My parents are pretty involved in my kids’ lives, but frankly I wish it was more. I wish they watched them on a daily basis like the other 7.7 million U.S. children who are cared for by their grandparents.
New research, conducted by US 2010, a research project on changes in American society funded by Brown University and the Russell Sage Foundation, confirms a recent study by the Pew Research Center showing that one in 10 grandparents raising grandchildren.
Of course these arrangements aren’t always the families’ preference — it’s typically an arrangement of convenience or necessity.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Amy Goyer, AARP’s expert on multigenerational and family issues, cited the 2007 recession as one the biggest reasons for the uptick in multigenerational households.
“Grandparents have always been a safety net,” she said, adding that nearly 20 percent of grandparents with grandchildren in the house are living below the poverty line.
The study concluded that almost one-third of grandmothers who live with their grandchildren are the primary caregivers. Black and Hispanic grandmothers are more likely than white grandmothers to live with grandchildren and black grandmothers are more likely than Hispanic grandmothers to be the primary caregivers, the report found.
This describes my childhood. My parents were dirt poor and the only babysitters I ever had were family members — my grandmother, my great-grandmother or my aunts. My children will be better off financially than my situation as a child, but that way of life is still in my blood. Something about people caring for my children in my home feels wrong to me if it’s not a family member.
But even more than a safety net for our family, it’s more of a unique vantage point. When I watch my kids with my parents, I can hardly believe my eyes. They are so much more loving, affectionate and patient than they were with me and my brother. They are much less stressed, knowing that they are important figures in the lives of their grandchildren, without being charged with the responsibility of raising them. My kids love my parents with a love I had for my own nana at that age and it chokes me up to see. When I recently went back to work in the office full-time I begged my parents to care for them every day. And they said no.
I respect that my parents are very young and they don’t want to give up their lives for their grandchildren. They, instead, want to enjoy that special and unique relationship — where they can play an active role without the pressure of having to make the tough decisions and endure the monotonous exhaustion of caring for them all day, five days a week. I can’t begrudge them that, but the truth is, I wish they were the ones with my kids every day.