Beginning Mid-Lifeby Susan Donald
So who begins parenting again when they are middle aged? Apparently more people than you may realize. In this country there are 5.8 million children being raised by grandparents. That’s more than double the entire population of Mississippi. And nearly 3 million more are being raised by other family members besides grandparents or their biological parents. Each one of these families has a back story, one that probably contains a lot of heartache and maybe some hope as well.
Speaking from my own experience, I can say that our family’s story has had plenty of both. I clearly remember the day that my husband, Danny, and I sat together and cried as circumstances had finally brought us to the decision to bring our infant grandson home to live with us indefinitely. He had been with us off and on for the entire course of his little life and now with his first birthday only a few months away it was time for him to have the stability and security that he needed and deserved. And though I believed then and still do today, that his parents loved him, their own lives were in chaos and they could not offer him the kind of home he needed at this tender and critical time in his development.
In the days ahead we pondered our grandson’s future as well as our own and realized that the empty nest we had anticipated as we began our fifties would probably never materialize. We realized that some of the things we dreamed of doing “one day” would most likely never happen. We would once again navigate the choppy waters of adolescence only this time we would be in our sixties! Meanwhile, in the more immediate future, we would relive midnight feedings, diaper changes, teething and childproofing our house again. And this time we wouldn’t have our own parents to fall back on for support.
Shortly after our grandson came to live with us we also began caring for my elderly dad who also moved in. It was one of the most trying times in our marriage and in our lives. Being caretakers for those at both ends of the spectrum of life was exhausting.
He could not seem to sleep through the night until he was well over a year old and my dad would often get up during the night as well. Getting a full night’s sleep was rare. And by the time you reach middle age, sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity! A little humor and a lot of chocolate got me through most of that year. Life was never dull but there isn’t a single minute that I regret, especially since it turned out that my dad was in his last year of life.
P. S. We will wrap up Susan’s article in our next post.