Charlene Masse (far left) seen with children and grandchildren during a get-together at Grouse Mountain before the pandemic hit, and Loretta Solomon (right) with some of her grandchildren. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Charlene Masse (far left) seen with children and grandchildren during a get-together at Grouse Mountain before the pandemic hit, and Loretta Solomon (right) with some of her grandchildren. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Grandparents helping look after grandkids: why it’s good for both sides

It is not a sacrifice – they say

Fran McLeod didn’t hesitate a second when she was asked whether flying to Edmonton every two weeks to help care for her grandson was a sacrifice.

“Oh, God, no,” the Fort Langley resident responded.

Born early, at 28 weeks, her daughter’s baby required a lot of intensive care.

So the grandparents from both families came to the aid of the two working parents, taking turns helping with the baby, and spelling each other off every 14 days.

“I would fly in on a Sunday, stay two weeks, then fly back,” McLeod recalled.

That abruptly ended when the pandemic struck, but at the same time, her daughter and son-in-law ended up working from home.

McLeod, known as “Nan” to her grandkids, happily reports that her grandson has become a bright, adventurous kid.

“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” she related. “He’s a climbing machine.”

And he now has a baby sister, and McLeod has another grandchild.

Four, so far, since her son is the proud parent of two daughters.

Grandparents are living longer and spending more time with their grandchildren than their predecessors did, studies suggest, and both are benefiting.

An Oxford University assessment of more than 1,500 children showed that those with a high level of “grandparental involvement” had fewer emotional and behavioural problems and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.

Grandparents and grown-up grandkids benefit, as well.

Research by Boston College has linked close emotional relationships between grandparents and adult grandchildren to lower rates of depression for both seniors and their grandchildren.

None of this comes as a a surprise to McLeod, who has many friends looking after grandchildren, too.

“There’s a lot of people doing this.”

People like Charlene Masse, who has eight grandchildren ranging from eight to 23.

Faith, family, and friends are very important to Masse who tells her kids and grandkids “to get a friend, you have to be a friend.”

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These days, the Langley City resident and retired nurse just looks after her youngest granddaughter, once a week, to help the parents who both work shifts.

Her grandchild calls her “grandma M” to distinguish Masse from her other grandparents.

Like many grandparents, Masse has had the satisfaction of her children recognizing how challenging parenting can be.

“You become so much better in your children’s eyes when you have grandchildren,” Masse laughed.

Grandkids, she enthuses, are a delight, and time spent with them is a gift.

“I would never give an hour back [with them],” Masse declared.

Neither would Loretta Solomon.

Solomon, a Fort Langley resident has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, who call her “G.G.” to distinguish her from their other grandparents.

“I don’t look after [the] great-grandchildren because they have a grandmother who does that, and I’m always careful not to intrude on that relationship,” Solomon explained.

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Like her peers, Solomon views time spent with her grandchildren as a gift that also benefits her children.

“I can provide flexible care – any shift, on short notice – and as a grandparent, I am totally dependable,” Solomon remarked.

“I think for my children, having me provide child care provides them with some peace of mind as well. I am sure my providing child care is a financial asset to my children and if so, I have always been happy to help out.”

Solomon has looked after grandchildren for 40 years, at various times, sharing a house with all of them.

She estimates she has never had grandkids in her sole care for more than three or four days at a time, and has done lots of “short call” child care for parents whose work hours can suddenly change.

“I don’t think there is one good way to grandparent,” she went on to say.

“Every grandparent is different, our grandchildren are all different, and our children are different.”

As chair of the Langley Senior Resources Society board of directors, Solomon has heard many seniors talk about how lonely and isolated they have felt during the pandemic, “and missing grandchildren has been a major factor.”

“Seeing our grandchildren on a flatscreen Zoom call or FaceTime during COVID-19 is not the same as snuggling and cuddling them,” Solomon observed.

“We don’t have data on the number of grandparents who care for grandchildren, but anecdotally, we think it is quite high,” she concluded.

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