(Grand)Parenting the Second Time Around: Should You Retire to Care for Grandkids?

Many grandparents can relate to the sentiments I heard expressed recently by a friend who is a proud grandpa: “I love to see the little angels come, and I love to see the little devils go.” Or, as another grandparent phrased it, “The two most beautiful sights for me are the headlights on the kids’ car when they’re arriving and the taillights on the car when they’re leaving.”

Let’s face it: grandchildren are one of life’s deepest joys and also one of life’s biggest exhaustions. Ask any sixty-something grandfather who has had to push a swing for hours on end or make another lap around the block pulling a wagon; or take it from the grandmother who is called upon to fix one more sandwich “just the right way.” There’s a reason babies come to young people!

But more and more grandparents are retiring or otherwise rearranging their lives to provide care for their grandchildren. For some, it’s a joyful decision that enables them to bond in a special way with the wee ones and also provide much-needed relief for busy parents. For others, it’s a necessity created by traumatic circumstances such as a difficult divorce, abandonment, or parental abuse or neglect.

AARP recently reported that some 3 million older adults are raising grandchildren in the US. While many of these “second-time around” caregivers have embraced the role as a familial support system for involved moms and dads who need to work, others are barely coping with their own health and well-being while providing the primary care for youngsters in the absence or major impairment of the parents.

Retiring to Take Care of Your Grandkids? Here are Some Things to Keep in Mind

If you’re considering retiring to help with the grandkids, here are some important factors to consider.

1. Honestly acknowledge that you aren’t always going to have warm and fuzzy feelings about taking care of your grandchildren.

  • There may be times when you are just too tired;
  • you may feel a bit of resentment toward your children for leaving you with these energetic little bundles of joy;
  • you may even worry about your ability to handle the job.

All of these feelings are valid, and they certainly don’t mean you don’t love your grandchildren. You need to acknowledge them and perhaps even communicate them honestly with your children.

2. Have clear boundaries and expectations.

After all, you have already raised your family, and while you may relish the idea of spending both quality and quantity time with your grandkids, you still need to have your own life and space. You won’t be an effective caregiver if you’re constantly feeling spent and emotionally empty. Carve out some time to do the things you care about; you’ll enjoy the hours with the grandchildren all the more.

3. Look for a network of support, especially if you’re providing primary care in the absence of the child’s parents.

According to Psychology Today, high-intensity caregiving by grandparents is often associated with poorer health outcomes. Find a group of others who are either in similar circumstances or who know how to support custodial grandparents. It can make all the difference.

Stay Diversified, Stay YOUR Course!

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