By Karen Best Wright, B.S., M.A Health Educator
If you find yourself "older" and raising children (most likely your grandchildren) all over again, it is time to get new glasses. What do I mean by that? It means you are going to need a completely new perspective when it comes to parenting your grandchildren than when you were parenting your own children.
Now that doesn't mean you are necessarily going to parent all that differently. That is up to you, but changing your expectations is vital for everyone's health and well-being.
5 Things that will be different
1) You have competition (even though this really isn't a competition). If you are a woman, you likely were your child's only mom. You were it. You really never thought about it much. Now, no matter how much time you give to parenting, the children know their "real mom" is out there someplace. Maybe they see her regularly or maybe they don't. But she exists. No matter their experiences with their "real mom," you are going to be compared as they get older. Lucky you.
2) You get to deal with legal issues you likely never had to deal with before. Your 401K might be spent on lawyers to perhaps get custody away from the state or even your own child (a horrible thought). When your children were sick, you simply took them to the doctor. You probably never had to prove you had legal rights to take your own children to the doctor or put them in school. Then there is the legal issues of adopting should you choose to go that route. If your own children were your birth children, you never had to consider adopting them to keep them safe.
3) You had nine months to mentally or financially prepare for your own child, and you usually got one at a time, as a newborn. Not so when you accept the responsibility of raising someone else's children. You usually get very little notice and they often come in two's or three's or even more.
4) Now that you are older, you likely will have health issues that you didn't have 20 or 30 years ago. Most of us simply don't have the energy at 50 or 60+ that we had at 30. So now rather than just dealing with the cold you got every fall when the kids went back to school, you are possibly dealing with arthritis, high blood pressure, menopause, and so many more unpleasant "older persons" health issues.
5) The money you had saved for retirement or need to be saving for retirement is now needed for larger housing - rather than downsizing to fit your retirement income - school clothes, lessons, and even children's medical needs. Even if the children have Medicaid, it may not pay for the braces your teen needs. So what now? Your teen grandchild either lives with crooked teeth or you dip into whatever savings you have or should have. There is no more "I'll save for my retirement when the kids are grown." Your kids are grown, and by the time your grandchildren are grown, well, let's just say, it may be a bit late to be saving for retirement.
So why do we take on the responsibility of raising grandchildren? Love. We love these children, even with all of the challenges. Just remember you need to put on new glasses to get a new perspective.
Karen Wright, a grandmother raising two teenage granddaughters