The Role of Grandparents Should Be a Choice, Not an Obligation

In many families, grandparents are the main caretakers and educators of their grandchildren. However, the role of grandparents should be a choice, not an obligation.
The Role of Grandparents Should Be a Choice, Not an Obligation
Ana Couñago

Written and verified by the psychologist Ana Couñago.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Juggling work life and family life is one of the greatest complications that parents face today. As a result, many tend to turn to their own parents to take care of and educate their children. However, not all grandparents want to accept this responsibility, and that’s what we want to talk about today. The role of grandparents should be a choice, not an obligation.

In this sense, we need to keep in mind that grandparents have already been parents and raised their own children. Therefore, at this point in their lives, they may not have a desire to continue tending to children on a permanent basis. So, it’s important to make sure that they’re actually interested in taking on the task of caring for their grandchildren

“Grandparents are a delightful blend of laughter, caring deeds, wonderful stories, and love.”

– Elodie –

The role of grandparents should be a choice, not an obligation

Grandparents, in most cases, are always there for us. They help us in our own roles as mothers and fathers, in the upbringing of our children. They give us peace of mind and offer wise advice. But… are we taking advantage of them?

When grandparents are forced to take care of their grandchildren

Most grandparents are in retirement. That means they’re at a point where they should be able to enjoy their own lives without the pressures of work life. However, very often, they have no choice but to tend to the family needs of their children. In other words, they find themselves having to care for their grandchildren.

The Role of Grandparents Should Be a Choice, Not an Obligation

In some cases, this responsibility can mean a decrease in quality of life. What’s more, it can even involve an increase in the risk of suffering from certain illnesses. This is especially true for those who must care for their grandkids for long periods of time. In fact, they may come to suffer from slave grandparent syndrome – which is characterized by the following clinical manifestations :

  • High blood pressure.
  • Anxiety.
  • Tiredness and fatigue.
  • Fortuitous falls.
  • Hot flushes and taquychardia.
  • Muscle tension.
  • General discomfort.
  • Sadness and discouragement.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Out of control metabolism.
  • Feelings of guilt.

This syndrome is the result of exhaustion, stress, and overexertion – both physical and emotional. The fact of the matter is, caring for small children during the later stages of life is no easy task. This tends to occur in extreme cases where grandparents have no choice but to permanently carry family functions against their will.

Grandparents who choose to care for their grandchildren

On the other hand, there are also many grandparents that are perfectly willing and happy to care for their grandchildren. But, in most cases, they act as helpers. In other words, they take care of their grandchildren for brief and limited periods of time.

This situation is ideal. It allows grandparents to enjoy time with their grandchildren without having to overexert themselves. So, they choose to exercise this grandparental role and experience great satisfaction in doing so. They feel useful in their family context, knowing they can contribute their grain of salt to their grandchildren’s upbringing.

Furthermore, grandparents who willingly help out with the care of their grandchildren are usually happy to be close to their grandkids. Connecting with them in a physical and emotional way, in a sense, fills their lives with activity, fun, and happiness.

In short, grandparents who choose to assume an occasional caretaking role in the lives of their grandchildren find the task satisfying. What’s more, it offers them the following benefits :

  • An active lifestyle.
  • Improved feelings of wellbeing.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Improves self-concept, since they feel that their families value them.
  • The confidence that their grandchildren are getting proper care.
  • Feelings of personal satisfaction.

So, as you can see, the role of grandparents should be a choice, not an obligation. For those who find themselves caring for their grandchildren against their will, the situation can cause great harm. However, for those who willingly accept this role in their grandchildren’s lives, the benefits are numerous.

“A grandparent is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”  

– Unknown –

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Liñan, E. (2012). Síndrome de la abuela esclava. Cádiz: Ayuntamiento de El Puerto de Santa María.
  • Soldevilla-Agreda, J. J. (2008). El verdadero rol de abuelo o una nueva puerta hacia la esclavitud. Gerokomos19(3), 113-114.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.