I know this may not be a popular opinion, but I’m sharing my story in the hopes that I’m not alone. Three years ago I moved interstate to be closer to my daughter and her two children – that move was the biggest mistake I ever made. I love my daughter and her husband and I completely adore my grandchildren, but giving up my life, my friends, and my home was something I should have thought more carefully about.
My daughter and I have always been close. Annie is beautiful, smart, and a wonderful mother. Her husband Steve and I get along like old friends; he felt like part of the family from the moment she introduced us and I knew almost instantly he would be the man she married. We lived in Melbourne then, where Annie was born and raised, and for four years everything was fine.
Annie and Steve married and a year later they had my granddaughter Isabelle. Steve’s parents live in Perth so it was up to me to take on most of the grand parenting tasks, which I loved doing. I visited most days and took care of Isabelle when Annie and Steve had to work late or couldn’t get out of social engagements. Soon their little boy Thomas came along and I embraced the opportunity to help out more, picking Isabelle up from day care and babysitting Tom whenever they needed.
I absolutely loved every minute of it and was so proud to see Annie and Steve flourish as parents. When Steve was offered a job in Brisbane it was clear they couldn’t turn down the opportunity. It meant a pay rise and a chance to grow his career. Annie was looking at heading back to work as a teacher now the kids were a bit older so it seemed like the perfect time for both of them.
I was heartbroken they were moving so far away, but offered all my support and encouragement. I knew it was the right choice for them and although we were all sad, we promised lots of visits back and forth between us.
When they left, I felt like there was a hole in my life and I missed them every day. Thankfully I had friends and a lively social life to fill the void they left behind. I was busy with my part-time job as an office assistant, going out to eat with my dearest and oldest friends, attending my monthly book club meetings, and working on my garden which I had spent 10 years turning from a bare lawn into a lush display of plants and flowers.
I loved my life but I missed my family so much. When Annie off-handedly suggested I move to Brisbane to be closer to them, I had to admit – it was something I’d been thinking about for months. The decision between being close to Annie and the kids and leaving my whole life behind in Melbourne was something I was struggling with.
It didn’t take long to convince me to take the plunge though. I was getting ready to retire and once Annie told me how much she missed having me close by and how often Isabelle and Tom asked after me, I decided to make it final. I was planning on renting my house and buying something small in Brisbane, but Annie and Steve told me the housing market was set for a sharp decline and suggested I sell up while I could still get a good price for it. And so I did.
I sold my house and a lot of my furniture and possessions, packed up what was left and made the journey to Brisbane to start my new life.
For the first few months everything seemed like old times. I helped take care of the kids after school and sometimes dropped them off in the morning when Annie and Steve had early meetings. I caught up with them on weekends and we spent time exploring the city and nearby beaches.
As the months rolled on though I noticed things began to change… Annie and Steve had less time to catch up on the weekend and afternoons were quickly over, with one of them picking up the kids and racing home to get dinner ready and put them to bed.
I also noticed my babysitting duties had become less of a favour and more of a demand. Both Annie and Steve seem to assume I’m happy to drop everything and take care of the kids whenever they need. While I am of course happy to take care of them, I believe in boundaries and want to be asked to help rather than ordered.
Creating any kind of social life has also been difficult for me. I’ve volunteer for the RSPCA and have joined local community centres but have struggled to make any close friends. The few friends I do have here are understandably busy with their own lives and family most of the time. I miss my old friends dearly and although we talk and email frequently it’s not the same.
Over the past few months I have spent less and less time with my family. The kids are in school and kindergarten now so their weekends are filled with playdates and birthday parties. Annie and Steve are so busy and tired most of the time, we sometimes go two weeks without seeing each other.
I sometimes wonder why I gave it all up. Why did I sell my home and leave my friends, my job, and my whole life behind? I thought living close to Annie and the kids would bring me never-ending happiness, but the reality is, I left my full and fun life behind for a rather empty one.
I miss my friends and my garden and the community I had been a part of for my whole life. I think about selling my house and moving back to Melbourne but the move up here cost me so much money and I’m weary of dipping into my super and savings too much.
For now, I’m going to try to make the best of my situation. I love my family, so I’m going to focus on enjoying the time I do spend with them. I’ll also keep volunteering and joining in on community actives when I can.
If anyone out there has any advice, I’d love to hear it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this situation and am hoping there are other people who understand what I’m going through.