As Terry has said, the most contentious issues most couples face include: sex, money, in-laws and children…not necessarily in that order.
And then there’s the grandkids.
For some older couples, there’s the heartache of grandchildren longed for, but never conceived or born. Or those born to an estranged child or estranged spouse of a child, and seldom or never seen.
For others, there is the frustration of grandchildren too far away to visit easily or often.
While other couples are confronted with the challenges of providing daycare or even full-time parenting for their grandchildren.
Some of these situations bring more challenges than others, but even the more felicitous can bring stresses and strains to a couple’s relationship.
I have two grandchildren, a boy not quite 8 years old and a girl who just turned 5. They live with their mother, who is the older of my two daughters, and their father in the San Francisco Bay area. This means they are not across the globe, but seeing them still requires a plane trip or a two-day drive, and taking time away from the office. And because Terry doesn’t relish spending time with small children in a crowded townhouse also inhabited by two cats to which he is deathly allergic, seeing my grandchildren also requires that I take time away from my spouse.
Sometimes, what Terry calls my “Grandma Runs” suit him just fine. Particularly when he can arrange a motorcycle trip with a buddy.
At other times, my trips can interfere with other social events, and Terry is less happy. And then I feel torn. I want to maintain a relationship with my grandchildren, which requires an investment of time, while not interfering with the relationship with my husband. As a result, I end up seeing my grandkids less often than I’d like, but perhaps more often than Terry would like.
Sometimes I wonder if it might be different if these grandchildren were OURS and not just MINE, but suspect that the noise and the cats would still make Terry somewhat disinclined to take a “Grandpa Run.” The upside of this arrangement is that I can be totally “on” while visiting with my grandchildren, rather than feeling concerned about how my husband is doing with the chaos and the cats. The downside is that I’m concerned with how my husband is doing at home while I’m away.
I have a dear friend whose grandchild lives within minutes of her house, and she and her husband have become integral parts of this little person’s life. Sometimes I envy this arrangement. There are no travel arrangements to be made and no having to decide whether to leave a spouse behind. In fact, her husband is as into the childcare as she is.
On the other hand, this has meant that my friend’s time is often not her own and that some retirement plans have had to be shelved or at least revised. And that sometimes she has had to deal with the potential conflicts between her own child-raising ideas and those of her grandchild’s parents, or those of her spouse.
As a sporadically visiting Grandma, I get to indulge my grandchildren and then leave town before I have to deal with much of the mess or the meltdowns. And I get to be grateful to be Grandma rather than Mommy.
But I still wish I could “beam” down to see those little precious people more often.
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