Sunday, August 4, 2019
The New York Times ran a story about "intensive grandparenting," a term that makes sense to me, but one I hadn't seen used before this. When Grandparents Help Hold It All Together explains that the phrase, developed by sociologists, which "refer[s] to a commitment to providing regular child care, often accompanied by housekeeping or other tasks." The story shares experiences of some grandparents who have committed to their families in helping out while the parents are working. As the article explains, this type of grandparenting goes beyond the stereotypical view of grandkids visiting grandparents for short visits or fun trips.
How many hours are intensive grandparents putting in? How many are doing so? Who knows for sure, "but a recent study reports that about half of young children, a third of those in elementary school and even 20 percent of teenagers spend at least some time with grandparents in a typical week... [and one] sociologist ... and author of “Grandmothers at Work,” analyzed federal data for grandparents aged 51 to 70 who had jobs, most working full-time. About 45 percent had provided care for grandchildren during the previous two years, a proportion she expects to increase."
Intensive grandparenting--why now? The article offers reasons: changing views of parenting and "an indictment of a country that pays lip service to families while providing little real support."
Today’s parents work at demanding, often insecure jobs. Many employers still don’t provide adequate (or any) parental leave, sick days or health insurance. Quality day care often costs a small fortune; schools operate on calendars that don’t accommodate parents’ work schedules.
It's so wonderful grandparents are available to step in and the article mentions the value to grandparents in doing so, but also the costs to grandparents, including fatigue, the sense of obligation, and worry about their kids. It's important for these intensive grandparents to make informed decisions before changing their lives to step into the role: "[E]xperts worry ... about people who cut back on work hours, retire too early or otherwise imperil their own financial security to provide intensive grandparenting.... Grandparents [may end up] shelving their own projects and interests to care for grandkids. They may lose social connections, an important factor in older adults’ psychological and physical well-being."
Oh and by the way, parents--be sure to thank your parents, these "intensive grandparents" for all they are doing. As the article notes-it is darn important to do so.