Women with children have a greater wage gap then the gap reported generally between men and women. Men with children are viewed as more employable; women with children are viewed, by employers, as less employable.
This begs the question, what is the view of a grandparent, a 50-something or 60-something with children? How is he or she viewed in the world-of-work?
Most of us are aware of the negative distinction between the wages of men and women, married or single. Consider the single-grandmother’s employment picture. It is even more heavily impacted because she’s bearing all the same obstacles any single mother faces: lower wages, the need for affordable childcare, an expectation of riding the poverty level, obstacles for her children. Ability to earn a living is exacerbated by decreasing, not only her earning power, her ability to work long or flexible hours, as well as, her ability to pay for the childcare that may be necessary so that she can work.
America’s children are increasingly being reared by grandparents in greater numbers than would be expected to occur by chance or by choice. Some 7 million grandparents live with their grandchildren; nearly 40% of those are solely responsible for parenting.
Created, sometimes literally overnight, is a troubling mix of positive and negative emotions, societal, financial and personal pressures. The residual effects on the children, the older parent and the workforce should be examined closely in order for our society to assist these new family dynamics by developing strategies for maintaining the emotional and physical health of both sides. Failure to do so is creating a population at risk.
Problems of Grandparents
Throes of emotional turmoil: often, the choice to take-on the parenting of a grandchild is concomitant with a loss of a son or daughter. The grandparent is both in the throes of “grieving” some type of loss of their own child, maybe to drugs, incarceration or actual death, while beginning the new task of raising the grandchild.
“That’s not the child I raised,” laments a parent speaking of the difficulties of their own child which lead to seeking custody of the grandchild. The grandparent, as a result, is left with feelings of guilt, loss, a sense of failure, embarrassment. Many of these millions of grandchildren increasingly living in the homes of grandparents are suffering, as well. They may have suffered from the homes in which they lived with their parents, either physically, mentally or emotionally. They, too, may be suffering a sense of loss and grief.
Grandparents finding themselves in this situation are strongly urged to seek mental and emotional support, either through support groups or therapeutic support.
“I find it a great assistance to have another voice to help me sort things-out,” states a single-grandmother of three young grandchildren. “There are a lot of new considerations regarding what to tell them about their parents and I don’t have all the answers. At least the therapist can help me come to some conclusions.”
Managing new financial responsibilities: grandparents who are retired may find it necessary to return to work to make-ends-meet. If the child’s biological parents are incapacitated, there may be no financial assistance coming from them. Working grandparents should inquire of their Human Resources department if there are special arrangements that can be made.
Seek assistance programs: if you take-on the responsibility of raising your grandchildren, consult with government, religious and community groups that may be able to advise you regarding legal and financial issues and other considerations for your grandchildren’s educational, spiritual and social development. Seek-out help in all these areas. If such assistance is not available in your area, advocate for the implementation of such supports.
This is a growing phenomenon in our modern culture. Greater resources in the areas of health, childcare, work accommodations and housing help are going to have to be developed to manage the needs of this burgeoning segment of our evolving definition of family.