Friday, June 19, 2015

Grandparents as parents.

While I write this I am aware that every family is different and all cases vary. As the cost of living has gone up and more and more women have gone out to work Grandparents have taken over the job of primary carer of the children. There are many reasons why a grand parent may be raising a child as opposed to the parents. The most extreme reasons could be death of the parents, other reasons could be a lack of parenting ability or neglect on the part of the parent for reasons such as drug and alcohol  abuse, parents may be incarcerated, ill or in the military and the most popular reason would be just to babysit so the parents are able to go to work. Grand parents provide the stability  and security of home for their families.

In the UK according to an article by the TUC in 2013 nearly 7 million grandparents were looking after their grand children in one way or another. According to the 2010 US census 4.9 million children under the age of 18 lived with Grand parents. I want to explore what influence grand parents have on their grand children and why in my opinion if you can spend more quality time with your child you must make that an absolute priority even if you have a busy job.

My focus will be on the children whose parents go to work to further their careers or just to support their family and leave their children in the care of grandparents. Not long ago a friend of mine told me that she didn't want her 4 year old daughter in the care of her mother in law any more while she went to her work as a Pharmacist because the little girl was beginning to speak exactly the way her grand mother spoke! The grand mother was from India so spoke English with an Indian accent and the child was mimicking the grand mother's speech. My friend was lucky as her husband had a good job so she cut down her work hours so she could spend more time with her daughter. She also put her in a playgroup so the child could become more socialized with her peers.

For  all the love our parents bestow on us and our children the love of a grand parent is different than the love of a parent. Grand parents grew up in a different era than the parents and what shaped their beliefs and personalities will of course be completely different than the parents. I have closely observed children who are brought up primarily by parents and brought by grand parents. Parents tend to discipline children more than grand parents who tend to indulge their grand children and let things slide which should receive attention.

 I remember a friend's teen aged son was living with his grand mother because she didn't want to leave her elderly mother alone. The arrangement was consensual between all three members of the family and my friend lived alone as she was separated from her husband. So every Monday this boy would decide to have a sick day from school. Now I am not saying that kind of thing doesn't happen when a child lives with his parents because it occasionally happened at my house when my son would decide he was sick and have a day off school. However my friend's son would take a sick day every Monday until finally the school called the grand mother and she had to have a word with her daughter who then spoke to her son and they decided he was being sick too often!
 This friend also comes home late on many evenings and told her Mother that she is working late. When she comes home to eat her evening meal she will be dressed in evening wear which means she's had an evening put with her friends and not working late.

 You would think that this person would want to be with her child at the weekends right? Well guess what? Neither parent is anywhere near the child at the weekends and he is to be found just loafing around his grand mother's house. When he would go out and not come home for any reason the grand mother would be distressed and worried about him. Is that the elderly grand mother's job or is the parent's job. Why should an elderly person be worried because a teenager is staying out too late?

I'm not saying you should never go out with friends and have a life which in part is outside your family.   Also the grand mother is very willing to look after the child. However if you are capable and your children are still impressionable and vulnerable you should spend quality time with them. Just because you know your elderly mother can and will be there for your son it doesn't mean you should ignore him day after day! When this child child grows up who will he remember as his primary care giver? Will he remember his mother or his grand mother? In my opinion he will remember his grand mother and she will get the credit for bringing him up!

In my own case my children have seen their grand parents every summer and have a great bond and sense of loyalty with them. They see their grandparents with affection, respect and love. I was lucky that I didn't need to go to work outside the home and never really had to leave my kids with anyone outside the home unless I felt like it. However when I did I made sure I spent time on my children when I could at every given opportunity.

Although I think each person is an individual in my role as a Mother I always wanted to help mold my children. To this day my kids remember little details of things they did with me and relish seer little memories of their childhood with their family and friends. I felt every minute I spent with each of my kids was a gift to me and the child. It did not mean I for got that my child needed friends their own age and needed to socialize and it didn't mean I didn't have friends of my own who I enjoyed spending time with. I will reiterate that I wanted to be the primary influence on my child. I didn't want them to form their opinions from other people. However that is just how I felt and obviously isn't what everyone else feels. Of course now my kids are older they are fiercely independent and want to make their own decisions without my input and I am proud of that.

There are many benefits of the child interacting with it's grand parents and of course I am not against grand parents helping to bring up grandchildren and supporting their own child by providing day care. However  I can't condone people who relinquish the care of their children to their own mother or father because it's convenient however willing the grandparents are to get involved. Grand parents should remain just what the name implies and no more unless there are extreme circumstances!

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