When Grandparenting Isn't Fun

Sometimes You May Feel Tied Down or Keyed Up or Worn Out

Even loving grandparents sometimes find that grandparenting isn't fun.
Even loving grandparents can lose their patience with grandchildren. Photo © Fiona Jackson-Downes and Dirk Lindner | Getty Images

Have you ever felt that the fun of grandparenting is overrated? Many grandparents have. Here are a few of the reasons grandparents sometimes find their role more more hassles than hijinks.

I Feel Tied Down by Being a Grandparent.

Grandparents today are expected to be very involved in their grandchildren's lives. If they live close to their grandchildren, they may be expected to be at school functions and sporting events.

Some grandparents willingly attend every single event. Others find the constant demands an impediment to living their own lives. In the second case, communication and compromise are key. It's never a good idea to avoid the issue. Instead, communicate honestly and openly with your children about how much time you are willing to spend supporting your grandchildren's activities.

My Grandchildren Are a Financial Burden

Most grandparents are aghast at the idea of their grandchildren doing without something that they really need. The key is discerning the difference between wants and needs. A grandparent is not obligated to supply grandchildren's wants. Indeed, the relationship will be richer and more satisfying if it is not based on material goods. At the same time, a grandparent occasionally may have to contribute financially to children and grandchildren, especially when it's time for college.

It's key to make sure that your contributions aren't enabling your children and grandchildren to live beyond their means.

I Feel Guilty About Not Doing More With and For My Grandchildren.

Generally, grandparent guilt is not productive.

If you are doing the best you can with your time and resources, don't allow yourself to feel guilty. Your children should be the primary caregivers for your grandchildren, unless you are one of the many grandparents raising grandchildren. Your relationship with your grandchildren should enrich your life and the lives of your grandchildren, but it should not be your grandchildren's primary relationship. Think of your relationship with your grandchildren as a joyful bonus for both of you, and don't feel guilty about not doing more.

  • Learn More: Find Your Balance as a Grandparent

I Hate Worrying About My Grandchildren.

Grandparents are champion worriers. To a certain extent, a grandchild is one more person to worry about. There is no insurance we can take out that will prevent bad things from happening to our grandchildren. Also, a life with no challenges wouldn't be optimal for our grandchildren, because children learn through adversity. Of course, we also worry about smaller aspects of our grandchildren's lives, such as sleep and diet.

Learn More: 6 Things Grandparents Worry About

I Don't Feel Like a Grandparent.

Lots of people associate grandparenthood with advanced age. Perhaps your own grandparents were old, or perhaps they seemed old to your childish eyes.

In fact, the average age of becoming a grandparent in the US is only 47. Grandparents today are quite different from grandparents half a century ago. The next time you go to a mall or other public place, look at the children and the adults with them. Often it can be difficult to tell whether the adult with a child is a parent or a grandparent. There are a lot of very youthful grandparents out there. You do not have to conform to those pictures of grandparents that happen to reside in your head. You can choose your own grandparenting style and grandmother name or grandfather name. You can choose to be a groovy grandparent. On the other hand, if being a grandma appeals to you, and baking cookies is your bag, don't feel that you have to apologize for being a traditional grandparent. It's all about being comfortable in your grandparenting identity.

See Also: Why Grandparents Should Stop Complaining About Aging

I Worry About Losing Access to My Grandchildren.

Of all grandparent issues, this one is perhaps the one with the most potential for heartbreak. Can your children deny you access to your grandchildren? Yes, and this scenario does occur. That's why it's best to minimize conflict. Choose your battles, and resist criticizing the parenting styles of your children. Learn more about family disputes that sometimes lead to loss of contact and next steps if you are denied access. Grandparents do have visitation rights under certain circumstances, but it can be difficult and expensive to gain visitation through the court system.

Grandparenting Can Be Challenging.

Everyone knows that parenthood brings problems as well as joys. Why do we expect grandparenthood to be different?

Conventional wisdom holds that a grandparent's job is to "love them and spoil them and send them home," but that's hardly realistic. Grandparents who babysit or provide child care have to deal with colicky babies and sulky tweens, just as parents do. And even well-behaved children misbehave occasionally for their grandparents.

Enjoy the good times and get through the bad times. Oh, and you might warn your friends who are about to become grandparents: It's a wonderful experience, but it's not all fun and games.