In a recent “personal finance” column, the New School economist Teresa Ghilarducci enumerates some of the ills of spending too much time caring for one’s grandchildren: grandparents sacrificing income, more time at work, and other opportunities; increased exposure of elders to the pathogens carried by children; and grandparents’ well-documented and dangerous habit of indulging their grandchildren with sweets. Naomi Schaefer Riley responds:
Ghilarducci has built a name for herself [by arguing] that seniors don’t have enough money when they retire, and suggesting that the government offer them some kind of minimum wage to live on, in addition to social security. And just like seniors would be better supported by government agencies, it seems she also thinks kids would be better cared for by institutional day care. Everyone in a family should pursue his or her own self-interest and let government handle any gaps.
The problem with Ghilarducci’s solutions to family problems is that they may fix some financial issues—maybe Grandma can make more money working as a Wal-Mart greeter than caring for her grandson, and day-care workers probably won’t give her grandsons too many cookies—but they take no account of the happiness and well-being that come from spending more time with family.
In fact, researchers from Cornell University found that “grandparents living with their grandchildren experienced more happiness and more meaningfulness when they engaged in activities with their grandchildren compared to spending time alone or with other people.”
Before reading Ghilarducci’s article, I frankly would have looked at such research and thought the conclusion was so obvious, it hardly needed to be stated. . . . Why do you think parents are always harassing their adult kids to give them grandchildren? As for the grandparents who decide they’d rather spend more time with other adults and pursue their own career goals, well, maybe the kids are fine spending less time with them anyway.