Childrearing

Are Grandparents More Involved Than Ever?

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If I have to work late and my husband is away for work, I call my parents.  If there’s a play that we want to see, we call my parents before any high school babysitter.  When my daycare provider plans her summer vacation, my first phone call is to my mother to see if she’s on vacation at the same time.  (She’s a teacher.  Long summers.)  This is all besides the weekly family dinners and random stops over.  Honestly, I see my family at least twice a week.  I talk to my parents everyday. 

My parents help with my daughter in a very real and substantial way.  I’m not really sure what I would do without them. And I know a lot of young mothers who say the same thing.  Most of my mommy-friends call their parents first and foremost, anytime they need a little help with childcare or anything else.  

Is this intense level of grandparent involvement a relatively new phenomenon?  We used to visit my grandparents, but they rarely kept us overnight without my parents.  I think, at most, they came down to help when my mom had a new baby.  I began to think that this might be a generational difference after a long talk with Annie, my daughter’s daycare provider. Lately, Annie has been amazed at the number of grandparents picking up children.

Annie, although she was a single mother for a short time, had a very similar experience to my parents.  While she visited her parents on occasion, they made it very clear that they would not be “parenting” their grandchildren.  No free babysitting.  Now, Annie runs a daycare, where she regularly watches her two grandchildren for free, whenever their parents need it. 

Maybe this is just another reflection on “Generation Me” and our refusal to grow up.  But I think it might be one of the few ways in which new mothers can comply with the “it takes a village” sentiment.  While past mothers may not have depended on their families for daycare, they were often much more involved in their communities and churches. They also knew their neighbors much better. I think this made it easier to trust a non-family member with your kids. 

Now, I’m lucky to know my next door neighbors names.  I certainly have a limited supply of high-schoolers to call on weekends.  Other than daycare and kids who have helped out at daycare, the only people who watch my daughter are directly related to me.  Because these are the people I trust.  Family and a couple of wonderful kids who’ve been helping with my daughter since before she could walk are the only people I could feel comfortable leaving my little girl with.  The thought of inviting a random high-schooler from down the street into my house is a little terrifying.  Yet plenty of people let me wander into their homes when I was in middle and high school. 

It also must be said, most grandparents seem happy to take a more involved role in their grandchildren’s lives.  My parents work hard to create special moments for their grandchildren.  My mom has tea parties for her granddaughters.  We’ve been to Disney Live, Disney Princesses On Ice and Sesame Street, all through the generosity of my parents.  And we were not the only group of 4 adults accompanied by a couple of excited and giggling kids.  From a very early age, my parents have checked in and invited over often.  They’ve volunteered help and slumber parties and told me about the importance of date night.  They’ve been more amazing and helpful than I can ever describe.

So, is it just me?  Are younger mothers more dependent on their own parents than ever before?  And is that a bad thing?

Personally, I think that as long as both parties are happy with the situation, it’s wonderful.  I’m thrilled that my daughter has so many people in her life who love and care for her.  I want her to have a close and lasting relationship with my parents.  And I’m lucky to have parents who want to be such a big part of my daughter’s life.  I can’t imagine it any other way.

(Photo: Thinkstock)