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Can I stop visiting my children’s grandmother? Carolyn Hax readers give advice.

((Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post))
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We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: For years, I’ve done all the heavy lifting of maintaining a relationship between my children and their paternal grandmother — even after my divorce five years ago. Recently, my ex did finally try to arrange a visit and she rebuffed him and his new family. Her loss — her new DIL is frankly nicer than me and her kids are polite and adorable.

I normally let her know when I am coming to town and see if she can/wants to get together — my ex and I both live very far away but I regularly travel to see my parents who live a manageable distance away, and my ex does not normally travel that way. I have always done all the driving (two hours each way, a complete tour of the suburbs) — her health genuinely doesn’t permit it now, but even when she COULD drive, she visited us twice in 15 years of marriage and never met my parents. Can I just … not do that anymore? How do I balance “I might regret neglecting a lonely ill person” with “But she makes it so hard and I’m tired and she’s not even my relative”?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: You don’t have a responsibility to a former in-law, but you do have a responsibility to your children, so try framing it in that direction: Is their grandmother a positive or negative presence in their lives? Does visiting her enhance their relationship with her? Do they want to spend time with her? Can they do so on their own (are they old enough/responsible enough to make the two-hour drive when you’re visiting your own parents)?

Regarding the potential regret that you might feel, our lives are filled with choices, decisions, things we can do, could have done — because we cannot do all things or be all things. Weigh how great that regret might be against the burden of effort and feelings of resentment. Give yourself permission to value your own time, your own emotions, and see where the balance lands.

— Anonymous 2

Anonymous: You have permission. But you can also compromise here. Consider visiting every other time you come to town or only if your schedule allows. If you are still feeling guilty, consider if there are other, less travel-intensive ways that you can keep grandma connected to grandkids like photo sharing frames and video calls. The best part is, your kids may be even more adept than you at making the technology work, giving you a break from bearing all of the responsibility of staying connected.

— Katy

Anonymous: Given she is unable to travel, before you end the visits, ask the ex-husband to take on the responsibility of the visits. Explain you made the effort over the years for benefit of both ex-MIL and children post-divorce, but feel that since enough time and healing has occurred for the children, and his mother is less mobile, it’s time for him to take over coordinating the visits between his mother and the children.

It's not unreasonable to ask the ex-husband to manage the relationship between his mother and children.

Explain you did not want to abruptly end these visits out of concern for ex-MIL mental well-being. So you are allowing him to step in to make a seamless transition. Then you both should tell his mother he will handle the visits going forward.

— Cate

Anonymous: I’d advise that it depends on what your children get out of the visits. It’s really about them and their relationship with their grandmother, and not about her or you or your ex. You don’t mention how they feel about these visits at all, which I find strange. If they love her and want a relationship with her to continue, then you should keep making the effort to visit. If the relationship doesn’t benefit them, then I’d say you can stop. But I’d talk to them about it first if you’re not sure. Not to ask them the same way you’ve asked Carolyn, but a much more general conversation about how they feel about their grandmother and visiting her. Don’t put the decision on them, just be clear about what they get from these visits.

— Mountain Peach

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read the most recent installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.

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