When my friend and colleague Ruth Duskin Feldman of Highland Park, Illinois took two small grandsons and one granddaughter to “Moms and Tots” classes starting some nineteen years ago, she was the only grandmother in the class. At the time she didn’t realize what a trend-setter she was. This year, after finding nine out of ten children in one class accompanied by their grandmothers, the owner of one children’s gym on Long Island (New York) renamed its “Mommy and Me” classes “Anyone and Me.” Who are the “anyones”? Mostly grandmothers.
Grandma Ruth took over the care of Daniel, and then his younger brother, Emmett, two days a week so that her daughter, Laurie, could work part-time. From the time each of the boys was six months old, Ruth regularly picked them up and brought them to her home, an arrangement that worked out well for everyone. Mom and Dad went to work with an easy mind, knowing their children were being well cared for; Grandma built a close relationship with the children, while not sacrificing her own writing career; the children had loving, caring family around them all the time; and Grandpa got quality grandkid time too.
Even after Laurie’s daughter, Rita, was born and Laurie was home full-time, Ruth picked up the children at least one day a week and took them to classes. (When Ruth’s other five grandchildren were infants, they all lived too far away for Ruth to share parenting in the same way.)
Ruth expressed the value of shared parenting in an article she wrote for New Choices Magazine: “I’m not Daniel’s mother, but I am a partner in guiding his development. Because I’m his grandmother, what I do with him goes beyond babysitting – beyond keeping him fed, dry and out of danger. I wonder how many babysitters are willing to shop for just the right toy or seek out neighborhood playmates and compare notes with their parents. Daniel and I are not merely passing time together a few times a week: we’re building a relationship that’s important for both of us.”
This super granny says, “Grandparent care is an old idea whose time has come again.” She agrees with the observation by Amy Goyer, national coordinator for the AARP Grandparent Program, that as more grandparents these days assume this role, “they are becoming guiding forces in their grandchildren’s lives.”
Grandparents who care for grandchildren either part- or full-time can find a wealth of resources, including the Foundation for Grandparenting, www.grandparenting.org, and Generations United, www.GU.org. Also, you can find more help by searching the Internet for “grandparents raising grandchildren.”