She also began to resent that she had to pack food for the day to bring along as she and Paul were never offered to help themselves to food at their son and daughter-in-law’s home. In short, a thick wall of resentment began to build which ultimately caused a lot of friction. The children began to show signs of anxiety, picking up on the tension between their grandparents and parents. Additionally, both Tricia and Paul had no time for themselves; they had no social life, and they continued to deal with on-going stress about their finances and their future. Moreover, their mental and physical health deteriorated over time.
The real question is what this couple could have done differently to prevent this situation—and what other grandparents who are retired may want to consider before they commit to caring for grandchildren. Following are five key points to consider upon retirement:
- Even before you retire, reflect on your transition to life at home. Consider scheduling at least one or two activities that will be just for you. Join a ‘Y’ and commit to at least one or two classes a week, decide to learn a new skill or hobby such as gardening, cooking or some handicraft. Take those guitar lessons you always dreamed of, try a Pilates class, sign up for dance lessons, join a book club, line up a walking buddy for twice a week. The idea is to create a schedule for yourself and expand your horizons—before you are called upon to be available, and on-call, to care for your grandchildren. Make it known that you are on a schedule and can only be available certain days and certain hours!
- Talk to your son (or son-in-law) and daughter (or daughter-in-law) about your caregiving philosophies and come to agreements about how you (and your spouse) will care for your grandchildren. Rather than letting your son and daughter-in-law (or daughter and son-in-law, as the case may be) dictate how you should handle matters, contract on strategies—and keep focused on asserting that parents are parents and grandparents are grandparents—and that children ‘get’ the differences and can understand that rules may differ depending on who’s in charge on a particular day.
- Consider how you feel about being reimbursed for your time. If you need the money, or just feel you deserve payment, discuss it ahead of time. The worst thing you can do is to leave it up to the parents and then experience hurt and resentment for months or years to come.
- >Encourage your son, or son-law; and daughter, or daughter-in-law to secure part-time help for your grandchildren if they can afford it. Remind them that you are not going to be available at all times, and that due to aging, you might need time to rest and replenish your energy. Ask if you can be of help to research resources, being careful not to be pushy.
- NEVER, EVER confront your son, or son-in-law; or daughter, or daughter-in-law, about any issue in front of your grandchildren. Children deserve to be free of stress, so be sure to address issues and contract with parents when children are not present.
- Remember your actual role of grandparent as opposed to that of a babysitter. Be loving and giving, but be sure to assert your needs in a clear and concise manner before you end feeling overwhelmed, under-appreciated, or abused in any way. Remember that if you don’t take good care of yourself, you will not be your best for your grandchildren. That may mean limiting the time you spend with your grandchildren; it means communicating your needs to parents; and it will definitely—always– mean reserving time to nurture your individual interests and your self!
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