One of the first stark, almost shocking, early parenthood realizations in our world today is the humbling moment when you realize you are not a "Wonder Parent" and cannot do parenthood all alone.
New parents want nothing more than to be seen as capable. There is an innate need for new parents to be seen as naturally good at mothering or fathering, which means we'll often turn down help just for the challenge of doing things ourselves.
The truth is, we let our pride get in the way of receiving the help we need. Support is a crucial ingredient in successful parenting. Not only do our friends, families, and communities have so many resources available to new parents, but they possess knowledge, wisdom, and experience that we could never have known when we were starting.
The phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" is more relevant in today's world than ever before.
Co-Parenting Is the New Normal
Work schedules, changing gender roles, and the modern state of parenting have changed the grandparents' position.
Nowadays, it isn't just moms who take time off to spend the early months with their babies. With the advancement in breast milk technology and the availability and affordability of healthy formula milk, more mothers share the early parenting duties with the fathers or spouses.
This helps alleviate the burden and ensures that both parents are allowed the opportunity to bond with their babies and have the occasional good night's sleep.
With parents re-entering the workforce sooner than families of the past. In 1968 just 21% of mothers with children under the age of one were in the labor force. More than 50 percent of mothers with children under one re-entered the labor force by the year 2000.
In situations where a second parent is not available due to work or other family reasons, grandparents fill in the gaps. Sharing the care is a lot more common than you think. With more and more parents re-entering the workforce, retired grandparents are filling in where daycare and school cannot.
The number of single-parent homes, divorced co-parents also plays a role in influencing the amount of reliance on grandparents for additional childcare outside or daycare, school, and after school programs. Grandparents are providing stability and care when parents are working or between custody weekends.
But this is not a downfall for modern parenting and instead should be seen as a strength.
Long before we settled in towns and cities, able-bodied adults would tend crops and hunt, leaving the older adults and teens to participate in child-rearing out of necessity. The same necessities hold true today as both parents usually share responsibility for providing for the family. Therefore the help of other family members is necessary for providing the care that children need.
Why Are Grandparents a Great Fit for Childcare?
Grandparents Are Wise
It's no doubt that grandparents have been around the block a few times. In most cases, grandparents have had a wide range of child-rearing experiences and know the ins and outs of dealing with meals, getting dressed, playtime, and discipline.
Though the times may have changed, grandparents have already spent a chunk of their lives parenting from newborns to teenagers. This experience makes grandparents well versed in the nuances of children.
Having check-ins and conversations with your parents or your spouse's parents is key to a productive parenting and grandparenting relationship.
In these talks, you can establish the parenting methods that are important to you and reinforce with the grandparents the habits, like recycling or making art together, that you’d like your children to focus on during their downtime over simply tuning in to the television or cellphone.
In this same vein, it is essential to listen to the grandparents' needs. Make sure you are checking in to make sure they aren't taking on too much.
Communication is key for all parties for successful co-parenting and grandparenting to be achieved.
Grandparents want your children to be safe, provided for, and well rounded, but your ideas on what this means can be different than how your parents raised you. Be sure to sit down with the grandparents and explain your parenting rules, goals, and dreams for your children and do this regularly.
Grandparents Aren't Like Any Other Caregivers
Grandparents offer so much more than daycare or babysitters. Grandparents can build lasting connections and bonds with your children in ways that will benefit them throughout their lives as a constant place of stability and family.
Grandparents Are Confident
Grandparents have been around the block. They have lived through a wide range of parenting situations. They are usually well equipped with the emotional and logical tools for taking on the daily battles and snuggles of child-rearing without fear, additional anxiety, or the same questioning that new parents have.
Experienced parents or grandparents don't worry about the small things and instead make sure they are present, available, and connecting with their grandchildren in ways they may not have had with their own children.
Grandparents Are Invested
Family ties mean the potential bond is stronger as well as the responsibility. Grandparents are committed to the safety and development of their children and grandchildren.
Grandparents Are Easily Vetted
You already know your parents' parenting style as well as their criminal history. The trust you have with your parents is something you built over decades as opposed to hiring a nanny or vetting a daycare based on reviews. It is much easier to trust your own parents with your children than a new stranger.
Grandparents Are Stable
Grandparents have typically been settled for some time and offer a safe and familiar family-oriented environment. Grandparent environments tend to contain memoirs of the parents and other indicators of family and comfort.
Grandparents Have Free-time
Many grandparents are retired or only work part-time, allowing ample free time to care for and be present for your children. This also means that for the most part, using grandparents for childcare is very affordable or free as the exchange lands the grandparent with much desired time spent with their grandchildren.
Grandparents and Children Both Benefit From the Shared Time
Grandparents and grandchild usually flourish when able to spend time together. Children learn respect for others and new ways of learning and communicating with other adults in their lives.
Benefits of Children Spending Time With Grandparents
A 2020 study on the benefits of grandchildren spending time with grandparents states that these children tend to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems and that interacting with and forming bonds with grandparents in addition to parents helps children have less difficulty in interacting and maintaining relationships with their siblings and peers.
Crowdsourcing Childcare Benefits All Involved
Children benefit from having multiple kinds of love from adults in their lives, from parents to aunts and uncles to grandparents, but the children aren't the only ones.
These familial bonds get to mentor, nurture, and share the burden of childcare by sharing experiences and their personal time. Sharing the care provides role models for our children in ways they could never obtain from daycare. It allows for one-on-one connections to be built, as well as creating mutual respect and friendship. Children will also be exposed to different perspectives when childcare is shared among trusted adults.
Many retired adults and grandparents experience loneliness and boredom in their old age. Especially if they have lost a spouse or no longer have any children of their own at home to care for, retirement projects run out eventually. Having a young person or children as companions during these times can re-spark joy and help keep aging grandparents active and sharp.
As we age, we want nothing more than to leave a legacy. Spending time with younger generations allows an opportunity to share learned experiences and pass down pieces of our identity with a younger generation.
Bring Parenting Full Circle
There is no doubt that there are hardships when it comes to being a parent. Finding the time to provide everything your children need in this modern world is a big job.
That's where that good ol' family village comes in. Allow yourself the opportunity as parents for your children to build those lasting bonds with their grandparents, and in doing so, you can provide many, many additional and beneficial elements for your children's lives and futures.
Be sure to communicate, listen to the grandparent's needs, and be transparent about your parenting needs.
The shared joy of being able to love and support your children while your parents and in-laws also get to build that love and support will only benefit your children for decades to come.
And someday, you too can continue the cycle by providing care for your children's children gifting that same gift of security and care to future generations.