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managing relatives when everyone is scattered across the country

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
If you have close relatives who live far away, how do you decide on when to visit, who travels (them to you, or you to them), and how often?

We have two kids and we live on the east coast. My parents live in Minnesota and ds's mother and sister live in Ohio. Ohio is about a 10-hr drive (with kids) and Minnesota is really only accessible by 3-hr plane ride.

Anyway, the cost of plane tickets is rapidly becoming a problem, now that dd will need her own ticket in a few months. We're thinking of having a third child, and that would pretty much end plane trips for us for a while. Plus I hate taking the kids to the grandparents--it's a duty, and a lot of money, and a lot of stress, and a lot of time off work for dh. And we usually don't have a very good time.

Our families basically refuse to come visit us. My mother occasionally visits to help me if dh is away on business (but she expects us to pay for her ticket). Dh's sister also visits maybe once every couple of years. There are a lot of good reasons and excuses that our families use for not coming to see us....but basically I'm just sick of it, I'm sick of schlepping the kids all over the place so the relatives can see them.

Anyone else have this problem? Do you discuss visiting schedules openly with your relatives? Any good resolution? Is it ok to go years without visiting the grandparents?
post #2 of 40
In my family, the people who did the moving do most of the traveling. When my brother and his family moved away, they factored the cost of visits into deciding if it was worth it.
post #3 of 40
My whole family is local, most within a half hour drive. All of SO's immediate family is a 16 hour drive away. His mom is on air, and needs an oxygen tank when she leaves home, so it's not possible for her to come to us. His brothers and their families might come visit at some point, but their youngest kids are toddlers so it's not practical. Once a year is enough for our family, SO can go on his own if he wants to visit more than that.
post #4 of 40
Are the grandparents/extended family online? If so, it makes it all much simpler. We use a photo sharing website (Shutterfly), and I regularly send out albums to share with family and friends (all of whom are long distance). There's also Skype for chatting live via webcam, which we usually only manage to do for major holidays. Most of DH's family is on Facebook, so I finally joined just to see the family pictures they share that way. And I've got a blog I update almost every day so they can read up on our latest doings without my feeling guilty about flooding their inboxes with updates.

I'm very lucky that my mom loves to drive, and several times a year comes up to visit us. (She has another grandson across the country from her that she can only reach by plane, so she told us when our DS was born she'd only be able to afford only a few visits a year between the two of them--this was before we moved several hours closer to her, so some years she'd see one of her DGS more frequently than the other, but it would all balance out eventually.) However, my DS gets very carsick, so we try to limit ourselves to one trip a year (and if DH's siblings would stop getting married, we'd be able to stick to that!).

My grandparents are not online, so every so often, I write them a brief letter updating them on DS's latest interests/achievements. Sometimes I include DS's artwork. I'll also send them prints from Shutterfly a few times a year. We just visited them for the first time in 9 years last year. It was only a few days, and it worked out really well for all of us. We all enjoyed seeing each other, but we weren't there long enough to disrupt their lives too much. So go ahead and save yourselves money and stress--stop visiting the relatives so frequently, especially if it's not even enjoyable. There are plenty of other ways to stay in touch!
post #5 of 40
Okay-- I just had to laugh reading this because we have the same problem-- only WE live in MN, my parents live in Ohio, and dh's parents live on the east coast. It sounds like you and I need to just trade some families and we'll all be good!

Seriously- It drives me nuts. My dh's family is very expensive for us to visit, in terms of airfare and precious vacation days for dh. We're thinking that we may commit to visiting each set of parents once a year, and more than that they can come see us. It's true that WE moved (for my dh's career)- but I feel like it's much simpler for a couple of affluent retired people to travel than it is for dh to take off work and us travel with dd. Dd and I occasionally travel alone for more frequent visits to my parents, since we can take the train cheaply, but I have to admit that I'm feeling kind of petty and grumpy about how long it's been since they came here and how slow they've been about making plans to come back. Dd loves to have them here in her life, and it makes me so sad every time she asks if they're coming to visit and I have to put her off because they simply won't make plans.
post #6 of 40
When I was younger, my friend's family would all rent and split a huge beach house (not expensive, depending on where you go. Lake houses, mountains, etc are all good choices) and meet up there. I always thought it was such a neat idea and we've used it ourselves. It doesn't have to be expensive, everyone has to travel so no one feels especially put out, it's not anyone's home turf, and it doesn't feel like you're wasting vacation days and not doing anything fun.
post #7 of 40
Subbing because my family is in the same boat. DH and I both have divorced parents (actually his were never married) so we have four sets of scattered grandparents to contend with, plus scattered siblings. It is a constant balancing act and has been the source of many a near nervous breakdown for me. I agree with Fritz that Skye and internet photo sharing have been wonderful.
post #8 of 40
We are pretty bad. My DD is nearly 2 and has never been to either of my parents' houses (they are divorced). We live in Alberta, and they live in Ontario about six hours from each other. It just isn't going to happen financially. We flew out to visit my dad before we got pregnant, and did it mainly on points.

Aside from the money issue, both of my parents live in apartments without a lot of space, so taking a toddler there for several days sounds like an unusual form of torture to me.

They each come to visit us about once a year. DF and I are getting married at the end of June so everyone is coming out and I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

We may drive to Ontario next year for an extended trip, and to take DD to places like Wonderland and Marine Land. But it will take several days just to drive.

I have a brother about 10 hours away in BC so it is a little easier to see them, but still tough. Last year we met halfway and went camping together, and it was great. Hopefully we will do it again in future years. (The wedding is throwing things out of wack this year.)
post #9 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_lily View Post
Aside from the money issue, both of my parents live in apartments without a lot of space, so taking a toddler there for several days sounds like an unusual form of torture to me.
Just so you know, many families live in small apartments and their toddlers do just fine.
post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL83 View Post
Just so you know, many families live in small apartments and their toddlers do just fine.
Small apartments that are likely babyproofed, with an area for play set up (no matter how small). A small apartment filled with breakable and dangerous items with no toys and barely enough space to even put a kid down is different.
ugh.

I was referring to their places specifically. I know lots of families do great in apartments and I didn't mean any offence.
post #11 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by NiteNicole View Post
When I was younger, my friend's family would all rent and split a huge beach house (not expensive, depending on where you go. Lake houses, mountains, etc are all good choices) and meet up there. I always thought it was such a neat idea and we've used it ourselves. It doesn't have to be expensive, everyone has to travel so no one feels especially put out, it's not anyone's home turf, and it doesn't feel like you're wasting vacation days and not doing anything fun.
DH's family is talking about doing this sometime soon. His siblings/parents are spread out through six different cities in all different parts of the country, and there aren't enough vacation days in a year to go visit everyone or for them to all come to visit. And then, there's always the problem of finding a place that will fit eleven adults, eight children, and three dogs. Utter madness, I tell you. But, I will say that a few days of intense family time -- all staying in the same place, playing board games or staying up late drinking beer and telling stories -- is worth a whole lot for us. We get a lot of relationship "miles" booked in those times. It's worth it to find a way to make it happen, IMO.
post #12 of 40
We are lucky in that most of our family lives in the same place, our parents live about 5 miles apart and our grandparents are all within 1 hour of our parents.

We used to make the drive (we are military, so we've lived in several different places since we moved away, all about 5-600 miles from home though) very frequently, once a month or so. As we had more children it became much less practical to drive 500 miles on Friday night and then 500 miles back on Sunday afternoon. We also got tired of having to drive around to see everyone, you know, spending 20 hours of a weekend in the car to get there and then however many hours in the car going from one house to the next, never doing anything we wanted to do.

Now I go home with the kids once or twice a year for a week or more. My dh isn't able to come, time off is rare and when he has it we want to spend it together at home. When I go home, I stay with dh's parents (they have the most space with us and I am more comfortable there) and *try* to visit my parents, my grandparents, and dh's grandmother once or twice, depending on how long I'm there. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but I will not spend my vacation time trying to make everyone else happy anymore. It was rough for a while, people were mad at us and no one understood why we didn't visit more often. I told them they are welcome to spend the time and money to visit us, we are more than happy to have them and it is a lot easier for two adults to get in the car and drive 500 miles than it is for one adult and four small children to do the same. I think they get it now. Dh's parents visit every so often for a long weekend.

Spend your dh's vacation time (and the money you would spend traveling to see your family) on a real vacation that is fun for everyone, or just stay home and relax, do all of the fun stuff nearby that you don't normally have time to do. The first time we did this was amazing. We couldn't understand why it had taken us so long! The kids had a much better time, too.
post #13 of 40
Mostly our families come visit us here (even though we are the ones who moved away 2 years ago). We do come up to Denver, sometimes, but it's a bigger deal for the 6 of us to travel and to stay in someone elses home than it is for 1-2 of our parents to fly or drive down to see us - and we have a large home with plenty of space for guests.
post #14 of 40
I extend an invitation for major holidays.

"You guys are welcome to come visit at Christmas/Easter/summer, we'd love to see you. Can you let me know by <date> so that if you're not coming, we can extend the invite to the other grandparents."

I'm just not travelling long distances with young kids. We haven't gotten any grief over it.
post #15 of 40
We struggle with this too. All our family is a two+ days drive or 4+hr plane flight away. I have flying issues and DH hates long drives. So basically, we haven't been home in 4 yrs. People pretty much have to visit us. All the GPs downsized and have completely child un-friendly living spaces, 4 plane tix for us are a fortune, car rental would be a necessity thanks to our huge car seats, and we'd have to spend most of the time driving all day just to see everyone. Blech, for the time and money--not to mention the hassle--it's hard to want to do it. I have the vacation house idea too, but so far it hasn't happened.
post #16 of 40
The semi-retired grandparents come visit us more often. Two young kids on a plane is expensive and exhausting!
post #17 of 40
It's hard but there are ways to make everyone feel better about it. My family is all within 2 hours but DH's parents are a 5 hour plane ride away, his sister and nephews are even further. So we don't see them often but when we do we make sure it's a big deal and really special. Either Christmas or a baptism, that sort of thing. Even though DH and I aren't religous, these events mean the world to his parents and they go a long way to making up for the fact that we only visit once every two years or so. This week, his mom is actually coming here for once and I scheduled my "big" ultrasound for when she could come. This will be a huge surprise for her and I'll get some serious mileage out of it.

There is always someone on my side of the family who gets upset about missing some of these big events but there are other events to go around and its my call.

Another thing that really helps is video chatting, as pps have suggested. We even bought DH's parents a new macbook so that they could easily ichat with us. It cost a lot but less than a trip out there and they LOVE IT. They were able to "be" at DS's first birthday party, see his fist steps, etc, and generally it makes them feel connected and they stop hassling us about visits. They are pretty computer illiterate but it wasn't that hard to teach them how to use it and I think it will spare us the cost and hassle of a lot of trips in the future.
post #18 of 40
In most families I know where the grandparents live far away, the grandparents do most of the traveling to see their grandkids. Two main reasons - many of them are retired and so can be more flexible with their time compared to working parents who have to use up vacation days and because it is a lot cheaper to buy 1 or 2 plane tickets rather than 3 or more. My MIL lives in Mexico, and while she still works, she has a lot more flexibility in terms of time off and only 1 ticket has to be purchased for her to come here instead of us buying 3 to go there. We do still go sometimes, but for every 1 trip we make there, she probably makes 3 here.
post #19 of 40
We're in a similar situation. My parents are at a drivable distance (one full day of driving) and DH's parents are an airplane ride (plus a drive) away.

I try to budget (time and money) for one trip home to each family every year. We're on a three year rotation for Christmas--one year at my parents, one year at the ILs, one year we stay home. We used to travel at Thanksgiving to the other families home, but became too expensive to travel at that time. So, now I take advantage of last minute fares and go at other times of the year.

Ideally we'd see both sets of grandparents twice a year--sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't. They do try to come visit us occasionally too, esp. my ILs. They usually come at least once a year.
post #20 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by NicaG View Post
Anyway, the cost of plane tickets is rapidly becoming a problem, now that dd will need her own ticket in a few months. We're thinking of having a third child, and that would pretty much end plane trips for us for a while. Plus I hate taking the kids to the grandparents--it's a duty, and a lot of money, and a lot of stress, and a lot of time off work for dh. And we usually don't have a very good time.
We were at this place about 18 months ago. We haven't visited since then. I will be going to Atlanta (6-hour drive) by myself to visit my mom & sister this weekend. (They don't live there; we're all meeting for a girls' weekend.) The kids and I will go down to my parents' in south Georgia in June. I'm anxious to see how things work.

Here's what we've done. At one point, I'd drive the 12 hours down and then *still* be expected to drive between people's houses. My mom lives 3 hours from the rest of her side of the family. My dad's an hour away from that family. Then it's rural so there are these 15-30 minute drives here and there because everyone's on farm land.

When DS was 2 and DD a babe, I just said "no more." I will let everyone know I'm going to be down and that we're having some shin-dig (usually barbecue) at my grandparents' house on a certain day and time. People who want to see us can show up. I still drive to see my mom and dad, but at least I'm not driving to see random other relatives. (I lived with my grandparents growing up, which is why I stay mostly at their house.)

Then we went in December '08, and it was awful! The kids cried. They missed DH. He rarely goes with us because it would eat up all of his vacation time. I cried because we were living out of suitcases. It was just a miserable time. We used to stay for 2 weeks because it seemed I needed to in order to make the trip worth it. Now I'm cutting our trip to 8 days, and of course, the kids are a little older.

Long, long story short - While I love my family and I'm the one who chose to move away, I don't think it's fair that I should be expected to do all of the driving. I've asked my family to visit. I've even offered to help pay expenses because the hassle is bigger than the money for me. (We drive. The cost of flying would be outrageous and wouldn't save much time.)

My grandparents & parents have become more web-savvy recently. I'm thinking of getting them webcams or using Skype to talk to them. A friend's parents live in Canada, and they are able to keep in touch really well with Skype. It's easier for the kids, too, because they can be fiddle with things and still talk, unlike on the phone.

As I said, I lived with my grandparents, so I think grandparent relationships are really important. At the same time, I had to take a break to maintain my sanity.
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