Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Most Thankless (but rewarding) Job For Which I Never Applied

I try not to post things that might hurt someone else (please forgive me when I fail), but today I need to get this off my chest before I explode.  And I guess it's my way of patting myself on the back for a job well done since all I seem to get from everyone else is blame for everything wrong in the world.   I actually wrote this post two months ago when my motives and character were first attacked, but decided not to publish after I calmed down.  Today, those same people decided to twist the dagger that they had stuck in my heart back then.  Enough is enough.  I can't pack up the kids and say to hell with the rest of the world, so I'll just blog about it.  Thanks, Google, for providing my free therapy.

My non-existent self-esteem has taken another hit.  I saw a comment on Facebook that tore through my heart.  For anyone who doesn't know me personally, there is probably no way you could understand why this hurt me so.  Basically, my youngest granddaughter spent the weekend with her other grandmother, who posted about how excited she was to be spending time with her.  A comment was made by another relative that she should have a right to spoil her granddaughter, and that "people" need to realize how much she loves the child and needs to spend time with her. Those "people" could only be my husband and me, who are raising both our grandchildren.  The implication was that we somehow keep our granddaughter from spending time with her other grandmother. The truth is we try to enable both granddaughters to spend time with other family members who care about them.  We both agree that children need all the love they can get.

History lesson:  When my husband and I had our youngest daughter in our mid-twenties, we decided two children would be enough.  By our calculations we would be child-free by our mid forties, plenty of time left in our lives to spend together traveling and experiencing the life we hadn't had the money (or time) to experience earlier.  The plan seemed foolproof.  (Insert your favorite cliche here:  "We make plans and God laughs", "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans", etc.)

Fast forward:  For the better part of the past twelve years, my husband and I have been raising our two granddaughters.  We didn't "take" them from anyone; we simply stepped up to the plate when they needed a home.  For practical reasons we have legal guardianship, and along with that comes legal responsibility.  We have never received a dime in child support or public assistance.  We pay for all food, clothing, shelter, field trips, school lunches, school supplies, medical insurance and expenses, dental expenses (with a hefty bill for braces looming just ahead), etc.  All vacations are for a group of four (beach trips within driving distance aren't so bad with two extra people, but to double the expenses for a ski vacation or a trip to Disneyworld, or any trip that requires travel on an airplane, you're starting to spend some real money).  Almost every dinner out is a party of four (not only does that make it twice as expensive, but it limits our restaurant choices, and it kills any hope of romance).  And no, we aren't rich.  Not even close.  Frugal, yes.  But that's necessary when there are young mouths to feed (not to mention teeth in those mouths that need to be straightened).

Our normal week consists of getting the kids up for school, getting homework done, making sure showers are taken and teeth are brushed, fighting to get kids to bed at night, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, doing mountains of laundry, and on and on.  In addition, the kids have to be driven to sports activities, friends' birthday parties, sleepovers and playdates, school activities, clothes shopping, medical appointments, and so on.  And housework--don't get me started on how dirty kids are.  Then there is the responsibility to provide each child with a birthday party and enough presents that they will feel that their day was indeed special.  Add to that the yearly requirement to make Christmas and Easter memorable for them.  Yes, raising children day-in and day-out isn't easy whether they are your own or someone else's offspring.  Just because you have the title "Grandparent" doesn't make it all fun and games.  Someone has to do the dirty work, and in my case, that would be my husband and me.  And the "guest rooms" in my house are now filled with children's furniture and toys.  A few years ago, we spent a small fortune to finish our basement to give the children a place to play and hang out with friends.  My nicest tv is down there, attached to the Wii I bought to entertain the kids.  Would I have rather spent the money on a new car?  Of course.  Our cars are 13 and 14 years old and spend more time in the shop than in our garage.  But we do what needs to be done.  And if that means we take care of other people's children, we sacrifice to do that.  

There are no scheduled visitations with anyone else.  Any visits with other family members are solely based on when those people choose to fit it into their lives, and we try to accommodate them.  We would never try to keep the children from anyone who loves them.  As a matter of fact, it would be welcomed if someone would just once ask if they could take them for an evening so we could have a night to ourselves.  Frankly, my husband and I can't even shop for Christmas together because we have no one to watch the children while we buy their gifts.  Yes, it would be nice to have the luxury of seeing our grandchildren only when it was convenient for us, just the way God intended.  And it would be nice if the money we spent on them got us some kudos from the kids.  But kids don't appreciate the thousands of dollars spent on necessities.  They only see the "fun" stuff that the others buy them (again, when it's convenient for them to do so, not when a necessity rears its ugly head).  I want to be the good guy for a change, not the disciplinarian.  I want to be the fun grandmother, not the nag who's always reminding them to brush their teeth, pick up their stuff, do their homework, stay out of trouble, etc., etc., etc.

Am I bitter?  Hell, yes.  Would I have chosen to raise children into my 60's?  Well, as I said earlier, I planned to be finished caring for children before my 50th birthday (at least with the day-to-day responsibilities that come with minors).  But do I love my grandchildren enough to take on this job 24/7/365 for the next ten years?  Absolutely.  Just don't blame  me if you don't get to see them as often as you'd like.  If you don't call them every week, or ask to visit more often than you do, that isn't my fault.   Don't expect me to take on the task of ensuring a relationship between you and the child.  I'm too damned busy raising them.


  1. You have my sympathies. While I do not raise my grandkids, I did give up my job to stay home and take care of all 4 of them until the last one went to school. People cannot appreciate what goes into "raising" kids when you are NOT in your 20's. That you are incurring expenses you never planned on, does not mean you resent the kids at all. Rather, you are just stating a fact that obviously "other" people cannot appreciate. You need to pat yourself on the back and know that the ones who complain are usually the ones who do the least. It's bad enough that kids blame their caretakers for everything including tsunamis and bad hair days, but to have the other grandparents calling you out, just shows how ridiculous they are. God has a special place in his heart for you and your husband, and someday, those girls will realize all you have given up willingly for them and that will be your reward. Screw the "others." Anybody can be a part-time grandparent, but not everyone, in fact, very few, would do what you are doing. I would counter this with even more pictures and wonderful comments about how well the girls are doing and what fun you are having with them. Call it what you want, but you have to do whatever it is that makes you feel better. Glad you blogged about it and I hope getting it off your chest made you feel a little better.

  2. Vanessa,

    I am raising my 13 year old grandson because his parents are unable or unwilling to care for him. It’s been seven years! I also work as a RAP (Relatives AS Parents) coordinator at the Child Crisis Center in Mesa, AZ where I work with grandparents and other relatives (aunts, uncles, siblings, god parents, etc.) raising their relative's children. The old 2000 census numbers showed that there were over 30,000 grandparents in Maricopa county where I live that are raising their grandchildren— and those are old numbers— still awaiting the 2010 census numbers to come out.

    Your blog post hit home for me and the other relatives in Mesa, AZ who step up to the plate to care for these children to keep them out of the state foster care system. And, it’s not all about the money either, it take a toll when we have to be the parent and the disciplinarian 24/7. I remember my grandson telling me several years ago, “What happened to ‘FUN’ Nana?” I wondered where I had gone too… of yeah, I’m too busy parenting to be the ‘FUN’ Nana that can pick him up for ice cream, spoil him rotten, and take him back to his parents!

    Our sacrifice is HUGE and our joy even greater! Other family members and extended family often do not get it! They do not realize the work and effort that goes into raising kids when we are no longer in our twenties. Like you, I would love it if just once, somebody would take my grandson— if even for one night so that I might get some much needed respite.

    Oralia (a Nana in Mesa, AZ raising a grandchild)

  3. I just happened upon your blog and read your post. Kodos to you and the other Grandparents raising their grandkids.

  4. I'm also a grandma but I'm one of the lucky ones not raising my grandchildren. When I read your post I just had to comment to you. GOOD FOR YOU! I'm so glad you posted that and I really hope the "other" grandparents and family members read it. We have a close relationship with our grand kids because we call them to come over to spend time with us. My son (dad) is divorced and his ex is not the greatest human being or mom. Our grandsons have been told that they can come over anytime and if mom's not home we will pick them up. They call us all the time. Your granddaughters may not appreciate what your doing for them while they're young but one day they will and it will all be worth the time and effort you've put into raising beautiful young ladies. Your roll in their life will be some of their best memories when they become mothers.