Grandchildren as Anti-Depressants

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By Nadia Hefni Foster

The other day I was helping my mother (grandmother to five – two of mine and three from my sister) fill out an extensive online health assessment survey.  It went through the usual questions about diet and exercise (How many servings of fruit do you eat each day?  How many servings of whole grains? How much moderate exercise do you participate in daily? etc.)  As the questions got a bit more in depth on the socio-emotional level, I quickly realized that the questions were ultimately leaning towards trying to determine the level of social isolation and depression often felt.  A question came up that asked “How often do you engage in social activities? , then “How often do you make time to talk on the phone with friends and family?”, and then some of the heavy questions… “How many days during the past week have you felt depressed or hopeless?” – thankfully my mom said none.  The final question in the series asked “Have you taken any anti-depressants in the last week?”.  My heart stopped as my mom hesitated, then said emphatically “Yes!  Natalia and Olivia!” (my two children, 21 months and 4 years).  With that answer, I gained a new appreciation for the joy grandchildren bring to a grandparents life.

I am thankful that both grandmothers live within less than an hour of us (on a good day, around Los Angeles traffic).  Because I have work flexibility and am able to telecommute from my home office, one of the most common misnomers is that because I work from home, I don’t need child care.  Wrong!  I most definitely DO need child care – so I CAN work!  I have access to a few good babysitters, but without fail, I always start by calling one of the grandmothers to see if they would like the time first.  I don’t look at it so much as that they are “babysitters”, but more so that I am giving them a chance to do something they love.  If they are available, they most often are thrilled with having the opportunity to spend a day with the girls.  Plus, I have found that no babysitter comes close to the love and care of a grandmother.  I see their eyes light up, as if every worry and care, ache and pain goes away with each hug.  Similarly, I feel the children inherently know and feel that grandmotherly love and feel all is well in the world in their arms.

Of course I don’t mean to exclude grandfathers.  I see equal joy in my dad’s eyes when he is around my children.  I think he has a little less patience and definitely looks forward to his “nap getaway” in the afternoon, where my mom can go all day with them (not to say it’s all a smooth ride, but nonetheless a fun ride).

I realize not all grandparents may be feeling the warm and fuzzies around their grandchildren and assume that is perhaps the nature of their own relationships with their kids, but most of the grandparents I know are ecstatic to be able to spend time with their grandchildren, and although at times they leave exhausted, they do leave with a feeling of rejuvenation.  In my opinion, grandchildren provide a wonderful alternative to any form of anti-depression medication out there.

Nadia Hefni Foster is the Director of Partnerships at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for telecommuting and flexible job listings.  She is the proud mom of Olivia and Natalia, most thankful for workplace flexibility, and works out of her home office in California with her family.

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