What should the role of a grandparent be?

I’m pretty sure this topic will be familiar to most of you . It’s about our parents and the role they play when their grandchildren arrive. I have many friends back home in South Africa who are in these “fortunate” positions. One in particular, who I think is extremely lucky is able to continue with her very well paid job (after having a baby) because her mum has taken on the role of “the parent”, 5 days a week and almost always 24 hours a day. The friend gets to travel a lot and works away a lot of the time. This isn’t uncommon in South African culture, many grandparents look after the grandchildren so that their children can lead economically comfortable lives. Mind you they don’t get paid for doing this..a lot of the time the role is also taken for granted. So you find many a retired grandparent taking on the role of bringing up their grandchildren and even though they don’t complain to their own children, they DO complain to the children’s friends… Take a look at this story in the US – where 2.5 million grandparents are the primary caregivers. And this one in the UK where grandmother – Lorna Edwards, who co-founded this website with her daughter Verity Gill, said they hoped to build up a picture of what grandparents think is acceptable regarding childcare. So is it fair for grandparents to be taking on parenthood again? Is it also fair they get to do this 5 days a week? Are you a grandparent who looks after a grandchild or a parent who has your child looked after by your parents?

22 Responses to “What should the role of a grandparent be?”

  1. 1 Jennifer
    September 10, 2008 at 16:16

    I don’t have children but if I did there is noone I would trust more than my mom to care for them. At the same time, I don’t think it’s her responsibility to raise my kids and I wouldn’t make it an every day occurrence unless she asked. All of the grandparents I know enjoy spending time with their grandkids because they get to spend time with them and spoil them but at the end of the day they still go home with their parents.

  2. 2 Auspicious Ndamuwa
    September 10, 2008 at 16:42

    It is wrong to assign the role of looking for your children to their grandparents. This has to be done only in circumstances when the children’s actual parents are dead. But to think that grandparents have to assume the role of full parenting is being too inconsiderate. Let the children visit their grandparents once in a while but not ‘dumping ‘ them there. Lets give all the granparents a break, they raised us and we must also raise our own children. Why did we have the children in the first place if we knew we woould be unable to raise them?

  3. September 11, 2008 at 00:06

    The role of grandparents should be to encourage, love and share living and fun with grandchildren.

    If you can bestow affection and love on little ones, and actually enjoy their discoveries, they will come away with the unspoken belief that they are loved and of value.

    If grandchildren can feel this and laugh and play they will feel good about themselves and the world.

    Armed only with that and happiness about ones self……the little person can head off into the struggles and joys of life and enjoy/ harvest the most out of it appreciate all the things, people, animals, the planet….the beautiful planet.

    What a place we have here filled with such great characters who you will meet in abundance if you have that fun about yourself that loving elders handed down to you.

    I had two wonderful sons, one grandson……but the second son is only 11 years old. We all have fun. Not much money or high rank, but lots of joy.


    on the Oregon coast.

  4. 4 Katharina in Ghent
    September 11, 2008 at 10:19

    Grandparents should be there to help out in time of need, ie during vacation time or when the little one falls ill and the parents have to work, but they’re not supposed to be the primary caregiver. It may depend a little bit on the society, I can imagine tribal cultures where the parents are the most able to provide food and shelter and therefore it’s always been for generations the grandparents who raised the children, but generally speaking… No, parents should raise their kids.

  5. 5 smithcopper
    September 11, 2008 at 13:24

    My grandmother used to say, “One thing grandparents and grandchildren have in common is that they don’t like the parents.”

    I was fortunate to be raised by my grandparents. Often I felt my grandmother resented doing my mother’s job for her. If it was not for them I would have been in a degraded state. I owe my life to them. Those memories are treasure to me. I hope to honor the work ethic and nurturing given to me.

    Everyone is in a different situation with different needs. Personally, I feel the more love around the better. What’s wrong with that?

    However, I talk to a lot of parents who pay their 30something year old’s bills which should make them feel ashamed. Of course there are different situations which affect this …loss of employment …loss of a spouse…most of the time it is people playing the get over game who don’t want to work and pile burden upon burden on society. People do not take responsibility for their actions. Often grandparents fend for the little ones so they don’t have to go without.

    Live and let live.

  6. 6 Devra Lawrence-Jamaica
    September 11, 2008 at 14:12

    To spoil the grandchildren! Allow them to do things their parents won’t allow! Give wise advice.

  7. 7 Devra Lawrence-Jamaica
    September 11, 2008 at 14:13

    Grandparents should not become parents again. I think it’s a tad unfair. They’ve already had their share of parenting, let the parents now do their own jobs!

  8. 8 viola
    September 11, 2008 at 17:27

    Grandparents can provide a sense of continuity with present and past. They provide backup parenting.

    When parents abdicate or screw up, grandparents often step in. I personally know two families where the grandparents stepped in and took custody of grandchildren because of the parent’s drug or alcohol use. I know there are many more.

    Recently, in the waiting room of a hospital, I met an elderly aboriginal First Nations woman who had cared for all her grandchildren and was now caring for her great grandchild, born to her 14-year old granddaughter. It’s very sad that these things are happening, but I have to say that these grandparents are true heroes.

    However, I really admire my friend who, each time a female grandchild reaches puberty, gives her a very realistic baby doll with a note: “This is the only baby you should have until after you grow up.”


  9. 9 Jennifer
    September 12, 2008 at 02:39

    @ Viola

    I have seen the role that grandparents take as primary caretaker of their grandchildren sometimes too. Some of them are not in the best of health and are struggling on their own. They are heroes for stepping up and doing the best for the grandkids.

    Your friend seems like a wonderful grandma! 🙂

  10. 10 Michele
    September 12, 2008 at 10:08

    Grandparents are used to consider their sons as and their grandchildren as their friends and eternal kids. In this “game”, the old ones feel themselves young again, while sons are glad to be protected by adversities of life. All people risk losing their identity and, over all, forgetting duties in their state of life. A lot of marriages go bad, in consequence of that behaviour not clear at all.

  11. September 12, 2008 at 10:09

    I had the best grandparent while growing up, but i lost them all when i was 18 the last of my grandparent died. I miss them so much and i cherish the moments i had with them all in different ways. Grandparent should only be happy seeing and taking care of their Grandchildren, i mean my grandma used to give me more money than anybody i ever know every single month apart from my Parent. Well i also think it all depends on the family, the love and understanding the share. I know of some of my friends in Nigeria that can never see eye to eye with their grandparent. But in general i think been a grandparent is a blessing and been a grandchild is a Blessing and whoever wants to take care of the child be it the Parent or Grandparent i think it should be about Love.

  12. September 12, 2008 at 11:24

    Yes, I realise such treatments with the senior citizens, especially the grandparents who have to parent again their children’s children full time without any remuneration or reward for that.

    Moreover, in case these old aged people fail to perform their duty of caring their grandchildren properly, they are, in many cases, forced very rudely to stay in a ‘Senior Citizens’ Home’ .

    May humankind understands and realises the moral aspect of every step they take!

  13. 13 Listener
    September 12, 2008 at 18:02

    I grew up with my Grandma for about 17 years, my entire childhood. I learn how and why my family dynasty collapsed because of the new government regent.

  14. 14 viola
    September 13, 2008 at 05:08


    Actually, one of the grandparents has since died from a stroke. I don’t know yet what has happened to her little granddaughter she was caring for. Hopefully, her daughter has cleaned up her act and is caring for her baby. It’s terribly sad.

  15. 15 Emile Barre
    September 13, 2008 at 13:53

    The question is pointless since an old African adage puts the solution well, ” It takes a village to raise a child”.

  16. September 13, 2008 at 15:13

    The genius grandparents should never retire and keep themselves in doing something of their own interest they enjoy doing on. More importantly, they should spare some money for their old age and deposit them in Government Social Security Department, and keep on receiving benefits of them periodically so that they need not be dependent of their children.

    Further to that, they may opt for caring their grandchildren if they feel it honourable deed for them or find their way in any registered Government Senior Citizens Home from where they can keep communicating with their children and others rest of life if so desired.

  17. 17 Shantha Ayer
    September 14, 2008 at 11:21

    Can we adopt a grandma? This is what my daughter used to ask me when she saw her friends visiting their grandparents during half-term breaks and summer holidays. That was 24 years ago. My parents and my in-laws were in India and it was not possible in those days to visit parents yearly nor did we have access to technology to the extent that we have these days to communicate with them on a regular basis.

    Children do need grand parents to fuss around them from time to time. My daughter’s craving for her grand parents company was pretty obvious. I am sure she was not alone in having this cravings. Her question stayed in my mind all these years. Eventhough I do not have grand children of my own, I take on the role of a surrogate grandma to all my nieces and nephew’s children here in the USA. The pleasure they give me when they come to visit me during their school holidays and half term breaks can not be explained. To make things for them to eat, doing school projects with them, reading stories and most of all attend all their birthday parties, gives me so much pleasure. I just can’t wait to become a real grandma. Much as I enjoy being a grandma, I think the responsibility of raising the children should rest with the parents.

  18. 18 Jennifer
    September 15, 2008 at 01:41

    @ Viola

    I am sorry for not seeing your response to me until now! I must have overlooked it somehow.

    It is sad to hear that one of the grandparents passed away. I hope that the granddaughter and her remaining grandparent are alright. It would be wonderful if her daughter shaped up and started caring for her own daughter! I am sure her surviving parent could use come care and support now too.

  19. September 16, 2008 at 11:59

    I am not surprısıng to anything. But thanks..

  20. 20 Tammy grandma
    October 15, 2008 at 02:11

    I feel you all. I am now trying to get custody of my grandchild i have raised for the last nine months. It was not my plan and i still have tough days dealing with it but, someone needs to love them. My son and his girl are ok just need to work out problems of there own get out of my home on there own and grow up. With all that said Savannah dont have that many years to wait to be nurtured. so here i am and hope and pray that god give me custody on Oct 27th 2008. I lost a stepdaughter on Halloween 8 yrs ago and i just dont know how people can just wing it and say it will be ok.

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