Not too long ago, having three generations under one roof, what researchers call multigenerational households, was completely normal in the United States and Europe. But with the growth of the suburbs, many new families left their parents behind to focus on their kids. By 1980, only 12 percent of Americans lived with grandparents in the house.
But after the Great Recession of 2007–2009, many families needed to have everybody together for financial reasons. However, now many researchers and moms are pointing out the amazing impact “a grandparent who shows up” can have, as writer Eliza Broadbent describes it.
A grandparent who shows up is one of the most amazing things a family can have.
As a mom of three boys who have learning disabilities, Eliza Broadbent explained just how much her mom’s involvement in their life was important in an article for Scary Mommy.
“My husband and I did life with kids for nine years without family nearby. We literally had two dates in that entire span of time. You try finding sitters for three boys with ADHD.”
Then her mother moved to their town and everything changed. Broadbent and her husband went from having no family in 600 miles whom they could really lean on in a crisis to having another adult who could be involved in raising their kids. “Because we have a grandparent willing to show up and pitch in, my husband and I get time to ourselves. This helps our marriage significantly,” Broadbent points out.
Grandparents don’t just help out with childcare; they support the parents’ relationship. “Some nights, we’re exhausted and tired and just don’t feel like adulting. And there’s my mom with chicken and dumplings.” As Broadbent points out, her mom is just continuing a long tradition in their family of the generations supporting each other.
“A grandparent who helps is invaluable to a family. You’re suddenly not alone in the world. You’re not adrift. There’s a hand to hold onto.” Of course, these benefits apply to the grandkids who get lots of love and attention. “Your kids get more than one person in their lives who care about them, and that’s worth more than anything else.”
But this isn’t just Broadbent’s experience; the benefits (to all generations) when grandparents get involved are really impressive.
Various studies have shown conclusive evidence that some grandparental involvement, or to put it better part-time involvement, is highly beneficial.
Read below some thought-provoking things researchers found out:
- Grandparents who babysit tend to live longer. Grandparents who were involved in childcare had a greater sense of meaning and purpose, and this translated to them having a significantly lower mortality risk (37 percent) than other retirees.
- Grandparents who are close to their grandkids make them happier. Children who have had interaction with their grandparents and feel close to them are less likely to suffer symptoms of depression when they get older.
- Grandparents who help raise grandkids stay sharper. Being involved with kids keeps grandparents on their toes and means they fare better cognitively.
However, too much involvement or full-time childcare can put stress on grandparents’ physical health and emotional well-being.
As Eliza Broadbent notes, “that doesn’t mean that grandparent doesn’t have their own life. They do. They have jobs and hobbies and pets and all the things that trail along behind a person. And when they show up for you, you show up for them.”
But for Broadbent, the best part of the relationship is that it’s not based on obligation but appreciation for each other. “You don’t do it because you have to. You do it because you love them.”