Love Or Obsession?

 Posted by at 12:30 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 172011

I got an e-mail the other day from a couple, informing me of their new address, and telling me that after two years, they have sold their motorhome and are off the road.

This happens. The fulltime RV lifestyle does not fit everybody, and for some folks it is not intended to be a long term thing. Some plan, going in, to fulltime for a year, two years, or whatever, and then go back to living in a sticks and bricks home. Others are forced off the road by health, financial issues, or family issues.

However, in this case, they had hung up the keys because they have a new grandson, and want to be there to see him grow up. The wife wrote that the child has a year old brother,and that she missed his first steps, first words, and other milestones, and the experience left her depressed and with anxiety attacks. She doesn’t plan to go through that “torture” again. She said she does not plan to miss a minute of the boy’s life, and that her husband doesn’t feel the same way, but has agreed to stop traveling to make her happy.

The strange thing is that this isn’t the first time I have heard the same story. We have known at least two other couples who stopped traveling because the wife missed the grandkids. Years ago, when we were teaching at Life on Wheels, a lady in the class said that RVing was her husband’s dream, but that she was dead set against it. I asked her why, and she said she and her grandson spend four to six hours a day together, every day. “He needs me,” she stated emphatically.

I asked if the boy’s parents were not in the picture, and how old he was, assuming she was the boy’s caregiver, or that he had special needs. As it turns out, he lives at home with his parents, a short walk away, and is a normal young boy. Except for the fact that he spends four to six hours a day with his grandmother! She said he had friends his own age, but didn’t want to hang out with them, preferring her company. I told her that it did not sound like a healthy relationship to me, and asked if she planned to go with him when he went off to college, or on his honeymoon. I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t come to any of my other classes.

Is it love, or obsession, when a grandparent feels the need to be that involved in a child’s life?

Maybe I’m selfish, but while I love my granddaughters, I’m much happier out here on the road, and don’t plan to give our lifestyle up. I’m content with being the grandpa who passes through from time to time, and sends the girls postcards from interesting places when I’m away. I don’t have to be a witness to every part of their lives. What are your thoughts on all of this?

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  34 Responses to “Love Or Obsession?”

  1. When we hit the road more than five years ago, I was very lonely for the grandkids, who I (well, WE) are very bonded with. However, this traveling thing was something we both wanted to do…so, the solution? Fly the grandkids down to see us where we happen to be during the winter months…makes awesome memories for them, they’re still bragging to their classmates about and grandpa and I have a blast showing them around. There is always a good compromise, you just both have to be committed to it! Happy belated B’day Nick.

  2. Um ya. Spending that much time EVERY day with your grandson isn’t healthy. Gah! I feel bad for the poor kid, and can only imagine the troubles he’s going to have when there’s a first time for anything. First day of school, what is she going to do? And like you said, is she going to bunk with him in his dorm room? Mind you, since he won’t have an independent bone in his body, I’d be very surprised if he makes it through high school.
    It’s fine to spoil your grand kids once in a while, but then you need to “give them back”.
    Also, where are the parents in all this? Are they just looking at free babysitting? That adds a whole other dimension of wrongness to the whole picture.
    And as concerns the lady with the “anxiety attacks”, that usually comes along with the “change”, and she needs to see a doctor if it’s something she can’t handle on her own. What if she misses the “first step” of the second one? Will there be more anxiety attacks? More “torture”? Please. Ever heard of Skype? How about all the other ways we can keep in touch through the internet?
    But hey, somebody out there is going to get a sweet deal on a slightly used motorhome!

  3. It seems that some grandparents seem to think they need to live there children’s lives and not live there own. After your kids leave home, its time to move on to live your life.

  4. I think Greg and Jan have a good handle on being full-timers while staying involved with their grandson. In fact I know Landon via skype/ Greg’s blog quite well. With today’s technology, there’s no reason not to be able to travel while staying involved with family.

  5. Our daughter moved out when she was 20. We sold everything and left before she could change her mind. LOL. It hasn’t even been a year and when I really miss, we send her a ticket to where we are if she can get time off of work. We’ve already planned to fly her to FL for Christmas, and while that is the biggest adjustment for me so far, we have a much better relationship being far apart. It’s been an adjustment that has been hard at times, but we have found other solutions that work for all of us.

  6. We do miss our grand kids but we have fun sending videos, postcards, and things from our travels to educate them and make them feel involved in our lives. For e Balloon Fiesta I had sexample, after the Albuquerquent a Curious George book about ballooning and in it George goes over Mount Rushmore. A year later I said something about South Dakota and our four year old granddaughter said, “That the state where the presidents are.” I asked, “How did you know that?” Her reply, “It’s in the book you sent us.” We use Skype also to stay in touch and do get back to Rochester, N.Y. a couple times a year. When they are older we hope to have them travel with us. There’s no way we’d give up this life style but we have wheels and can be there when we are needed.

  7. I have to say, for me, that is the hardest thing about being a full-timer – being away from the kids and grandkids. However, when we are in their area, we stay for a couple of months or so and we are really WITH them. We spend lots of time with them (not four or six hours a day, mind you) and make great memories.

    Since our kids are spread out – one in KS, one in PA and one in MD – this lifestyle allows us to spend time with all of them. Plus my (Terry) folks are still living and, again, we can spend time with them as well.

    Yes, it’s hard to leave when the time comes, but we know we’ll be together again in a few months. And the technology available gives us more opportunities to be in each other’s lives.

  8. I’ve known several grandparent couples where one or the other (often the woman) has separation anxiety from the grandchildren. These situations often result in significant sacrifices by the other grandparent partner with such issues as travel and time allocation. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances (such as an in-process divorce by the parents of the grandchild) which may warrant a temporary reallocation of time by the grandparents, but after awhile, enough is enough! If you are a grandparent, by definition your time is limited! Make the best use of it. If that involves being a full time babysitter, so be it, but be prepared to cut the spouse some slack so he or she can do what they want to do with their limited time.

  9. I like to travel and would like to travel more, but there is another side to the issue. I would not give up the bike rides, fishing trips, camping, building projects, repair projects, backyard BBQ’s, talking to a teenager, etc to visit another 50’s museum, see another Amish farm …. 🙂 On my death bed am I going to say, gee I should have gone to more rallys,etc? Sure, there are going to be things that I will miss doing, but that is life. We are gone 3-4 months when the grandkids are in school with activities, etc so it is a good compromise for us.

  10. We provided extensive support for our grandson when our son / daughter changed posts, but we all agreed it was important to keep him in daycare during the day to interact and grow with kids his own age. The same will be true when both of the parents deploy- we may be living at their home, but we will keep the same routine of taking him to day care and providing “parental-type” care before / after day care. We wil be looking at technology to keep the parents “in touch” until they return.

  11. Before we hit the road our grandkids went by our house twice a day to private school. We actually saw them 4 times a year @ the major holidays. Since then I have discovered they can be conceived, born & raised without me around. We fly in once a year & see them. They really like to see us. At least the younger ones. The older ones not so much. I tell my kids I am spending their inhertance and when it’s gone they can pay me to stay away. I really think they will too! 🙂

  12. My grand daughter and I lived in the same house me in an apartment downstairs. I saw her every day when she was little but I still went south for the winter. I did miss her but kept in touch all the time and in the summer took advantage of being with her again. Now that she is in school and has move further away I see her very little. One reason being she goes to her dads most weekends. I do miss her but when I do we have a great time. Pretty soon she will have all her friends to keep her busy and she won’t want to visit me all the time and that is growing up. That woman will definitely be very lonely when that happens to her grand children. Life is too short we only come this way once.

  13. Hmmm, we all have our own different ways to handle the home and away time from the kids and grandkids. Having only 1 child, we are close to him, but he grew up knowing what our empty nest dream was when I retired. So, knowing our plans, he helped to make the dream come true with his support. Now lets fast forward, he and his wife has given us 2 little girls. While we are on the road we use skype, send post cards and talk on the phone with them. But our travel plans are such that we are home for the girls birthdays (Dec and May), and the major holidays (Thanksgiven, Christmas and Easter). Normally, we’re off the road by Halloween, and leave around the 1st of the year, and return around the end of March, then back out the middle of May. As the girls get older, we will start extending our stays out longer, but with 3 and 6 year olds, they are so excited about the events/holidays, we want to share in their excitement….


  14. Raising two children I tried to instill in them a love for travel and exploring their world beyond their small town in the midwest. We spent what money we had investing in their educations in high school and later college…..With their commitment to 4-H leadership activities and summer projects, community theater and sports camps I did not get to travel much (lack of money and time). The children were sent on several leadership trips and visits to a relative in NYC. They both finished school and left the state knowing that the whole world was a possibility for them to land. They may never even decide to have children. I may never have to even think about settling near them but I get to travel neat places to visit them. They seem to clearly understand that while I taught them to look for adventures, it is my turn to explore some of the possibilities that I filled their imaginations with. I to am hoping to be stay well enough to spend my money on gas.

    Their inheritance has already been passed on. A love of learning, a desire to explore, a willingness to work for things that matter to them and appreciation for the diversity of this world and it’s people.

    Oh, their father is back in the stick house sitting in the recliner when he isn’t making pottery in his studio. (His retirement.) :=)

  15. We used to go home every summer because we wanted quality time with the grandkids. Did that for six years and spent much of that time babysitting. We did not go to Alaska and other places we wanted to visit. Son and daughter-in-law did go on vacation, cruises, etc while we babysat.

    Now the granddaughter is 18 and we saw her once this summer for an hour, which she spent texting. Her brother is 15 and can’t look up from his video games to even say hello when we’re there. We feel like real saps at this point, and will not go back for the summer next year.

  16. Some of you seem to be very distanced from your children and grandchildren. I feel sorry for you, because I am one of the grandmas who puts her children and grandchildren first. We would love to travel more someday but I will not miss the important times in my family’s lives for the sake of sleeping in a Wal Mart parking lot! My two daughters are my best friends in the world and that will never change.

  17. Well, In our case with11 children, 25 grand kids and 12 great grandkids between us, We feel we have done our part for world population and it is impossible for us to spend a lot of time with all of them. Even though we no longer travel a lot due to health problems and because they are spread out all over the country from Alaska to Texas and California to Verginia, We try to have family get togethers whenever possible so we do see most of them on occasion, usually about once a year. We do stay in contact by phone, email and pictures so we can still enjoy seeing them grow up.

  18. Helicopter grandparents can be as troublesome as helicopter parents and I know both!

    You have to remember that you’ve raised your children and now it’s someone else’s turn. I raised 5 children and have 11 grandchildren and I love them all, but I’m not going to put them before my husband and OUR dreams while we’re still able to see our dreams come true. Luckily, we both feel the same way.

  19. Obsession, definately obsession. Kids and grandkids don’t need you 24/7 and need to develop some independence and backbone on their own. It’s nice to develop a bond before they go to school, but after that visits and holidays are more than enough to maintain that contact. Teen years are the toughest as they are self absorbed. However, if they have a good early up bringing they will come out the other side of teendom a well rounded and caring individual. It’s like they say….Everything I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten !

  20. Each person is different in their own way and deal with their kids & grand kids in different ways. I think like other things in life, a happy medium is best. Those that sacrifice their own interests to be in the lives of their grand kids are OK as long as it is done in moderation. Too often they are trying to be self important and don’t step back long enough to see it. Let the kids grow up and you be on the side line most of the time. They’ll love you more.

  21. I thought the comments here were as interesting as the main post. We have 4 grown kids and 8 grandkids and I can relate on both sides of the equation. Most has already been said but I will add a comment to the lady in Nick’s blog who spends 6 hours a day with her grandson. “He needs me” she said. I had some of those same feelings as well concerning my grandchildren HOWEVER it dawned on me that “He needs me” also applied to my husband and HE should take first place. God gave those grandchildren to their PARENTS to raise but he gave my husband to ME to love and to cherish as long as we have any life in us. My husband, in the normal course of such things, will most likely pass away before the grandchildren and these last years that we have, I will spend putting hubby first. We don’t full-time due to health and financial constraints so we still spend plenty of time with family, but as much as I love them, my husband and I are also a core family and our needs and dreams are primary…and I don’t think that is selfish. It’s our turn!

  22. Some folks use the grand kids as an excuse to come off the road. We have three grand kids and yes we miss them. Marcuse is eight and we try to see him once a year. We do not have the luxury of having him with us like we planned since we would have to go to court to get it. His mother also blocks us from seeing the oldest two since they are not blood relations. When we do spend time with him it is quality time. yes we spoil him while we are there. His dad keeps us in touch with him via face book. Yes we miss him and since we do not see him all the time the time we do spend is precious. He knows we love him.

  23. It’s posts and comments like this that help me not regret that our only child is unable to reproduce.

    We have a friend who once asked us how we got our daughter to leave home. After his daughter married his wife insisted they buy a house three doors down from the younger couple so she could be close enough to provide daycare for the grandchild. His life is not as important to her as that of her offspring; I find that sad. I also wonder how many of those husbands will go on to build independent lives that leave their wives behind.

  24. After a few years of living full-time, our son told us this! “I may not want the same kind of retirement you have, but after watching you both have this much fun, I have decided to save more toward my own retirement!” This said, of course, while raising teen-agers and paying mortgages and being in what we remember as the lean years.
    After this comment from him, we knew that our best gift to our kids was to lead by example. Our sense of adventure, our own curiosity about what’s around the next bend, these are the things we share with our kids and grandkids and they are enriched by this.
    Our time as parents to little ones is fullfilled. Our time as grandparents if still full of magic, but does not require constant contact or responsibility. That is a parent’s obligation.

  25. The very best thing I can do for my children is to love my spouse. Everything else will fall into place.

  26. I love my grandchildren but I raised my kids and now it’s their turn to raise their own children. The grands come stay for a few days occasionally, sometimes I go stay with them when their parents are off on their own somewhere, I try to attend some of their sports events and school programs, we usually celebrate holidays and birthdays together, but they are busy with their lives and we are busy with ours…as it should be. I really don’t know why a grandparent would spend several hours a day, every day, with their grandchildren unless they are raising them or are the official babysitter so the parents can work. NEED? I don’t think so unless the parents can’t properly care for the children.

  27. We, too, have seen this with some of our friends. It is usually the female who can’t stay away from their children and grandchildren. The excuse is “They NEED me.”

    No, it is the grand parent who is in NEED and obsessed with the children and grandchildren. And keeps the kids and grandkids dependent on them.

    What about the spouse? Your spouse comes first and the women is totally ignoring the wants of and the person of the spouse.

    What about the children? I once had a child of a couple we know say to me, “Please take my mother, please just take my mother with you.” And they were not joking. Mom had overstayed her welcome and was putting her nose in her child’s life, telling them what to do, etc. A visit is fun, but too much is too much. Children need to grow up, be independent and raise their own children. Children need to be parents to their kids just as you were parents to them. Your children need to make memories with their kids just as you made memories with your own children.

    Parent is a different word than grandparent. With modern technology there is no need to be separated from your children and grandchildren or parents for that matter. Sykpe, Facebook, e-mail, phone, blogs, snail mail, photos, etc keep you in touch. And there is nothing more exciting than a visit from Grandma and Grandpa. Or having that special week or two with them during the summer in their RV.

    You can make memories with grandchildren while you still travel and have your own lives. There is no need for a grandparent to be there every day. The children and grandchildren do not have a life of their own then. You are smothering them. You are being selfish. What you really want is to be a parent again and you are usurping your child’s place to be the parent. We hate to see this happen. The sad part is it happens all too often and in the end most grandparents find themselves wearing out their welcome or being terribly used both emotionally and financially. Just sad!!!!!

  28. Good one Nick. We have very good friends who have what may be called a close family by some. We love these folks a bunch and have been friends for thirty years plus. I’d call their close relationship with their grand daughter dysfunctional to the point of codependency. The girls father passed away and the girl, who should be independent has now moved into our friends’ house with her boyfriend. Our friend cooks, cleans, and does laundry for the two of them. There are limits to togetherness and not all familes turn out like “The Waltons.”

    We have a brand new (Now six month old.) grand daughter but we have no intentions of moving to Laramie, WY to be part of her day-to-day. We’ll pass through, part in their driveway for a week and move on. I think it’s healthier for our son and his wife to sort things our re: their daughter without us hovering.



  29. It would be difficult for me to be with all my grand kids at the same time, since they live in 3 separate places.
    I miss all of mine too. But I also have to remember they belong to their parents and I only borrow them for a time.
    Besides what happens when both grand parents try and spend so much time at the same time with them? Must be interesting!

  30. be sure to wave as your children and grandchildren drive off leaving you in the assisted living on medicade. family support and teaching the young holds a priority. when older grandparents have to hang up the keys, usually from ill health,knoch on the door expecting to be cared for, without being around when their support would have been muchly appreciated. food for thought.

  31. What most of the people haven’t mentioned is those little darlings will grow up and out grow them in a few years. After you give up your life to be near them, they will want to be around their friends more than grandma. You still love them but they put you on hold at that time. My suggestion is to keep up the lifestyle that makes you and hubby happy. You don’t have a lot of time to waste and maybe can’t go back and do some the the traveling over.

  32. Oh my gosh, lighten up everyone. Do what makes you happy, whatever it is.

  33. I second what linda huber said.

    And I think “obsession” is too strong a word. To each his own.

    Some families are different and their priorities are not the same as others.

    The woman who spent 4-6 hours a day with her grandson because she had discussed it with her daughter & SIL and they just felt it was better to have him not in daycare, than with grandma. You just never know.

  34. The last sentence should be prefaced by “Maybe….” as a scenario to explain so much interaction.

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