Author: Paula Span
Sociologists use the term “intensive grandparenting” to refer to a commitment to providing regular child care, often accompanied by housekeeping or other tasks.
Much as I look forward to spending time with my granddaughter each week, Thursdays can feel long.
I board the commuter train in my New Jersey town at 8:14 a.m., switch to the subway in Manhattan and reach my daughter’s apartment in Brooklyn by 10. Bartola, who’s nearly 3, comes hurtling down the hallway to greet me. (That’s a family nickname, a nod to the former Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon.)
My Bubbe Day shift (it’s Yiddish for grandma) lasts until 6. By the time her parents take over and I trek back home, roughly 12 hours have passed.
But that’s nothing compared to the time that Bill Borbely, 65, a retired marketing executive, puts in. When his daughter and son-in-law announced their first pregnancy, he recalled, “I said, ‘You don’t have to worry about day care.’ And they haven’t.”
He’s on the job Monday through Thursday in Point Pleasant, N.J., caring for two granddaughters, ages 5 and 3, for a total of 26.5 hours. Because I want Bartola to see that everyone shares in home tasks, she “helps” me unload the dishwasher and do her laundry. Mr. Borbely, however, has been known to mow his kids’ lawn.
Maybe Carol Hewitt tops us both. As her daughter and son-in-law in the Bay Area debated whether to have children. “I said, ‘Go for it, get pregnant. I’ll watch the kids.’”
In 2014, the year her daughter gave birth to twins and Ms. Hewitt turned 65, she’d been traveling back and forth from Kentucky, where she was involved in a relationship, but resettled in California to care for her grandchildren three times a week until they began school. She’s still providing after-school, sick day, summer and date-night babysitting.
Sociologists have developed a name for this contribution: “intensive grandparenting.” It refers not to a particular number of hours, but to a commitment to providing regular child care, often accompanied by housekeeping or other tasks. Ms. Hewitt, Mr. Borbely and I — and a whole lot of others — qualify.
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