Dear Father Hood: should we move closer to the grandparents?
Summer 2014, Wimbledon Chase, South West London. A newly married couple sit down in the living room of their cramped flat and begin to discuss this very question. Initially, there is opposition in the form of words like “freedom” and “independence” and statements like “standing on our own two feet”, “needing our own space” and “it’ll be like living with three of you”. But as the conversation continues attitudes mellow and reality bites. “It would be really helpful for babysitting,” admits the husband. “And it’s just across town, so we wouldn’t need to change jobs,” replies the wife.
The next day they put their house on the market, it sells soon after and within six months they’re crashing at the wife’s parents’ house while their new abode gets a bit of an upgrade and a lick of paint. It’s not easy, tempers occasionally fray and at times they wonder whether they’ve made the right decision, but 12 months later they get their answer when a baby arrives and the grandparents step up to the plate big time. Burping, changing, rocking, singing, cooking, cleaning, they do everything they can to help the wife rest up after a difficult labour and the husband work out how to juggle running a business with raising a baby.
Spoiler alert: the couple in the above story is my wife and I. And just over a year on we continue to reap the benefits of our decision to up sticks and move around 10 minutes from the grandparents – as I write, my fridge is full of food cooked by my mother-in-law and my father-in-law has taken my son swimming. Conclusion? Given my experience, my only possible answer to your question is yes. You should move nearer to the grandparents.
But it’s not always as simple as I’ve made out, is it? Sometimes your parents don’t live anywhere near you. Sometimes you’re not in a position to move house. Sometimes you are and the house doesn’t sell. And sometimes you and your parents argue too much to make living in close proximity a good idea. All of which means that it’s time for one of my fabled answer-these-questions-to-discover-your-strategy checklists.
1. Do you both get on with the grandparents you’re considering moving close to?
And I mean really get on. It’s important to stress this point, because at times it is going to feel like your marriage has four people in it and your child has four parents. It’s a situation that requires a lot of goodwill, a bit of give and take, a sizeable dollop of patience and some clear boundaries (e.g. when it comes to the child, the grandparents can offer their opinion, but your decision is final). If you feel like the four of you can cope with this and come out the other side laughing about dirty nappies and baby dancing, then erect the For Sale sign because you are on to a winner. If you feel like it’d be pistols at dawn within a week, then maybe you’d be better to stay put and keep your distance.
2. How do the schools near your grandparents compare to the ones in area where you live now?
I know, I know. This sounds completely inconsequential. But a bit of forward planning never hurt anyone, and let’s be honest: are you really going to want to pay another load of stamp duty just because you dropped the ball and moved to a place where the schools are either rubbish or ridiculously expensive?
3. Do the grandparents have other grandchildren?
I’m not saying grandparents love their eighth grandchild any less than they do the first grandchild. But I am saying that the more grandchildren a couple have the less time they have to contribute to the childcare of any one individual. Conclusion? Do the maths before you make the move.
4. Will you lose good mates by moving?
Is being close to some free babysitters important? Yes. Is it more important than being close to a network of good friends? If pushed, I’d say no, but again this answer comes with a caveat. Namely: are your pals all planning to stay in the area for the next few years? If they are, dig your roots in further. If they aren’t, it might be worth getting out before you get left behind.
5. Can you afford it?
If you can, whoop whoop! Here we go, here we go, here we go. If you can’t, I’ve no idea how you made it to the end of this article.