Long-distance grandparenting: The flip side of the coin

On this blog and in real-life interactions I regularly whine, complain, hee-haw and boo-hoo about the role I've been given as a long-distance grandma. The fact my grandsons live 815 miles away is a challenge, a heartbreaker, and most definitely not the way I want things to be.

That being said, though—and clearly, perfectly, deeply understood by one and all, I hope, especially the one in charge of granting me time with my precious grandsons—the flip side of the long-distance-grandparenting coin is that I don't have to see my grandchildren on a daily basis, not even on a weekly basis.

Have to? Is that what you really meant?, I imagine some asking.

That's exactly what I meant. Because despite the visions of calm, cool, collected Grandma baking up cookies, tossing dice in another round of Chutes and Ladders, or giggling giddily as grandchildren gather at her knee for story time, playing grandma is hard work. It's exhausting, to be quite frank. And it circumvents anything and everything else this grandma—like any other grandma—has going on in her life.

When my grandsons visit, I struggle to get my work done—housework and office work. I'm fortunate that I work from home, although that does mean taking vacation days for visits with the grandchildren is impossible. So I fit in what I can, where I can, when we're together. Sure, loving on those beautiful boys is far more important than doing dishes, cleaning the cat box, vacuuming the floor and making beds. As sage advice recommends, those things can wait. Making a living, well, not so much. When there's an adorable youngster awaiting a hug, hike, dance party, story time, bath or any other activity that would surely warm my heart more than pounding out a few paragraphs, there's no doubt what wins out. Meaning having to choose between work and grandma play only every couple of months is a good thing—mostly for my bank account.

When I'm around the little ones, at my place or theirs, I also don't exercise as I should, don't read what I should, don't eat as I should. I definitely don't sleep as I should, either, because how can I waste minutes sleeping—or doing any of those other activities—when I could be savoring each and every second I have with the true loves of my life? I can't. And I don't. Another reason the long-distance thing is best for me, it seems, as it's all too easy to let anything and everything else slide while I slide, swing, sing, dance—live!—with my grandsons.

Many grandmas never have to consider such things because not all grandparents are long-distance grandparents. In fact, from my vantage point, it seems the majority are fortunate in that they have a more up-close-and-personal grandparenting experience than mine. I often hear the stories of grandparents who see their grandkids on a weekly basis, for school functions, fun visits, Saturday sleepovers, and Sunday dinners. Some serve as daycare—primary or backup—for the kiddos, spending most days of the week cooking, carpooling, catering to the grandkids. Playing and hugging and enjoying them, too, I have no doubt.

Those locally grown grandparents have different considerations, though. Or so I've heard. Things such as parents dropping by unannounced hoping Grandma and Grandpa can watch the kids for just a bit while they run errands, grocery shop, go to a movie, go to the doctor or dinner. I've also heard of local grandparents being unexpectedly expected to pitch in with childcare when a little one is sick and Mom and Dad absolutely cannot take another sick day at work—despite Grandma and Grandpa often having an outside job to attend, too. I've heard stories of simmering resentments, about lack of communication regarding boundaries, of inconsiderate connections. Sure, I'd love for my grandchildren to live locally, but such tales are ones I'm glad I don't know firsthand.

I'm also glad I don't know firsthand the challenges faced by those admirable grandparents who have taken on the role of parent, signing on to be primary caregiver of their grandchildren because of unforeseen circumstances that put them in that position, for better or for worse. They step up, they support, they discipline, they raise, and most of all, they see—and love—their grandchildren every single second of every single day.

I, on the other hand, see my grandsons about 35 days total in a year's time, broken into bite-sized visits of several days here and there every other month or so. Which amounts to basically 10 percent of my time spent in active grandma mode. That leaves 90 percent of my time spent in any other mode I choose, any and every mode unrelated to loving on little ones. I appreciate that time, appreciate that opportunity, appreciate the ability to focus on me things, me time.

Don't get me wrong: Those days that make up the 10 percent dedicated to grandparenting are the very best, the very brightest of my whole entire year. I wouldn't give them up for anything, and I continually clamor for more. I'm just thankful that not every single day, not every single week is equally shiny, for such brilliance would surely burn me out. Quickly.

And a burned-out grandma—much more so than a long-distance grandma—is a long, long way from the kind of grandma I want to be.

This post linked to Grandparents Say It Saturday.

Today's question:

What role takes up the biggest chunk of your days and what role do you wish took up the biggest chunk of your days?