The grandparent deficit: growing up without Nan and Pop 270



View Profile

How old were you when you became a grandparent? Perhaps you’re still waiting for a grandchild to arrive. With many of our children starting their own families much later in life, some of us may have to wait a lot longer to proudly wear the badge of Grandma or Grandpa or sadly we may never get the chance at all.

In the United States, they’re calling it the ‘grandparent deficit’, where young children are growing up without active grandparents in their lives because they were born to late-blooming parents themselves.

Time Magazines Susanna Schrobsdorff came up with the phenomenon after observing her 5 year-old niece during a nursing home visit.

“Sahar comes frequently to have meals with my dad, her grandfather. He’s 81, and she doesn’t know what he was like before dementia took hold. Nor does she remember her grandmother who died four years ago, except in the funny stories my sister tells …

“She and my two daughters are among a growing number of kids who will see their grandparents primarily as people in need of care rather than as caretakers. They are the leading edge of a generation whose mothers and fathers had children later in life”.

The journalist, who had her second child at the age of 39, writes – “somehow while we were worrying about our biological clocks and our careers, it didn’t occur to us that another biological clock was ticking down: that of our parents’ health.

“… I do know I’d give anything if my kids could have one more weekend at the beach with my parents in peak grandparenting mode – full of silly jokes and poetry and wry observations from extraordinary lives lived fully”.

And the ‘grandparent deficit’ could be even greater for the next generation according to Time’s Assistant Managing Editor. If her daughter has a child at 39, as a grandmother she’ll be over 80 years of age when that grandchild enters preschool.

Schrobsdorff says she won’t be alone in the face of data which shows around six times as many children were born to women aged 35 and older in the US in 2012 compared to 40 years ago.

The statistics are likely to be similar in Australia where an increasing number of women are delaying having children to forge out their careers first before finding the right partner to start a family with.

For those desperately wanting to be a grandparent, it could be a long wait. When a grandchild finally does arrive, with the generation gap between grandchild and grandparent so much wider, the quality of that relationship could be very different than first imagined.

How about you? Can you identify with the ‘grandparent deficit’? Are older parents running the risk of having no grandparents in their children’s lives?

Do you find there’s a bigger age gap between you and your grandchildren than you had with your own grandparents? And how does that effect the quality of the relationship you have with your grandchildren?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Forty. I deliberated got married and had my first child by nineteen to make sure I’d be around for my g kids. Oldest twins eighteen. Youngest five weeks. I only had my grandmother till I was ten. Not good, I’d like to ask her so much.

  2. I didn’t have Grandparents so I don’t know what it would have been children had Grandparents and they were great but my Granddaughter doesn’t seem to want Grandparents…she would rather be with her friends her age.

    9 REPLY
    • I think all teens go through not wanting to see hang out at their grandparents place, they get to an age where it’s not that cool. I know I went through that stage I friends, boyfriends etc were more important. I remember my Nanna telling me she understood that. In the end teens grow back closer to their grandparents if that bond was there pre teens. I know by the time I was 18 Until the time my Nanna died I was in contact with her several times a week. I have some lovely memories of my grandparents.

    • She’s just going through a phase. So long as she knows you are there and will suppirt her, she will slowly drift back to you.
      Right now she is simply trying out the deeper water to see how far she can swim.

    • we have the same problem but its not due to being a teen so much as a divorce & a bad attitiude. I grew up with grandparents & can still remember going for visits & I was a teenager as well, I think its more to do with our live style now & the fact that grandparents don’t always play a major part in their lives.

    • I am so lucky then. I have 5 grandchildren, aged from 19 down to 6, and they love hanging out with me!

    • I also strongly believe our society has created a Generation of people who are only interested in people who are able to GIVE to them in a very superficial way!!ff1

    • I’m lucky that 4 of my six live very close by, and see them every day! Love them to bits and I am a “modern” with it ?Grandma! Well I think so?

    • I am very blessed with 8grandchildren I do not see 5 of them very often as they live a long way from me but when we are together we have fun and 3 of my grandchildren live near by they enjoy being with us it is about who you spend this time with them all and all love being with me I would want to thing that when I am gone they will remember me as that groovy Nana who did lots of crazy things with them and yes I really do feel those who never had grandparents they have missed out on so much

    • I am blessed with 5 grandchildren aged 18 down to 7mths We had 5yrs with 3 over seas but all back in kiwi land now
      .but still have at keast 100kms one way three hundred kms the other and getting there is dependent on health and petrol.
      But they all mean the world to us

  3. I grew up without grandparents. My father’s parents had died before I was born as had my mother’s father – my maternal grandmother died when I was two.

  4. I was 38 a great grandparent at 6o and my father was still alive making him a great great grandfather .

  5. Its when families are living far apart. You have grandchildren but the only way you can see them is online

  6. I grew up with no living grandparents so I don’t know how it would have been. My children only had one grandparent. My grandchildren have me plus another grandmother.

  7. My paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were the only grandparents I knew growimg up. My fondest life memories are all to do with my grandmother. I have always regretted not being able to spend more time with my grandfather. He was such a gentle soul. My kids paternal grandparents are not interested. Their grandmother told me she didnt want to see them after my husband left. My mother has an “I’m too old to be bothered” attitude. Don’t think the grandkids in a lot of cases these days could care less about grandparents who want to spend time with them.

    1 REPLY
    • Oh dear…time for rent a grand parent time… have to admit there are times i cant be bothered i have two kids who have six kids. And when six come its bedlam.

  8. I don’t have much contact with one lot of grand-kids because my eldest daughter chose to wipe me but I always say they know where to find me when they are old enough. They will come back.

    3 REPLY
  9. I grew up having both my grandparents with my Nanna passing when I was 54. (She was a day off 92) My Nanna was also Mum to my Mums youngest sisters ( my Aunties). They were both just a few months younger than I and my brother so we had a closeness that a lot of my friends did not have. I had Aunties who were more like sisters to me, grandparents who we loved to see and holiday with. That time was precious. I now have my own two grandsons who we love to the moon and back and have them sleep over often.

  10. I never knew my grandparents, my children only saw their grandparents annually , we see ours as much as possible, they live thousands of Ks away, flying is cheaper these days, and we have technology, which makes it easier to keep in touch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *