Typically, most parents with grown children fervently hope (and oft times pray) for grandchildren – so much so, that prospective grandparents sometimes pressure their own offspring to bear a little darling or three. But given the present situation in which grandparents are stuck with childrearing a second time around, the adage “Be careful what you wish for,” is worth heeding.
According to the 2010 US Census, about 7 million grandparents have grandchildren younger than 18 living with them. Of the 7 million:
- 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18;
- 580,000 grandparents who are responsible for grandchildren under age 18, have incomes below poverty level; 2.2 million have incomes just at or above poverty level.;
- 1.9 million married (or separated) grandparents care for their grandchildren
- 670,000 grandparents who are caregivers for their grandchildren have a disability
Besides the financial burdens of being a caregiver for grandchildren, grandparent marriages can suffer due to the jolt of a suddenly changed lifestyle. In her article, “Kinship care and marriage: Raising grandchildren can create marriage difficulties!” Beth Q. Beck, former director of the Children’s Service Society of Utah, lists plenty of reasons for disagreement in kinship care marriages. Two big ones are:
- Differences over whether grandma and grandpa agree that kinship care must be provided at all;
- Nourishing the marriage falls by the wayside because the grandchildren require so much time and energy.
Ms. Beck describes a recent study at the University of Chicago, in which 12 of the 39 grandmothers who participated reported that the negative impact of raising grandchildren on their marriage was significant. Only three said that caring for their grandchildren strengthened their relationships with their husbands.
In an interview with a New Jersey social worker, Fox Business columnist Casey Dowd tried to shed more light on the increase in “grandfamilies” over the last decade. Social worker Janis Marler told Dowd that according to 2010 Census findings, a philosophical shift in the child welfare system has added value to placing children with relatives rather than in foster homes. A 2008 law signed by President Bush, encouraged this change. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act mandates that child protective service agencies provide notice to grandparents and relatives within 30 days of a child’s removal from parental custody.
So, dear grandparents, beware of what you wish for! Think about the possible consequences of pressuring your progeny to create more humans when we already have Enough of Us. The ultimate burden may well fall on your shoulders.