One of the most obvious issues grandparents face is a sad truth: Your social life will probably suffer. Grandparent’s raising grandchildren often say they feel socially cut off from their peers. It seems that now even a “casual” social life becomes a struggle.
There are several reasons for this. Older people don’t necessarily want to tolerate children during the adult time. Once your friends have finished raising their children, there is a tendency to want to avoid the uproar and distraction many children can provide. The patience they may have once possessed is no longer available to them.
The children want your attention – especially when it’s not readily available. Maybe you’re on the phone or a few friends are visiting. It’s like an alarm goes off that informs the children when you are not their main focus and when that is the case, they will do or need or want whatever it takes to get that microscopic focus back. Usually, that means whining, calling your name incessantly, or doing something they know they shouldn’t be. Children seem to have a long list of available tactics to undermine and redirect your focus.
Often when I ask, “What about a babysitter?” many grandparents are quick to point out the financial strain they are already under. Funds meant for their retirement are now funneled to the grandchildren. “Who can afford a babysitter?” is their most frequent response.
Perhaps a swap can be made for childcare services. By finding another grandparent in the same situation arrangements might be made so you take turns to relieve each other.
Parenting and Family Programs may also be available in your community. Often they provide free childcare for children whose parent, or guardian attends a class. They may also have access to information for additional options in your area.
Engaging in Self Care
Whether it’s a few days a week or a few hours a week, a break from your grandchildren can do much for your well-being and a relaxed, happy state of mind.
Just going somewhere without the grandchildren can remind you that you are more than your caregiver role. Doing something adult can really shift the balance from self-sacrifice to self-care.
A walk in a park, a trip to the local book store, library, a flea market, a picnic – all fun and free. And if you have a little extra cash, a movie, bowling, dancing, an art show, a concert, a museum. The point is to go somewhere without the children.
Taking responsibility for your life can help keep resentments from building. You have an obligation to yourself and the children to give from a full cup. If you are empty, no one is served.