This is a disadvantage that goes far deeper than not having someone to bake cookies for the children. Grandparents have usually worked most of their life, accumulated substantial savings and provide a deep economic resource for their children and grandchildren. Their children and grandchildren are able to enlist the grandparents' aid to buy homes, go to college, take vacations, and enjoy life experiences that the children of single parent families simply cannot. Children in single parent families often have only a maternal grandmother to draw upon for help when they need it and she herself is often not in a position to offer much financial support.
Now comes an article by Hope Yen that discusses some of these same issues. Ms. Yen has a lot of interesting things to say about the crucial role grandparents play, and, by implication, what a sociological tragedy family breakdown has been. Here are some excerpts:
America is swiftly becoming a granny state. Less frail and more involved, today's grandparents are shunning retirement homes and stepping in more than ever to raise grandchildren while young adults struggle in the poor economy. The newer grandparents are mainly baby boomers who are still working, with greater disposable income. Now making up 1 in 4 adults, grandparents are growing at twice the rate of the overall population and sticking close to family — if their grandkids aren't already living with them.Back in the sixties and seventies we were frequently assured by feminists and others that women didn't really need a husband, that there are lots of different kinds of workable families. Perhaps, but the traditional two parent family with two sets of grandparents offers the children so many advantages that it's hard to understand why it's not more strongly held up as the ideal by liberals who profess to care about children and why we instead seem to be doing everything we can, from winking at cohabitation and premarital sex to making divorce easy, to guarantee that fewer children will be able to benefit from those advantages.
"We help out in terms of running errands, babysitting, taking the grandkids to doctors' appointments, and for back-to-school shopping," said Doug Flockhart of Exeter, N.H., listing some of the activities that he and his wife, Eileen, do for their five kids and seven grandchildren. But that's just the start.
They also pitch in with health care payments for family members due to insurance gaps, and their pace of activity has picked up substantially since their daughter, who lives three blocks away, gave birth to her first child this month. Flockhart, a retired architect, likes the family time even if he and his wife worry about their grandkids' futures.
"It's not so much the day in and day out, it's the big picture as to how these young kids will grow up and pay for a college education and buy a house," he said.
Flockhart's situation is increasingly common, demographers say. "Grandparents have become the family safety net, and I don't see that changing any time soon," said Amy Goyer, a family expert at AARP. "While they will continue to enjoy their traditional roles, including spending on gifts for grandchildren, I see them increasingly paying for the extras that parents are struggling to keep up with — sports, camps, tutoring or other educational needs, such as music lessons."
In all, there are 62.8 million grandparents in the U.S., the most ever. They are projected to make up roughly 1 in 3 adults by 2020. Nearly half the states had increases of 40 percent or more over the last decade in the number of grandchildren living with grandparents.
[T]he stereotype of grandparents who are frail, receding and dependent is changing. [U]nemployment among workers ages 25 to 34 last year was double that of Americans aged 55 to 64. U.S. households headed by baby boomers also commanded almost half of the nation's total household income, and are more likely to be college graduates than grandparents in previous generations.
These grandparents reject living in senior communities in favor of "aging in place" in their own homes, near family. In 2009, households ages 55 or older spent billions of dollars on infant food, clothes, toys, games, tuition and supplies for grandchildren, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Grandparents are supposed to be old, gray-haired people tottering around, but the vast majority are actually in the work force. There is not much doubt that the recent recession has brought grandparents and grandchildren together.