Are grandparents becoming extinct?

Grandparents are becoming an endangered species, leading to a generation of children who've been dubbed "grand orphans".

Australian women are often waiting until their late 30s and early 40s to have children, with the unintended result being that many children often don’t have grandparents at all. If they do, they are too old to help care for them or even play with them.

A record number of babies are being born to women over 40, up from 7100 in 2001 to 12,800 in 2011 according to the Australian Bureau of Stats. It's a major concern with studies showing children benefit greatly from interacting with older generations.

Also, grandparents significantly supplement the cost of child care, responsible for $88 million worth of child care expenses each year in NSW alone.

It reminds me how lucky my children are to have three grandparents, two in their mid-70s and my mum who is a spritely 63.

Without my mum's help, I would struggle to work. My mum lives nearby, so if I run late she can step in to help. If my children are sick, I don’t always have to take the day off work. My sister and I rely on each other heavily too, but it’s my mum who streamlines our childcare arrangements because there are constant clashes.

Sometimes when we've needed her a lot I worry that I'm ruining her relationship with my children. She's sure to start resenting them and thinking of them as a burden. Then one of my kids will ask me to cut their sandwich the way Nonna does or ask for a "Nonna biscuit" and I feel like they are all so blessed.

Advertisement

Still, my mum does struggle. She has arthritis in her wrists, so can’t pick babies up out of a cot anymore. Grandchildren who can run and ideally use the toilet are her specialty.

Nonnaandkids

Nonno and Caterina top, Nonno and Philip bottom waiting for me to cut them a piece of cake. I'm going as fast as I can!

Nonno has chickens and grows vegetables in the back yard. When we go to visit my kids run to the chicken pen to check for eggs and carry them carefully to Nonna to put in the fridge. My dad has taught them to eat peas and beans pick straight from the garden and mandarins from the tree. See kids, THIS is where food comes from.

While I think having grandparents who interact with your children is important I think it’s silly to advise women to have children younger. We have them when we are ready. But making sure to foster relationships between your children and older members of your family is important, even uncles, aunties, cousins and friends.

So, what do you do if your kids don't have an extended family? Businesses like online service Find-A-Grandparent, Adopt a Surrogate Grandparent and Find a Grandparent have sprung up to fill the gap. Parents can access approved lists of older couples without grandchildren who are keen to spend time with them.

The director of Find-A-Grandparet, Cate Kloos, launched the service last year to find older mentors for her two children. She told news.com.au: "We have heaps of families registered but we could have heaps more if there were more grandparents to go around. We get emails from interested families almost every day, but we have to turn them away. There's definitely a huge demand from families."

Do your kids still have grandparents around? How involved are they in their lives?

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
FROM OUR NETWORK