An Issue of Working Grandmothers

Published: 2021-09-10 03:45:09
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According to “Grandmothers at Work” by Madonna Harrington Myer, there is an increasing need for grandmothers, whether as a physical or financial resource. This trend is due to several reasons, including an increase in single mothers and the full-time employment rate. From 1980 to 2010, there was a 12 percent jump in unmarried women, and 41 percent of all births in the United States were to these single women (MHM, 10). Further, in between the years of 1975 and 2010, 27 percent more women started working (MHM, 11). As the United States is also one country out of 127 that does not provide a federal vacation policy for these new mothers, these mothers need assistance. This is where grandmothers come into the picture. During the hours where the parent is absent, grandmothers are either experiencing great joy or burdening adversity.
The first joy working grandmothers experience is the stark difference between being a grandmother and a mother. Grandchildren provide a second chance to raise a child. Karen, for example, loves spending time with her three grandsons despite how exhausting the job can be, especially as one of the boys have autism. Taking advantage of their short-lived youth is her main motivation, however, and she loves not being the first line of response (MHM, 39). Similarly, Monica, a 74 year old Korean grandmother with one granddaughter, emphasized how different being a grandmother is from being a mother of two sons. She recalls how excited she was to take care of a baby girl for the first time, and how the once physically taxing duties such as cleaning up toys became effortless. This primary joy of these working grandmothers describes those who don’t feel the emergent duties that came with their children, but rather the happiness and relaxation that come with grandchildren.Secondly, another reward these working grandmothers are experiencing is the benefits of juggling childcare and work. Grandmothers such as Cherry, for instance, work full-time while also taking care of four grandchildren (MHM, 49). Also known as role enhancement, the jam-packed schedules grandmothers have balancing childcare and work actually benefit their wellbeing. Cherry, for instance, feels younger and appreciates how much less lonely she feels (MHM, 50). Monica, a widow, also expressed her appreciation for grandchildren filling in the gaps of loneliness when she is not working as a delicatessen supervisor. Overall, caring for grandchildren amongst a busy work schedule enhanced some of these grandmothers’ lives.
Thirdly, working grandmothers often experience health benefits. Monica, for example, sprained her ankle 3 years before having her granddaughter, and her physical therapist encouraged her to partake in more physical activities. Having a grandchild did just that. Physical activities she previously would not have done such as visiting the playground all helped her ankle as well as her overall physical wellbeing. This is a trend with other grandmothers such as Dana, who ate healthier once cooking for a grandchild came into the equation (MHM, 218). Consequently, becoming a grandmother provided this joy for these women.
On the contrary, many grandmothers actually experience overwhelming challenges when raising grandchildren amidst their work schedules. One of which is when these grandmothers are sandwiched between generations, and the amount of care they must provide becomes extremely exhausting. Maggie, for example, has a full-time job, a dependent mother, and grandchildren to tend to (MHM, 171). The stress was gargantuan, and her mother’s needs provided an extremely frustrating lifestyle for Maggie. These physical demands of being sandwiched between generations makes many working grandmothers lives a day-to-day challenge.
Aside from grandmothers feeling physically challenged, they also financially suffer. They use their retirement savings on the grandchildren, and fall into debt as their children are often still financially dependent as well. For instance, Renee invested over 1 million dollars on her children’s business and home, and further helps with power bills and clothing for her grandchildren (MHM, 149). Grandmothers commonly try not to sacrifice their grandchildren’s luxuries over money, but the amount of dollars and hours demanded for grandchildren is only going to intensify. As a result, financial hardships pose challenges for working grandmothers.
Lastly, working grandmothers are faced with the negative health consequences that follow these physical and financial stresses. Exhaustion is the most common challenge for these grandmothers, and they are left without energy to take care of themselves. Estelle, for instance, is feeling her mental and physical health depleting as taking care of a grandson takes too much of a toll from her. She feels frazzled nerves, and his constant screaming becomes too stressful for her elderly body (MHM, 227). Thus, the drawbacks grandmothers face end up catching up to their weak bodies and display negative health consequences.
All in all, grandmothers experience the joys or challenges that come with balancing childcare and careers depending on their situation. However, in order to transform the challenges these working grandmothers are facing into the joys, the United States should implement a federal law to allow a 1 year paid vacation after women give birth. This will hopefully establish mothers’ responsibilities to lessen how many duties are forced upon grandmothers, as well as maintain an income independent of the grandmother’s wallet. This will translate into grandmothers having better health, a more secondary role in the child’s life, and a more relaxing grand-mothering experience.

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