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When Children Become Part of Retirement



grandparents walking with grandkids

This comment was left on a blog post last month:

"One subject that I would suggest has to do with Grandparents (retired) who find themselves assisting adult children and grandchildren through financial and/or emotional difficulties; sometimes long term. I have two friends who have custody of their grandchildren.
 One has embraced it as a "second chance", while the other struggles with the disruption to her recent retirement. In both cases, they were the only option for the children. So, it makes me wonder just how many situations like this there are out there, and how people cope with their circumstances."

What an excellent and important question. Whether you are a grandparent or not, have a similar situation or know of someone who does, or have never really thought about it before, this is a topic full of important issues. For this post, let's assume that the grandkids are not someone's responsibility because of the tragic death of the parents. I think that probably changes the responses dramatically. Rather, because of a divorce or other familial problem, children need a home and someone to raise them.

Most of us expect a satisfying retirement to be the time in our life when many major family responsibilities are no longer of concern. Any children of ours are grown and on their own. While they may need occasional help to get through a rough patch, day to day involvement is unlikely. Yes, there are are situations where a life crisis means moving back home or more active involvement in that adult child's life, but such situations are usually short term. Grandkids visit, are a joy for a period of time and then whisked back home. 

Care for aging parents may become part of our routine, too. From occasional visits to check on their welfare, to actually having one or both parents living with you full time, this situation can substantially alter one's retirement plans. But, I am not sure there is any more unsettling event than that questioned by the reader: suddenly becoming full time "parents" to grandchildren. 

To have a new infant or young child in your home brings an immediate change to the routine, budget, and energy needs of a retired person. Regardless of age, that child (or children) will require 24 hours of your commitment for years, maybe decades. The normal definition of retirement doesn't include such a situation.

As the reader notes, there are different reactions possible. One is viewing the full time care of grandchildren in a positive light. Some of the mistakes from the first time raising kids can be avoided. Being older and more experienced than as a young parent, a grandparent has the advantage of hindsight. The energy of a young child can be contagious. A deeply meaningful purpose in life becomes clear.

On the other hand, it is entirely understandable for a grandparent or a retired couple to be less than pleased with this new responsibility. Well laid plans and expectations must be shelved. That energy bubbling out of a youngster can be draining. Never-ending 'why" questions are the new norm.

My question to you is how would you cope with this situation? If you are a full time "parent" to a grandchild, please share your thoughts and experiences. If this is not your reality, but you know someone who is raising a child, again I'd urge you to give us all some insight. Even if you have no children who might leave you children to raise, you can empathize with those who do and share some thoughts.

This is a very tough question. It carries with it all sorts of feelings of responsibility. There may be some guilt and anger. Or, there may be a feeling that someone has been given an incredible opportunity to properly shape a human life. I can understand both reactions.

How do you feel?


Want to learn more?  Check out this article:

Become a Parent One More Time



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