention when it appears other family members are paying attention. My father in laws family holds a family reunion every couple of years and there was one year when I couldn’t take off of work because my team was down on resources. I explained this well ahead of time to manage my father in laws expectations. I know he was peeved about this but the one year we did go, he show boated my son around in front of the relatives but after the family reunion, my father in law dropped out of sight. While some could take offense to this comment, grandchildren are not objects to be shown off – they are little people that have real feelings and it’s not fair of any grandparent to be doting and act like they care just because there are other relatives present. I always dread Grandparents Day at school or when my son sees his friends with their grandparents because he gets sad and has asked me why he doesn’t see his grandparents. It’s really tough and I try to keep the explanation very simple. Last Thanksgiving, my mother bought my youngest niece a onesie that said something like spoiled by grandma. When my very vocal middle niece read what was on the onesie, she said out loud in front of family “Grandma doesn’t spoil any of us! She doesn’t remember our birthdays!” Kids are smart and they know. I know this comment wasn’t taken well by my mother but Grandparents need to acknowledge that kids really do know the difference between an involved and uninvolved grandparent looks like.
I am grateful for this article. What also seems to be missing nowadays is how the parent/adult child relationship changes over time and when the grandchild is born. Absentee grandparents can sometimes equate to absentee parents. I always thought it would be great for my parents or inlaws to be interested in their son/my husband and our lives. When we do meet up (only when we initiate get togethers), it’s all about themselves or the grandchildren. We seem to be forgotten and this is years after the first grandchild being born. It turns out that a lot of the time, they expect us to be take care of them (grandparents) and not the other way around, especially with ageing populations and sandwich generations.
I just want to comment here. Your mothers were mothers for a long time and if you don’t have a husband anymore, your life kind of changes a bit. They lived their responsible for other people time and now have the opportunity to get to know and enjoy themselves. Children as much as we love them can be overwhelming and there comes a time in life no matter how much you love them, you’re just tired and want a time in life to be free in a sense. I think that we forget that kids are precious but at the end of life, maybe relaxing and enjoying there own life is what our parents need most.
Totally there with you, and it breaks my heart. Sure I would love some help, but my kids have no idea what it’s like just to go to grandmas for the day. And both live less than ten minutes away. My best childhood memories were with my grandparents.