HOW DO I ENSURE MY KIDS AND I CAN SPEND TIME WITH MY PARENTS AS WELL AS WITH MY IN-LAWS?

DEAR DALI MAMA:

My mother-in-law recently passed away.  Now that she’s gone, my husband’s aunts have really reached out to us, and have expressed more love and caring towards me than I’ve ever experienced in all the years my husband and I have been married.

While it feels nice to experience this, I also worry that my parents will get left out even more.  My husband’s family has never really included my parents/family as part of their family, and more and more it seems my husband’s family has gotten priority for visits, etc, due to my husband’s parents getting ill, etc. Since we live out of state from both sides of our families, and they live on opposite sides of the country, our vacations are often spent traveling to see one of our families.

My parents are not getting any younger, and have started having age-related health issues of their own as well.  I would like to see them and help them more.  My kids want to see them more too, but I am concerned that my husband’s family will try to see us even more now that my mother-in-law is gone.

My husband is understandably very upset about losing his mom. But I would like us to see my parents as much as we can while we still can. My parents don’t have a lot of family nearby, and most of my mom’s family is out of the country. I want to spend more time with them. I guess I’m feeling extra protective of them since my husband’s family doesn’t have any interest in having a relationship/connection to my parents/family. My question is, how do I ensure that my kids and I can at least spend more time with them, while not creating some conflict or competing dynamic in our family?

–Concerned Daughter (England)

DEAR CONCERNED DAUGHTER:

For you and your kids to spend more time with your parents, create a space to do so. If you want, also create a space for the whole family (your husband’s aunts and your parents and brother as well as your husband and kids) to bond and get closer as a family. Perhaps you could start by group emailing everyone in the family (your parents and brother, your kids if they are old enough, your husband, and your husband’s aunts) and sharing how much it means to you to have them in your life and to recently have been able to be able to better get to know your aunt-in-laws and to connect with them more deeply). You could also mention something (if this resonates for you) about the death of your mother-in-law making you realize how important family is and how important it is to enjoy quality time together with all of the family that you love. You might want to mention you’ve been thinking of a away to do this with the logistical difficulties of having family on both coasts. Then you could propose all of you getting together on an annual basis. (Of course, those who can afford it can still visit you on their own if your schedules allow.)

Since the two branches of your family live on each side of the coast, perhaps you could find somewhere in the middle of the country—maybe Kansas or Missouri or even Colorado or New Mexico. Costs for a family vacation are often more affordable than on the coasts and you can find places with family cabins or retreat cabins or a group of clustered yurts that would be affordable, fun, and also easy enough to navigate for older folk who may have more difficulty getting around.

Put it out there and see what happens. Even if not everyone wants to participate, do it for you and your immediate family and whomever else can join you. It might even be the beginning of a tradition you will continue with your family and their future partners and your future grandkids. Wishing for you your heart’s desire.

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