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Susan Adcox

The Grandparenting Spectrum

By June 5, 2012

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Recently I talked to a couple who were excited about taking a round-the-world cruise. They would be gone for ten weeks. When I mentioned that that was a long time to go without seeing the grandkids, I received a blank look, as if the thought hadn't occurred to them.

I received an email from another grandparent, upset because she wasn't asked to be a full-time caregiver for her infant grandchild when mommy went back to work.

When it comes to how often they want to see their grandchildren and how much responsibility they want, grandparents can fall anywhere on a quite large spectrum. Psychologist Vivian Diller, writing on the Psychology Today website, says that increased longevity and more choices cause some grandparents to be conflicted about their grandparenting roles. They are still looking at 30 or 40 years of life. "Very few are willing to turn it all in," Diller writes. "Bottom line, if we choose to help out with grandkids, we expect that they will fit into our busy lives--not the other way around."

One commenter took her to task for being out of touch with ordinary grandparents, many of whom are raising grandchildren or providing child care out of necessity. Since Diller is a psychologist in private practice in New York City, it's possible that the commenter has a point.

I've written about Five Grandparenting Myths Debunked. But the biggest grandparenting myth of all is that there's only one way to grandparent. There are many, and the right one is the one that is right for your family.

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June 5, 2012 at 11:44 am
(1) Gwen says:

I think I’d like to have my cake and eat it too. I want to celebrate my new found freedom as an individual, with my husband as a couple, with my children as they build their own families and with my precious grandchildren. It’s a juggling act……..I try to take one situation at a time……falling all over the spectrum.

June 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm
(2) Mimi says:

I am a lucky grandmother because I get to take care of my two grandsons (four and two years old) five days a week while their parents work. The four year old does go to preschool three mornings a week plus I then volunteer to keep them over night once a week so they can have a real grandmother experience. I had my “freedom” from my own children for a while before my first grandson came along, but then I have always been drawn to the wonder of children and their worlds with my 25 years of owning my own preschool and directing after-school programs. Children are the wornder in my world. And I have seen the other side of the spectrum as my parents very rarely had my children, their grandchildren, stay with them without me being present and that was only two or three times a year during school breaks. They were loved as grandparents, but weren’t really part of their grandchildren’s life, which to me is unacceptable. I want my grandsons to think of me as a part of their everyday life and to remember me as the fun person I am. I figure I will get my freedom again in about 10 years and then with any luck I will be back to take care of my great-grandchildren!

June 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm
(3) Mimi says:

I want to correct something from my earlier comment. When I put the word freedom in quotes I didn’t mean to disparage Gwen’s comment about her freedom because in my freedom years when my children were in college and getting married, my own married life was not what it should have been. It has since changed, but I want to be sure and clear it up that I meant that freedom wasn’t as good for me as it sounds like it is to Gwen. I also appreciate that it takes all kinds of grandmas to make the world go round…again sorry Gwen!

June 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm
(4) Robin Reaugh Dorko says:

I have been struggling with this since my 1st granddaughter was born more than 2 years ago. She and her new brother are in our town, our other granddaughter is 1 1/2 hours away. Yes, I know we are very lucky to see them so often. BUT…sometimes it gets to be a bit much.
Of course, when I’m with one of them I don’t want to be anywhere else!
Best tranquilizer ever!

June 5, 2012 at 11:07 pm
(5) Connie says:

I love spending time with my grand kids. I do spend about 30 hrs a week providing childcare and it has been wonderful! I have given up many things to be able to do this but for me, it was the only choice. My grand kids have all arrived rather close together so I know that my days as child care provider are limited. I will have time for me after they are all in school and I don’t mind a bit waiting for that.

June 6, 2012 at 10:20 am
(6) Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs says:

When I first became a grandma, I was heartbroken that I’d be a long-distance grandma. More and more, though, I’m finding it works out okay for me because I can’t imagine being at the other end of the spectrum and having them full time or even on a weekly basis. I would like to be a wee bit more toward the center, say, with the grandkids living an hour away or so instead of 815 miles (especially around holidays and celebrations), but we make do and we make it okay.

June 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm
(7) Kaye Swain says:

So true! There are so many different issues there’s never going to be one right way – particularly if you throw in health needs and other special needs. Then the help requirements can be totally turned upside down and inside out! Thanks for the encouraging words!

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