Being a grandparent today
Author, mother and grandparent Janice Marriott says there’s a lot that grandparents wish their kids knew about parenting.
However, the most important was not which baby blanket to use or how to discipline a screaming toddler. “I think what most grandparents say is, “I wish that parents knew what a short amount of years you have when kids are small, and how fast they go,”” said Marriot. “When you’re 50, you blink and look back and wonder where that time went.”
Marriot worked fulltime when raising her own son, so she has cherished the opportunity to be a caregiver to her young grandson when he was born and through his preschool years. She relocated from Wellington to Auckland to take on the role and enable his parents to work fulltime.
It’s harder for parents today, Marriot told Family Times. They’re much busier and it’s harder to make a living and have the time to enjoy it. This has resulted in changing roles for grandparents. This, coupled with Marriot’s own experience, inspired her to spend a year researching and writing about grandparenting in New Zealand today. Her book, Grandparents Talk, was published in November.
Grandparents Talk contains frank, sometimes astonishing, inspiring and thought-provoking interviews with a cross-section of New Zealand grandparents. From heartbreak to hilarity, the book makes clear just how indispensable grandparents are: whether it’s full-time caregiving, running the school pick up or passing on wisdom.
In fact, Marriot said that she – and other grandparents she interviewed- felt so much more confident and capable of parenting with experience under her belt.
“I actually think they feel, and I feel, wiser now. I feel better able to look after a baby and a child now than I did then.”
Marriot’s biggest surprise when she became a grandmother was not that she would become a caregiver, but just how much she loved her grandchild.
“There’s a special bond between grandparent and grandchild,” she said. “Most grandparents will say that you can’t realise how special it will be until it happens to you.”
Marriot chose to focus on ordinary, everyday families in her book, rather than celebrities. But what she found was anything but ordinary: grandparents who up and moved to the UK for a year to build a house big enough to cater for a new grandchild; grandparents who live with the heartache of being separated geographically from their grandchildren, and grandparents who pick up full custody of grandchildren when the parents are not in a position to do so.
Mostly, Marriot discovered just how much grandparents wanted to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives. “It seems to me that grandparents have become more and more essential, but it’s not just about being needed. I had one grandparent tell how surprised she was by the strength of feeling she had for her grandchild. “It’s fantastic in your mid 70s to fall in love again,” she told me.
“I spoke to so many grandparents who said they really loved looking after their grandchildren, more than they did with their own kids.”
Grandparents Talk was published by Bateman Publishing.