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Importance Of Grandparents In A Child'S Life

Almost after two years of being married and a permanent move to Mumbai, I finally visited my parents in Delhi last year only to be welcomed with a strange request. “Why don’t you think about having a child? Your father has retired and I am about to in a few years’ time. And, you’ve been married for long now, it’s the right age beta,” said my mother rather bluntly. I dismissed it, obviously. I am just 27.

I have worked hard to establish a career and I am not ready to give in to the ‘baby-making’ requests just yet. But when I broached this subject with a friend who recently delivered a baby at 34, she gave me some gyaan. According to her, having a baby in your 20s is not a bad idea. Really? This coming from someone who had a baby in her 30s?

“Your body is medically and psychologically at its most productive during the 20s. Plus, you can always get back to work once your family life is settled. Look a me, I had to quit my job to have Naira. Now it’s going to take me a while before I go back to the corporate jungle,” said my friend Ekta (name changed), a former marketing professional.

But quitting her job isn’t the only thing that is helping her in taking care of the newborn. She has realised the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. Her mother has become an important part of the whole process. “If it were not for my mother, embracing motherhood with ease would not have been possible. She understands where I need the most help. Besides, becoming a grandparent has given her immense joy. For me, this was a time to emotionally reconnect with my mother and learn newer things about my baby. I have realised the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. This pregnancy seems to have worked for both of us,” Kapur quipped.

According to her, since I was young and my mother was still quite energetic, ‘we both’ will be able to take care of the younger one with ease. “Besides, it’s nice when children grow up with grandparents; the bond is precious,” she added.

While I was contemplating her words, I came across an article by Susanna Schrobsdorff in the Time magazine where she said that fertility is not the only biological clock. Couples these days are not realising that having kids later in their lives is robbing them of the opportunity to grow up under the guidance of their grandparents. Schrobsdorff calls it the grandparent deficit. This got me thinking. Will it really be a bad idea for my career if I had one before I turned 30?

So I picked up the ‘grandparent deficit’ project and spoke to a few grandparents to find out what they thought.

Their insights were quite interesting. Here’s why.

#1 Chandrika Nair and Kamya

The first case in point was that of my colleague’s six-year-old daughter Kamya Nair and her grandparents. Humouring her every narrative and watching her bounce like a pinball as she glides through the furniture in the house are her doting grandparents.

On being asked about their son’s decision to have a child in his 20s, Kamya’s grandmother Chandrika Nair, says, “I feel it’s better to have a baby in the 20s. I am not saying it because my son had theirs then. It’s just that as a daadi, I feel I had more patience and stamina to pitch in with being there for my granddaughter. Most importantly, I could enjoy her babyhood to the most as I was fit enough to run around the naughty brat.”

Many experts also suggested that having a child when you are in your 20s reduces the risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. In addition, there is a lower risk of miscarriage. So my conclusion was that people who are having kids in their 20s can not only help their children but also their own parents.

Continue reading for more case studies

#2 Sushma Sood and Agrim

I moved on to interview the second grandparent—the Delhi-based Sushma Sood, who is a grandmother to seven-year-old Agrim. Her son decided to have his child in his early 30s and she was quite happy with the idea. “I do not think there is an ideal age to have kids, it is a subjective choice. During our times, 20s was the right age, so to speak. But now, things have changed and age has become just a number,” says the 58-year-old Sood.

However, she adds that having a grandchild gives the grandparents an opportunity to bond with their own kids. “The values and discipline that a grandparent will instill in a child will be different from what the parents have to teach. Plus, as a grandparent, I have become more resilient and my grandson Agrim has filled my heart with so much joy and love that I can’t imagine a day without him,” she says as Agrim gets up from the bench to play with his friends.

In your 30s, you are quite active and so are your parents. In fact, author and famous Amercian psychologist Professor Jean Twenge claims that there is a just a ‘marginal difference’ between falling pregnant at 27 and 39. In an interview, she stated that some statistics widely shared today are actually based on data from French birth records dated between 1670 and 1830.

#3 Vijaya Sunderam and Reehan

The third grandparent I spoke to was a former teacher. She made me more confident about the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. Mother to a renowned author and editor and grandmother to six-year-old Rehaan, Vijaya Sunderam has recently turned 70. But the age hasn’t deterred her as she helps the grandson with his chores with an unmatchable vigour and energy.

In her soft giggly voice she says, “Taking care of young grandchild helps me keep fit and forget my own health issues. It is such a pleasure to have Rehaan around the house. Though he is very systematic, I enjoy helping him with his homework and other activities.” Her daughter chose to have a child in her 40s after establishing a successful career in the field of journalism.

“The other day, I called up my sister-in-law to enquire about my brother’s health. She told me that once he is home with his grandchild, he seems to recover faster. And then we discussed how having a grandchild can make you forget all your problems,” says the ever-smiling Sunderam.

Sunderam highlights the need to realise the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. “Even though we do not choose who and when to fall in love, we do take the liberty to choose the time to have children. This freedom might leave us feeling content, but we forget to factor in the impact it has on grandparents who at this point need care as opposed to being caregivers,” she adds.

In addition, there is the detachment part. With younger grandparents, a child is able to detach and move on with his life easily. On the other hand, when kids get emotionally attached to older grandparents, detachment becomes difficult. But as always, they are most delighted to see their grandchildren no matter how much care they themselves need.

Even as my peers choose to have kids based on their financial stability and convenience as opposed to the so-called biological clock, I can’t help but wonder if there is any one answer for every woman.

Grandparents are an integral part of childhood days of any child. We need to realize the importance of grandparents in a child’s life and we should focus on joining the ends rather than separating the two ends.

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