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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships 70    

                             February 2008

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.



Going to Singapore..

By Maggi Stamp

Dear Maggi, can you help? My son has just told me he has accepted a job in Singapore and he is taking his wife and their 2 year-old daughter to live there for two years. I’m beside myself. I can’t imagine life without them being just an hour or two away. We see them at least once a month, often more and the joy we get from seeing our little granddaughter growing and developing is hard to describe. My husband and I look forward to every visit. To think of them being so far away is so upsetting and I’m having sleepless nights over it.

My husband says I’m being irrational and that the job is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I worry that my daughter-in-law and the baby will be bored and lonely once the novelty of being in a very different country has worn off. Our daughter-in-law has lost both her parents and we look upon her as our own girl, so I worry about how she will cope.

Am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill?


There certainly is a mountain, not a mole-hill. It is probably made of your huge sense of loss. It will be very hard for you to wave goodbye when this young family embark on their journey, but for them it is a time of excitement and possibility.

This experience of letting go is, in a sense, one which you have already gone through many times and in so many ways during your son’s growing up, culminating in him leaving to set up hia own home. Mothers seem to be hit particularly hard by this rite of passage, but it is normal and essential and somehow one adjusts over time.

It is important to remember that our children are only ‘ours’ while they need our care and protection. Eventually, they need to make their own way in the world. There they are free of parental restrictions or rules, though never without parental love and support.

It is letting our children go that can give us such difficulties. Throughout their lives up to that point we have watched over, nursed and cared for, educated and encouraged them; from being a helpless babe-in-arms to a capable, independent young person eager for new experiences. Those new experiences will be sought and lived through without our guidance. That is both a pro and a con of being a parent. That a young person is eager to take life on without you is a sign of a job well done. You have helped your son find confidence in his own judgement.

As proof of this, your son is well into his adult life and has found his life’s companion, of whom you are both fond. The two of them have begun to build their own family. He has a job which is taking him and his family thousands of miles away from you and that is what upsets you most.

But your loss, painful though it is, is only temporary. They are going for two years. They will have, I hope, a really good experience and will gain much from their experiences abroad. Your son and daughter-in-law will have memories to share between themselves to give their relationship further depth and they will love telling you of their adventures. They won’t be sitting in the same place and same job in two years time, wishing they hadn’t been talked out of going for fear of upsetting parents.

Happily, there are excellent telephone connections and there is the internet, with camera links now, to allow you to stay in regular contact. You can’t get in the car and pop over for a day but you could still watch your little granddaughter growing and she could see and talk to you. And then, there is the prospect of your travelling out to join them from time to time…

I’m sure they know and, I hope, understand that your sadness is because it gives you so much pleasure to be with them. If you haven’t explained that, tell them. Explain your feelings to your husband again too. Tell him you need his patience and support. Ask them all to help you set up a camera link on your computer and show you how to use it. Ask for regular emails of photos of your granddaughter. Start saving now for your first visit out to them and bring back plenty of photographs to look through. You could get the pictures downloaded, printed and put them in an album with information from the emails alongside. Add any pictures of yourselves and notes about your lives too, while they are abroad. That way, on their return, you’ll both be able to sit with your little granddaughter and talk about her time in the far east. She will love looking through the book with you and it will help strengthen your bond with her.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.
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