My husband and I spend a fair amount of time, usually more than one day each week, helping my elderly parents in various ways.
However, for several days every other month, we take time off from supporting the elder generation and focus our energy on the young adult members of my family and their son — our grandson. This means we get to spend time driving my grandson to school, picking him up, going back and forth to the park, and playing games — all sorts of games.
Right now we are official members of the sandwich generation, feeling pulled in two generational directions, but so far, other than occasional schedule glitches, it all works.
I mention all this because I recently read a New York Times article, When Grandparents Help Hold It All Together, by Paula Span. The article points out that many grandparents are spending a considerable amount of time — sometimes most of their time — providing regular childcare for their grandkids. When grandparents commit to regular childcare, Span notes, it’s called intensive grandparenting.
I treasure the time that I get to spend with my daughter, her husband, and my grandson, but I also like the space, at least for now, that exists between the city where I live and the place where they make their home, so I am not yet an intensive grandparent.
But, I suppose, that could change. Professional life today is so different than it was when my husband and I were working. Young adults seem uber-connected to their jobs by phone, by extended hours, and by the ability to telecommute even at times when they should be at home enjoying time away from work. When I watch how hard my young adult family members work, I sometimes worry that they will, at some point, need the back-up of one grandparent or another.