nothing wrong here

Cut The Boomer Grandparents A Little Slack

I know, I know — but hear me out.

Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Shutterstock

“What is wrong with boomer grandparents? They are so selfish! They don’t want to spend any time with their grandkids!” I can count on getting a comment like this on one of my social media posts — I’m on Instagram as @morethangrand, writing about grandparenting at least once a week. And every time, I want to respond, “There is nothing wrong with boomer grandparents!”

Now, I have no doubt there are selfish grandparents out there. The world is filled with selfish people, and grandparents are people, too. But to say that this generation of grandparents is worse than those in the past is ignoring the reality of today’s world, and looking at the past with a distorted perspective, too.

If you’re a parent right now, you may have memories of being dropped off at your grandparents’ house. If Grandma and Grandpa were the go-to babysitters for your childhood, you may wonder why your parents don’t do for you what their parents did for them. When you can’t rely on them to watch your kids or show up for birthday parties, it seems like they are hitting “pass” on grandparenting.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s statistically more likely that your own grandmothers were homemakers, at least from the time they had children. They were home to watch you after school, or host you and your cousins for weeks during the summer. Starting with the baby boomer generation, women were more likely to be in the workforce, making babysitting grandkids and cousin camp harder to pull off.

Just because your parents don’t seem to want to spend time with your kids doesn’t mean it’s true of all grandparents. One in four children is regularly cared for by a grandparent these days. In fact, more grandparents today provide regular child care for their grandchildren while their parents work than any past generation, and 80% of the time, they do it without getting paid. Grandparent babysitting burnout is a real thing.

Of course, not all grandparents are stepping in to be the go-to child care solution. 40% of grandparents are still in the workforce. Of all my friends who are grandparents, only one couple is fully retired. And that's not even getting into the fact that people are living longer, and many younger boomer grandparents are actively involved in caring for their elderly parents.

The expectations for grandparents’ behavior varies more by family culture than by generation. What you see in your own family and on social media is not a full picture. There have always been grandparents who overindulge their grandkids and those who aren’t interested in them at all. There have always been those who value their role as a part of the broader family and those who expect to be catered to based on their elder status.

There’s another problem with calling out boomer grandparents: an increasing number of today’s grandparents aren’t boomers. The average age someone becomes a grandparent is 50, and grandparents under the age of 60 are part of Gen X. Every year, they are a bigger percentage of the grandparent population. Born in 1964, I barely make the cut myself.

When I see insults slung at boomer grandparents, I want to jump to their defense. This sort of ageist stereotyping contradicts what I actually see. The grandparents I encounter in real life and through my work adore their grandkids and want to help parents in every way possible. Too often, though, it’s simply not possible to help out in the same way grandparents in the 1990s did.

So instead of taking to Reddit to complain about your child’s grandparents, consider talking to them. Ask them what their relationship with their grandparents was like. Ask what kind of grandparents they want to be. Start a conversation about generational differences, and see what you can learn from one another. You might discover that there’s nothing wrong with boomers at all.

DeeDee Moore founded More Than Grand as a way to share inspiration and resources for grandparents who understand the importance of their new role. On the More Than Grand blog and social media, DeeDee creates a bridge from parent to grandparent, covering topics such as concrete ways to help new parents, understanding new trends in child care, and meaningful ways to connect with your grandchildren. Visit or look for @morethangrand on your favorite social media.