I live in the Queensland but my grandchildren live in Victoria—1657.1 kilometres (17 hour 44 minutes drive) away.
For a long time I lived with a constant pull on my heart strings including restless nights and the weight of guilt; I had to work full-time but I wanted to be there for my family as much as possible. So, I needed to find a way to lessen the guilt and reduce the anguish.
I found ways to help both my grandchildren and my daughter and it is all thanks to modern technology. I realise some of the older generation complain about computers, internet and the way things have changed—life goes forward, not backwards whether we like it or not, and we have to come to terms with this. Use it to your advantage.
The bottom line
If you wish to be part of your grandchildren’s lives, and you do not have the luxury of living close by, then you can do something about it. Here are my tips:
- Planes, trains and automobiles
- Plan ahead so you can book cheap air fares—many pensioners can also take advantage of senior fares. Look for bargains e.g. Virgin airlines has ‘Happy Hour’ every Thursday with special priced flights. Register online to get their reminder email and check out their prices and there are a number of sites such as www.lastminute.com.au that covers all airlines;
- Liaise with family on future ‘special occasions’ i.e. grandparent’s day at school, sporting grand finals etc., so you can book your trips in advance.
- Electronic options – smart phones and iPads
At the new baby stage:
- Mobile phone is the best method at this stage. If you have an old phone, upgrade to a Smart phone so you can at least take and send photos. You can buy very good second-hand phones on a low income or if you sign up with service providers for a fixed contract, you can get a phone included in your package.
Growing baby and all stages:
- Email: when the kids are a little older they love hearing from you by email;
- FaceTime: I also do FaceTime on my daughter’s phone so we can interact in real time;
- Skype can also be used at any time and better for overseas grandparents at no additional cost.
- The old fashioned way – hand written letters and parcels by post
- It is still a treat when children receive something in the post. Who doesn’t get excited to collect a gift from the post office?
- Try sending ‘collector cards’ that your grand children are collecting or hand written notes that become your legacy – something left behind by you.
- The grandchildren also get a kick out of sending you drawings and notes they have specially created—you can snap photos on your phone of these pics on display on your fridge or framed, and send them off to them!
Seize the day and embrace the challenges
If you don’t understand computers or feel threatened by computers, then embrace the challenge. You have learnt many more difficult things over the years, it just takes application; the only thing stopping you is ‘you’.
Your grand children will be raised in a very different environment to the one we had, and it makes a huge difference if you can communicate in their language as well as your own.
Twelve years later
I had this awful fear my grandchildren would grow up without me I can say now, twelve years later, that most of those fears are unfounded. My interstate family has holiday time in the ‘Sunshine State’ and enjoy the opportunity to visit the beach and themes parks in Queensland with free accommodation at my place!
The great part for me is I get to stay with my children when I travel to see them, but be careful not to overstay your welcome. Sure, it can be exhausting and going back home is a blessing at times, but it is all worth it.
I have new meaning to my life and a sense of purpose; working in with their lives is a priority even if I live remotely and even if at times financially, it is a strain.
Life flies by far too quickly, don’t miss your chance to be part of their lives, even remotely.
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