With U.S. Births Held Flat, Can We Boomers Expect to Be Grandparents, How Do We Help to Become Grandparents, and the Ambivalence About It

I distinctly remember exactly where I was when I first found out I was going to be a grandmother for the first time.  I admit the exhilaration was greater than when I found out I was going to be a mother for the first time.  After all, being a parent is all work.  Being a grandparent is all joy and no responsibility.

I know the world is a scary place right now.  I wonder when it wasn’t.  In law school, we students were introduced to a book, and I wish I could remember its name, whose theme was that the safest era in the history of mankind was the 1950’s and that it was and is the only safe era in the history of mankind.  I guess we Boomers growing up then look at the world through rose colored glasses.  I was a great time to be a child.  I know that many of those of child-bearing age are concerned about bringing a child into the world with all the concerns and worries about the current world.  As a grandparent, I admit I wanted to be a grandparent and did not even think of those issues.  I do not think addressing the issues or concerns with the child-bearing generation is productive (pun intended) to a relationship or to the goal of becoming a grandparent.  As a grandparent or grandparent to be, the number one rule is to honor and respect the gatekeepers, the parents of our grandchildren, who control access.  The barrier of world concern is an insurmountable barrier to becoming a grandparent.  I would recommend to treat it like politics–hands off.

If we get over the hurdle of the world order, the environment, and the economy,  a grandparent want-to-be also has the hurdle of those who just do not want children and think their lives will be rich without children.  We grandparents must admit the responsibility and costs of raising children can be overwhelming.  It is important to love the ones we have and hands off here too.

So, this grandmother was not surprised to read in the June 1, 2023 Wall Street Journal, by Anthony DeBarros, “U.S. Births Held Flat in 2022,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.  In the article, experts explained the factors behind this to include economic and social obstacles ranging from child care to housing affordability, a little more specific than my interpretation of the threat of gloom and doom.

The article’s focus was the shortage of workers in the future due to us Boomer retirements unless technology fills the gap, and went through the trends in 2022.  The one interesting to this grandmother was the trend of decreasing birthrates among younger women.  The following trends are important to the focus of this blog post:

“For teens ages 15 to 19, the birth rate fell 3%, and for ages 20 to 24, it was down 2%.  The rate for the next youngest group, 20 to 24 was down 2%.  The rate for the next oldest group 25 to 29, edged up only slightly.  Increases were mainly seen among women 35 to 44.  If trends continue the birthrate for women ages 35 to 39 may soon eclipse the rate for ages 20 to 24.” Interestingly, the oldest group for which data was presented 40 to 44, birthrates went up slightly too.

How can these trends show if we can expect to be grandparents and how we help make that happen? Clearly, we should not bring up becoming grandparents as early as we want to.

In this child-bearing age grouping, the trend is waiting until the thirties.  We grandparents to be can help in a creative way that is helpful to bringing thoughts to positivity of the possibility of having children, whether or not the adult female child is married or not, depending on your politics.  I have suggested to friends of adult female children who are entering their thirties to offer to pay for freezing of eggs and the annual cost of maintaining the frozen eggs.  Some have followed my recommendation and the results have been positive that a decision can be delayed.  As we know, younger eggs are better.  When asked how long to pay to keep the eggs viable, my suggestion is to age 50.  I have a dear friend who reached age 50 and mentioned she would have had a child then but for the age of her eggs.  Parents are trending older and making the decision older.  I know, because when I, at age 76, go to an event for my five year old grandson, people sometimes think I am his mother!  It is becoming more commonplace to see people in their late forties and early fifties becoming parents for the first time.  Please do some research about freezing sperm too, as I wonder if the new research about autism and advanced paternal age may mean looking into this trend of sperm banking too.  See, “Advanced parental age is a well-replicated risk factor for autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” National Institute of Health, 2020.

Contributions help to encourage parents to be to take on the responsibility, hard work and cost of raising children.  One of my mantras for in-law parents especially, but for all of the parents of our grandchildren can also be seen as controversial, “keep your mouths closed, and your pocketbooks open.”  No unsolicited advice please, when you can help it, and I do understand how difficult this is.  If you want to become grandparents and are addressing the factors that the experts in the articles mentioned, “economic and social obstacles ranging from child care to housing affordability,” offers of contributions and grandparent support and child care in those areas may help make becoming grandparents happen.

What else can we do?  I think of the song lyrics to “Wishin’ And Hopin’” released in 1964 by Dusty Springfield, for Boomers and others who want to be grandparents and their relationship with the future potential parents of the grandchildren.

“Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’

Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms

That won’t get you into his arms

So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share

All you gotta do is hold him, and kiss him and love him

And show him that you care.”

I hope we will love our adult children no matter what they choose and how they choose to live their lives, with or without giving us grandchildren. . . but life is so much better for us Boomers with our precious grandchildren.



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