work I am doing around extended family engagement – grandparents (and step-grandparents, and honorary grandparents) are among the most widely acknowledged family members playing a role in children’s lives.
It’s also a role I think about every day, as grandparents on mine and my husband’s side make our daily life with K possible – and it’s an absolute treasure to watch K develop a loving relationship.
You can read more on grandparent’s as a policy issue here:
We can work to embrace two-generation strategies in our programs for families – and then push further to ask how we can make these three- and four-generation strategies, as Senior ICS Fellow Janice Gruendel did in a recent presentation on opportunities for extended family involvement in evidence-based home-visiting models.
We can learn more about opportunities to fully include “grandfamilies” in our safety net programs, as highlighted by Generations United.
We can continue working to improve access to early care and education programs, so families have more quality choices for young children, which can complement nurturing care from grandparents.
We can continue to support research and resources to ensure quality of life for seniors and foster healthy intergenerational relationships.
“I do a lot of this professionally. I read about parenting, I read about education, I read about child development, and its still really hard…We’ve moved away from this village society that supports each other to, you know, maybe you partner can take off a couple weeks to help with the baby or you mom lives nearby. I was very lucky to have both.
The biggest challenge is just learning that our society puts the burden on individual families to handle this on their own and I would love to see us moving way from that more.”
Last year, I had the opportunity speak to Rose Wood on her podcast – since renamed The Smart Parent – about the world of early childhood policy and my experience in early motherhood. I did this interview when baby K was 10 weeks old (you can hear him cry in the background at one point!). Listening to it a year later is a bit like opening up a time capsule to a really stressful time – I actually wasn’t even back to work yet when this was recorded.
A year later, my remarks still seem pretty spot on. Motherhood continues to be “extraordinary and terrifying,” and we make it through parenting every day thanks to an amazing network of loved ones who contribute as “para-parents” in K’s life. I still struggle to ask for help – but I think I’ve gotten better! – and now we’re in the position to start “paying forward” the help that we got.
And I have never been more fired up about the need to re-conceptualize extended family engagement in our policies and every day life to ensure families take advantage of every resource available as they dive into this wonderful adventure of raising the next generation.
You can listen to the podcast here. A happy mother’s day to all honoring the amazing women and para-parents in your lives, regardless of their official title!