SILVER SPRING – Silver Spring resident Pearline Reid, 85, won’t be seeing her grandchildren Sunday, on Grandparents Day — she said she plans to see them instead over Christmas when she travels to their home in Jamaica.
But for thousands of Maryland grandparents, seeing their grandkids is an everyday obligation, not a holiday treat.
More than 48,000 Maryland grandparents are back on the job, tending to the full nests left by their own children, according to a recent Census report.
And although the Census has only tracked these numbers since 2000, some area agencies claim that the trend of grandparents replacing parents as a child’s primary caretaker is on the rise.
“To begin with, there are simply more grandparents available to help, because it’s the baby boomers who are now turning 60ish,” said Susan London Russell, a program development specialist with the Maryland Department of Aging.
“The other reason is due to societal trends like divorce, separation, alcohol and substance abuse, incarceration, mortality of parents from crime, homelessness, pregnant teen-agers, unemployment and poverty,” said Russell.
Ellen Moore, a Silver Spring grandmother of two, has seen this trend first hand.
“I’ve known lots of grandparents who brought up their grandchildren. I was a social worker, and so we relied on grandparents a lot when children needed homes,” said Moore, 87, at Long Branch Senior Center in Silver Spring on Friday.
“I think that in some cases the grandparents have a better chance because they’ve got experience, especially when their grandchildren are born to very young children and the actual parents couldn’t do a good job taking care of them,” she said.
But that is not always the case, she said.
“Some grandparents were not a bit happy to have their children get married and leave them with their children. . . . They were just burdens,” Moore said.
Caring for any child — your own or another’s — brings its stresses, said Pat Owens, who chairs the advocacy group Grandparents as Parents. The 60-year-old grandmother is raising two of her nine grandchildren.
Owens’ everyday worries include keeping the children together, with a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. For grandparents, there can be the additional challenge of an uncooperative biological parent and complicated legal issues to contend with, she said.
Still, said Owens, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I never gave it a thought. Any member of my family is not going anywhere other than my family,” she said. “It brings its stresses and it brings its rewards. I hope it doesn’t happen again, but if it did, the outcome would be the same.”
Back at the Long Branch Senior Center, other grandparents said they love their grandkids — but mostly in small doses.
Bessie Warren, grandmother of three and great-grandmother of three, plans on spending her 90th birthday Tuesday with her grandchildren.
“I don’t see ’em too often, but you know they love you by the way they react. . . . They’re all nice to me,” Warren said.
Reid, a mother of eight who described herself as grandmother of “a lot,” said she is excited about her upcoming ‘Grandparents Month’ in Jamaica, but added that, “Every day should be Grandparents Day.”