Boohoo: Granny’s too busy for the grandkids

While we’re busy reinventing aging, here’s one more thing to feel guilty about: we’re not grandparenting the way we should. Who says so? Our ever-dependent kids.

In an interesting piece in the Globe & Mail, Leah McLaren bemoans the end of “traditional” grandparenting, shoved out of the way by go-go-go Boomers who are too busy to automatically be on call — much to the dismay of their children who would like to rely on Grandma and Grandpa to do what’s always been done. To be fair, there’s an ironic twinkle-in-the-eye tonality that saves the article from outright whining.

Many boomers…are reinventing grandparenting, just like they reinvented everything else in their path, and guess what? It involves a lot less schlepping for family and a lot more doing whatever the heck they want. They are the “me” generation after all, and as in all other stages of their lives, they are rocking it.

And that means…not so much time for the grandchildren.

Some boomer grandparents are so caught up in their glorious golden years they’ve barely registered the latest generation at all. One girlfriend of mine complains bitterly that her husband’s parents, who live a hour’s drive away, have only visited her two-year-old daughter three times since she was born. There’s no rift in the family – they’re just too busy travelling the world, hiking and heli-skiing.

None of my friends leave their children with their boomer grandparents for longer than a night or two, and few even do that. Most boomer Grandmas and Granddads are just too busy – socially, recreationally and professionally – to focus on their grandkids the way their own parents might have. And for my generation of over-anxious “child-centred” helicopter parents, it’s hard not to take this as a personal insult. Haven’t these baby boomers noticed their grandchildren are utterly fascinating and entrancing? Aren’t they dying to hop along to Gymboree and help them to practise their mini cellos?

Yes, life is hard…

The problem for contemporary parents, of course, is that while parenthood and middle age have become much worse, old age has never been better. People in their 30s and 40s had to pay off student loans and suffer through an economic crisis in the prime of their earning years. We struggled to buy our first houses in a raging real estate market and now face rising prices for everything from heating bills to groceries to childcare. Cost of living has not kept pace with income levels and we are feeling the pinch. On top of all this, we work longer hours and spend more time with our children than any generation before us. We need a break! But there’s no point in looking to Granny and Gramps, because, unlike us, they’re having a grand old time.

Reality check:

  • According to a survey by Met Life Mature Market Institute, 62% of US grandparents have offered monetary help for their grandchildren over the past 5 years. 
  • According to the 2010 US census, 5.4 million children are living with, or supported by, grandparents and a further 2.7 million have the bulk of their needs provided by grandparents

In Canada, over 75,000 children are being raised by their grandparents without any parental presence or involvement at all.



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. Vice President, Zoomer Media Ltd. . Author of "The New Old" . 30 years experience in marketing communications, advertising, media . Speaker, writer, commentator on the revolution in aging and how to market to Boomers and seniors