Grandparents to the rescue

Elise T. Chisolm

February 23, 1993|By Elise T. Chisolm

Let's face it, our country isn't filled with people who want to keep other people's children. In most instances, these "care-givers" don't make enough money, don't get promotions, tenure or retirement, do they?

In the United States, family values have slipped, children sometimes seem a burden to be reckoned with, and it didn't take Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood to tell us that. Until immigration laws change, things will be difficult for the baby boomers and their children. I'd say there is a day-care gap that is getting wider.

There are more women in the work force than ever, and there are 10 million children between 8 and 12 left alone part of the day. Latch key kids represent a way of life. The child-care hassle is getting worse. "Who will keep the children?" is now a suppliant cry from coast to coast.

The Baird flap made me think about a neighborhood I know, a neighborhood where children really count, where families help families. The neighborhood has a strong support system. Grandmothers baby sit their grandchildren so their daughters and sons can pursue their careers.

The neighborhood is mine. I've lived in it for 12 years. I have three very good friends who baby-sit every working day. One keeps two grandchildren part time. And another keeps her son's 2-year-old and accepts pay for it. Fair enough, I say, as the young couple are both professionals and have good salaries. Another baby-sits in the afternoon only; the children go to nursery school in the morning.

True, these grandmothers can't play bridge or tennis at the last minute. They are giving of themselves. So whether the grandmother baby-sits out of necessity or because the young adults are working to save money for their children's college or a better house, it is a sacrifice for the grandparent. And I will add that the retired grandfathers pitch in, too.

I hope there are many other neighborhoods like mine where grandparents fill in for the parents. After all, this has been done since time began.

Actually, many young people have had illegal aliens for home help. Until they reform the immigration laws, this is unlawful.

So the Zoe/Kimba affair is just reinforcing a message: Working families need help on day care, more care-takers with training. Of course, if you have Zoe's money, help is easier to obtain.

Many of my neighbors don't seem to find baby-sitting or driving the car pool burdensome.

One told me, "I love to keep the kids, and they keep me young and healthy."

Oh, sure, not everyone has a mother or in-law handy. But share the load, America, wake up and see this national problem -- our children's well-being.

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