A recent article, Real Richmond Grandparents: In a Sandwich, struck a nerve with dozens of people – both locally and far away. We’ve received lots of comments and stories about the challenges of being on the cusp of the ‘baby boomer’ generation where a much-needed retirement should begin, but life intervenes with different plans.
Many of the responses from readers are related to taking full-time responsibility to care for grandchildren. The reasons vary such as divorced parents, deceased parents, unwed mothers, children too immature to provide the necessities for babies they have brought into the world, and more.
But one theme remains the same throughout their responses. “I can’t do it alone.”
What it’s like
One reader provided poignant details of what it’s like to be the primary caregiver for an infant. Desiree* assumed responsibility for her 7-week old grandson as she was preparing to celebrate her husband’s upcoming 60th birthday. Just two years away from this milestone herself, the news that she had to make a choice about caring for her grandson full-time, or put him in foster-care was a shock.
But she knew what she had to do – and she did it. Desiree followed all of the rules and requirements mandated by social services and the legal system to work through the process. As if taking care of a newborn infant is not enough, working through the court systems is just almost too much to imagine.
Desiree explains it this way, “A lot of people say they don’t know how I do it but I don’t do it alone. I have sisters, friends, co-workers, church friends, his babysitter and many more people within the community who help. Things just fall in place when we need them. More than once a delivery of a case of diapers has appeared on the front porch and we call this our ‘diaper fairy’. They seem to arrive just when we’re down to our last few diapers.”
“No one can do this alone, and especially grandparents who have moved on to other things in life. I know I will have to work full-time a few years longer now because providing the financial support and necessities of a baby was not something we had planned on doing. A lot of our plans for retirement are now on hold.
But we’re doing fine thanks to the help of so many people.”
It takes help
Desiree is like a lot of other grandparents who find themselves in this situation.
Most people say they couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to take on this responsibility. But Desiree says that “I would have said the same thing before Bradley* came to live with us and if the situation arose, most any grandparent would do the same thing — no matter the sacrifice.”
If you know a grandparent who has taken on the immense challenges of parenting a grandchild, think about how you can help. Offer to babysit, provide diapers or baby food, share used clothing, or just drop a note of encouragement. We never know what life may have to offer us in the future and we may need that help too.
Desiree puts it all in perspective for us as she writes, “The world may be different in a hundred years because I was important in the life of my grandchild.”
No sweeter words were ever spoken.
NOTE: Leave your comments below, or email me at email@example.com with your stories and comments by putting “grandchildren” in the subject line.
*Names are changed for confidentiality of individuals.