Sherry says: Our daughter, who is 19, got pregnant with her boyfriend. They have no intention of marrying, so I want her to give the baby up for adoption, or figure out how to be a parent on her own, not saddle us with a baby to raise. Evan wants us, and that means me, to “help” with the baby.
He says: “We should do whatever we can to help raise our grandchild.”
Evan says: I know Sherry is upset with our daughter, but I don’t see why we can’t help take care of our new grandbaby, regardless of her birth circumstances. Our daughter is still in school, and Sherry is retired, so she should be the perfect day care. I don’t get why she is being so unloving.
What do THEY do?
We are wondering if Evan would be willing to give up his retirement and become a “perfect day care” if he was the one retired, instead of Sherry. There are several opportunities facing Evan and Sherry, their daughter and the boyfriend in this situation.
The daughter and her boyfriend have the primary responsibility to determine how their baby will be raised. The soon-to-be-grandparents may have input when asked, but they are not the ultimate decision-makers and should not automatically assume the principal role of child-rearing. We understand grandparents’ need to become involved in the health and welfare of their grandchildren, but not necessarily to become the primary care-givers. A more appropriate role for Sherry and Evan is to become an advocate and assistance provider to their daughter and her boyfriend. Encourage them to accept their new parent status and offer to help them get established in setting up their new family unit. Pregnancy of a teen who is still in school does not automatically render the new grandparents-to-be the primary role of rearing the baby. There are many questions to ask of the new mother and father (married or not) concerning their role as new parents, and Evan and Sherry together can help guide those discussions.
Of primary concern is the effect this new situation has on Evan and Sherry’s marriage. Rightly so, the focus is external (the daughter, the boyfriend and the new baby) but the parents’ relationship (Evan and Sherry) cannot be neglected. Without coming to a mutual understanding and direction, Evan and Sherry would be doing their relationship harm by making unilateral decisions. We are reminded of our Christian conduct noted in 1 Peter 3:8, which says, “Be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble.” This is a situation that requires calm when sharing feelings with each other.
We are aware of several families who have faced this situation. There is not a single answer, as each situation is unique. We know of several grandparents who have taken on the “parent” role in rearing their grandchildren. Those who have done so successfully have a common trait; they have discussed it thoroughly between themselves first, before committing to a plan of action. Often what appears to be workable to one spouse is not acceptable to the other spouse. Jointly, and with mutual agreement, the boundaries of their assistance can be established. Keep in mind the agreement will need to be revisited often, as all parents know how fast daily life scenarios can change.
As Evan and Sherry begin having a dialogue about all the “what ifs” of a possible second round of child-rearing, it would do them well to share insights on how they could become more creative in maintaining their own relationship. Couple time would not be the same. Free time may not seem free. Your feelings honestly shared with each other about this event will bring your relationship to new heights and deeper love.
Having a new grandbaby is a blessing from God and should be viewed in that light; viewed in love and not adversity, viewed as gift and not as a burden, viewed as a new family unit and not as a broken relationship. Whatever their daughter decides – to adopt or to raise her baby herself – we need to praise God for the decision to welcome new life into the world.
Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.