According to the AARP, the number of children living in a grandparents home has risen considerably over the past decade (taken from new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.) Here are some facts they provide:
- 4.9 million children under the age of 18 live in grandparent-headed households. It's suspected that this has to do with the economy over the past five years, including foreclosures and the worsening the job market.
- Approximately 20% of these children have neither parent present in the home, so grandparents become responsible for their basic needs.
- 67% percent of grandparents reporting responsibily for grandchildren are under the age of 60.
But even when grandchildren are not living in their home, grandparents are still playing an increasingly more important role in their lives. In 2010, 64.3% of families had both parents working (U.S. Census Bureau) and I would assume that number will be higher in 2011. So when it comes time for children to go to doctor's appointments, dance class, or soccer practice that responsibility often falls on the grandparents.
So other than the economy, what accounts for this trend in family togetherness? The cost of child care is one factor. The average household with an employed mother and children under age 5 paid $129 per week for child care (U.S. Census Bureau.) Another reason could be the fact that the "grandparent generation" are living longer, healthier, and more active lives. So they are physically able help with child care well into their 70s, and some into their 80s.
So my answer to my friend is that she's correct, we are seeing more grandparents providing the care that was once provided by Mom and Dad. But speaking as a grandparent who helps out when the need arises... if that means I get to spend more quality time with my grandkids then so be it. They keep me young and active and make me smile.