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Becoming a Grandparent at an Early Age: A Case Study

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Young Grandparents Grandchildren

In a perfect world, no one would become a parent until they were mentally, emotionally, and financially ready. Reality, though, often sees young people faced with the responsibilities of parenthood somewhat sooner, and in many cases, young parents must rely on the generosity of their own parents to help them meet the demands of raising their children, at least for the first few years.

There’s an old saying that goes, “When a child is born, so is a grandmother.” While the sentiment is a sweet one, not every new grandparent feels ready to embark on that chapter of their lives, especially if their child’s unexpected pregnancy comes at a time when the soon-to-be grandparents are young and still busy raising their own children. Becoming a grandparent at any age is a life-changing experience, but for young grandparents, the changes can be rather unsettling.

One Grandmother’s Story

Andrea became a grandmother at thirty-eight. At that time, five of her six children were still living at home, and the youngest of them was only seven years old. Her oldest daughter was twenty years old, unmarried, unemployed, and pregnant. To make matters worse, the baby’s father was the irresponsible sort. When asked how she felt when she first got the news that she was going to be a grandmother, Andrea replied, “I was a little shocked, embarrassed and unprepared. It took me a minute to accept it.”

Andrea’s initial reaction is understandable. Many soon-to-be grandparents are a bit taken aback by the news, but when they feel that their child is woefully unprepared for parenthood, the adjustment is considerably more difficult. “My daughter was not a very motherly type. Being the oldest and always helping with younger siblings made her swear that IF she ever had kids, it would only be one, and then only after she was twenty-five, so mentally, I don’t think she was ready.”

Lending a Helping Hand

After Andrea got over the initial shock, her natural parenting instincts took over and she got on with the business of helping her daughter. The girl came home to live and stayed until her baby was six months old. Andrea was working full time, managing a household with five busy children, one barely grown daughter, and a baby granddaughter. To say that her life was stressful would be quite an understatement. “I was nowhere as relaxed and easy going as I am today. My schedule was crazy!”

Yet she did find the time and energy to help her daughter get a good start as a parent. And as her other children grew up, got married, and began families, Andrea and her husband have always been there for them, too. When asked what specific kinds of assistance they have provided, Andrea says, “Where do I start? My kids have never had to buy anything for their little ones, to get started. They’ve all had their nurseries completely furnished—and I mean completely! Whatever they did not get in shower gifts, we gave them. They lacked for nothing. We don’t pay their bills and we don’t buy their food or maintain them, but when they got married and had their first baby, we gave them a huge start.”

Live and Learn

Just as children grow and mature, so do parents and grandparents. Andrea, who now has four grandchildren and another on the way, describes some of the differences between her as a young grandmother and the seasoned grandparent that she is today: “At thirty-eight, I did not feel like a grandparent and I was not ready for that responsibility. Today, I miss them when I go several days without seeing them. I am now forty-nine and a lot has changed in ten years. I'm more mature.”

Grandchildren sometimes come into grandparent’s lives when they least expect them, yet once they are a part of the family, grandparents are typically head over heels in love and want nothing more than to embrace their children’s children.

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