It didn’t take long for me to contemplate how a grandparent may feel as a major child-carer.
As I shared my lunch with inspirational women at SheBrisbane’s 2017 International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration I reflected on what was a particularly special day.
We were primarily there to support The Allison Baden-Clay Foundation and Allison’s mother Priscilla and sister Vanessa were with us. It took all my restraint to control my tears as we met.
They were there to represent the Foundation and reinforce how essential it was to raise funds for Allison’s cause: “To build a Queensland community that acknowledges the prevalence of domestic and family violence and seek to create a Queensland that is committed to eliminating and taking concrete action to stop domestic and family violence.”
I had never considered that I would meet any of Allison’s family. They were humbled by our generosity and I was humbled by their humbleness.
Apart from my acknowledgement of why we were there, my mind was focussed on how Allison’s parents would cope raising young children again. They are in their early seventies.
It was unspoken, but we understood that they held deep love for their grandchildren and would devote the remainder of their lives to them.
As I empathised I quickly wanted to shy away from the overwhelming emotion. I remember how difficult it was when I raised my own children in my early twenties, let alone to repeat the process now.
Tiredness was an accepted daily state. But things change as we get older and I wondered how I would cope with constant childhood demands at this stage of my life.
If we are honest with ourselves, it is a relief when our children grow up if only to have a some peace. Not to mention the monetary demands.
When your children are young, you do your best to embrace every moment but your body eventually rejects your ongoing pursuit to feel rested. It becomes weary, it mentally drains you and commonly puts a strain on relationships.
I began to wonder how many older people were in this predicament. Like myself at this stage of life we are either making preparations for, or have already retired. The “golden years” I hear!!
Unfortunately life can take dramatic turns and most grandparents wouldn’t consider what it would be like in this situation. We believe we are on the path to freedom, to embrace the remainder of what we have left.
I was curious as to how many lives have been unexpectedly turned around where the grandparents have become the primary carers of their grandchildren.
The statistics were astounding. Nationwide in the United States according to their census 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line. Their ranks continue to increase.
The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009 to 2016.
In Australia enumerating grandparent carers is not straight forward however data from the ABS 2003 survey suggests approximately 22,500 grandparent families care for 31,100 children (ABS 2004). The dominant reason was parents’ substance abuse, child neglect, parents’ mental illness and domestic violence.
Either way, when I put myself in the shoes of carer grandparents and in the shoes of Allison’s parents, I am eternally grateful for what I have and remain optimistic that good fortune will prevail to heal broken minds and hearts.
Our worst nightmare requires little thought on what is important in life. I hope that, for all grandparents who are the major child-carers, they manage to discover gratification in a situation they had never contemplated.
- You can read more about Allison’s story here!
- I also read “The Murder of Allison Baden-Clay” by David Murray when it was first published
- Reference: “Grandparents as primary carers of their grandchildren”, Policy and practice insights from research- Deborah Brennan and Bettina Cass