Emotional Health · Family & Friends

Happy Mother’s Day: Grandparents’ 911. . . Continued

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Publisher’s Note

Nothing makes us happier here at womensvoicesforchange.org than to write about an issue that touches our readers’ lives in powerful and personal ways. Dr. Cecilia Ford previously wrote about the stressors and unhappiness a grandmother experienced due to the demands of her adult children that she become the on-call and unappreciated baby sitter.

Women continue to find this article by searching for advice about how to manage similar issues. The subject matter in the article and Dr. Ford’s kind approach to the woman in need seemed to provide a safe place for readers to write long comments with painful descriptions of adult children with entitlement, thoughtlessness, and no gratitude.  Many of these women felt they were expected to give up their lives and essentially become the unpaid childcare professional or lose their relationships with their children and grandchildren, even though many were no longer physically able to provide this kind of care.

The comments were read by an increasing number of women and led to further conversations among readers.  This is Women’s Voices in action.  We ask each of you to consider writing a comment in response to a post that educates you, amuses you, interests you, or touches you in some profound way. —Patricia Yarberry Allen

 

 

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I am in love. He’s blond with beautiful blue eyes, and he has dimples in his cheeks. He has a great sense of humor and his laugh is terrific. I keep his photos on my phone and I am constantly sneaking looks at him.

I am also in love with his brother, who is a little chubby and has a sweetness that radiates like the sun. These two little boys, my grandsons, 18 months and 5 months, have ushered in a new phase in my life, and like all changes, it has come with challenges. And as always, with love comes the potential for conflict, or as Shakespeare put it, “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

My transition into becoming a grandparent was fairly typical, or so I imagined. It involved a steep learning curve as I became acquainted with the new “rules” of parenting. Sleeping protocol has changed considerably as they have learned more about the causes of SIDS, baby food is different—improved and more accessible—and there are hundreds of new “contraptions” designed to help streamline child care. There are lots of new infant carriers, both wearable and otherwise, and a wide variety of seats and playthings that can do everything short of flying to the moon.

I was unprepared, however, for the outpouring of comments and questions that have accompanied the posts I have written on this topic. Readers’ comments in response to issues in this area have been more numerous than in response to any other on WVFC. Clearly it strikes a nerve.

RELATED: Grandmother 911: Out of the Storybook and Into Reality

Certain themes have come up over and over. First, grandmothers who have written have said they are overwhelmed by their children’s need for them to babysit their kids. Second, they feel that their kids take them for granted and don’t seem grateful or empathetic to the needs of the grandparent they are asking for help. Third, they are worried that if they don’t comply with their children’s demands, their children will cut them off from the grandkids, whom they genuinely love.

These issues are particularly sticky for grandparents who live close to their kids. Those who live far enough away, as I do (400 plus miles) are insulated some from these conflicts, but not entirely. Even in this situation, the visiting grandparent from far away can feel like they are welcome as long as they babysit, or sometimes, because they will babysit.

I have also been impressed by the heartbreaking tone of the responses from readers. These women are genuinely eager to help but their own needs and difficulties are limiting them. There are issues related to aging, for one thing. Running after toddlers isn’t easy for parents in the prime of their lives and it doesn’t get better if you have arthritis, hip replacements, or the general tendency to fatigue more easily that comes with getting older. Grandparents who were expecting to be able to “enjoy” the new generation without the burdens of the daily grind are finding themselves on the front lines of parental responsibility. Many have written that they expected to retire but now are asked to do regular child care. Others are being asked to do it in spite of the fact that they have not yet been able to retire.

RELATED: Family Ties: Lifeline and Gordian Knot

Unlike professional caregivers, grandparents are not offered remuneration. Often, according to our readers, their children act entitled to their help and are angry if it is withheld. Add to that the fact that while given much responsibility, grandparents are often asked to “butt out” when it comes to decisions involving how the children are to be raised.

It seems to me that many of these issues are related to social and economic trends that have shifted against the welfare of average families in recent years. In my family, for example, my parents earned more than my grandparents and not only did they not need to rely on them for help, my parents helped them out. This was the way the “American Dream” was supposed to work: each successive generation did a little better than the last, often thanks to the sacrifices their parents had made. When my grandmother came to visit it was usually a vacation or a respite for her: she had earned her reward. Meanwhile, like many women, my mother did not have to work to help make ends meet, and though my father worked long hours for a man of his generation, he was always home by dinnertime.

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  • Mickey May 5, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I’ll never be a ‘grandmother’. I am a grand (?) aunt. Three wonderful young girls careening through their lives with their beleaguered young mom at the helm. Sigh. My niece lives closer to me than she ever has (a two minute drive) and I still don’t see her or the girls very much. Another sigh. Thank you, Andrea. Great comment. And Fiona, too! Yes, aren’t they so darling!? I think of the extended families of another century when villages raised their children. What’s corporate America steering us toward now? Final sigh.

    Reply
  • Fiona May 5, 2016 at 10:32 am

    They are delicious. So cute. Love their little faces. And those cheeks! Thanks for this.

    Reply
  • Andrea May 5, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Thanks Cecilia for your very relevant and smart article on being a grandparent. What I found humorous was becoming acquainted with the “new”rules of parenting. REALLY??? at 9 months my grandson had a “sleep consultant” (for a substantial $fee)!and his parents were “taught” how to get him on a sleep schedule – darkened shades, white noise machine and all.REALLY?? What I quickly learned a s a new grandma were 2 things never to say regarding the baby
    1) do you know what I think?
    2) do you know what I did ?
    As long as that baby is safe ,healthy and happy my response to the new parents( particularly my daughter in law) will be “oh darling that’s wonderful”. It seems to be the right approach – I am asked to visit and babysit often and love every minute!! Happy Mother’s Day to all.

    Reply