My friends tell me I have an unusual relationship was with my former in-laws — my ex-husband’s parents. The way I’ve always looked at it was that these are my children’s grandparents, and I’ve always had a relationship with them was separate from my ex-husband. I never looked at that as unusual, either. My ex- worked nights and I was often at family events without him. Even before we were married, my then-future mother-in-law invited me to lunch or shopping. My own mother suffered from emphysema and COPD so as my children grew and she got sicker, I looked more and more to my mother-in-law for support as a new mom.
My children each have their own special relationships with their grandparents. I always invited them to attend school events and field trips. The boys call them with special news, questions about homework, etc. My former-in-laws were also my back-up for childcare when my kids were little. As the boys got older and no longer needed babysitting, they would ask to spend weekends with their grandparents; and my youngest son, now 14, has spent nearly all of his past 3 summers with them.
After my divorce I remained close with my former-in-laws. Not only did they continue to see the children regularly, with or without their dad, but I continued to invite them to birthday parties and school events. The children still asked them to go on field trips as chaperones. They even helped us move since they owned trucks and vans.
As I moved on from being married to being divorced, I met other families going through the same thing and was surprised to see that the relationship I shared with my former in-laws was definitely NOT the norm. It seemed that many grandparents felt they would be taking sides if they kept relationships going with former daughters- and sons-in-law. Most, I found, only saw their grandchildren when they were seeing their own adult child. Many times it was only holidays, like once a year at Christmas. (Wow!)
When I married again, I saw how uninvolved my husband’s parents were in their grandchildren’s lives. Unless the boys were with us on a birthday, his parents did not call the children, did not send a gift — nothing! Even after my stepson moved in with us and my husband’s dad passed away, his mother made no effort to get to know this little boy. We have even asked her to spend time with him and she claims she would not know what to do with him (she raised two boys!). It seems to be the same on the other side, with his ex-wife’s parents. Obviously my stepson saw his grandparents if he was visiting at his mom’s and they were there, or at a holiday. Since his visits with his mom are sporadic, we decided to extend the invitation to his grandparents to see him as often as they wanted. They live 10 minutes away, whereas his mom lives 45 minutes away. They took our phone number and even let us know they would call. Guess what? We’ve never heard from them.
I have suggested inviting those grandparents to lunch, but my husband believes they will not come. He believes they feel they will be taking sides if they choose to visit our home. I hear this is common in divorce situations. Maybe I could understand it more if they were closer to their divorce date, but it’s been 11 years. Or maybe even if I had something to do with his divorce, but I met him several years after he was divorced. And it was his ex’s idea for this little guy to live with us to begin with, (although we don’t know what she’s told her parents about the reason he lives here). So maybe all that comes into play with these grandparents.
I feel very strongly that there is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, and all I want to do is support that bond. With my stepson, I felt a relationship with grandparents would really boost his self esteem. I guess if the bond is not there to begin with, you cannot force it. I am just baffled at how many children are missing out on this great relationship!
What do you think? Do you keep in touch with your ex’s parents?
I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!