Laying down the law with your grandkids

Aug 07, 2016

A lot of older women in retirement come to my clinic are looking after their grandchildren full-time. Many of these women are quite exhausted and at times run down.

Sure, it’s nice to be around your grandchildren.

In traditional cultures many generations would live together under the same roof or in the same street or area with one generation supporting the other. Grandparents would offer to be around to look after grandchildren when necessary and this created a strong sense of family and community.

However, many young couples today need two incomes to be able to buy a home and feed their families. So parenting largely falls to the grandparents.

Many of these older women in their 60s and 70s who are fulfilling the almost full-time role of parenting their grandchildren are overwhelmed with having to bring up a second family later in life. While they understand the financial pressures their children may be under, they end up experiencing a lower quality of life in their retirement years and a far cry from what they expected.

Joyce had already raised six of her own children when her daughter bought the house next door so Joyce could look after her grandchildren. Being very motherly and nurturing Joyce did not want to reduce her daughter’s opportunities for a career by refusing to look after the children; but raising three more children took its toll on her at 69. She felt tied to the home a lot of the time and unable to spend enough time with her friends.

Most of us often feel obligated to our families.

Certainly as older women we are pleased to see the younger generations have the career opportunities that our generations might not have had, but there has to be a limit to the availability of our time and energy devoted to looking after someone else’s children, even they are our own grandchildren.

Margery’s house seemed to have turned into nursery for five children under eight years old. Every morning her two daughters-in-law arrived at 8am with three under-fives and dropped two more off at school.

At 3pm Margery, 79, collected the two older ones from school while her husband George, 84, watched the younger children. The grandchildren were left with the couple until 6:30pm five days a week.

While her sons did give her money every week to look after the children, it was a physical and emotional strain on Margery.

If you are a grandparent who has become your children’s nanny, you need to consider your quality and life and what you can give to the process.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be clear with your children about how much you will and will not be available
  • Stick to the times you set for being available and remind your children of those times regularly — vocally and by text
  • Only agree to help in a sustainable way that allows you to have quality of life — you’ve earned it
  • Make sure you have a social life outside of taking care of your grandchildren
  • Do not take on more than you can manage
  • Remember your children may have a choice of how much they work and how much they choose to earn.
  • At this time of your life you want the time you spend with your grandchildren to be a pleasure, not a burden.

    Do you dedicate time to caring for your grandchildren? Is the time you spend with them appreciated by your family?

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