A study about grandparenting published by the National Institutes of Health told me something I already know: Caring for a grandchild brings benefits which, in a given situation, may mitigate or even outweigh caregiving demands.
"Caregiving is positively affirming, so grandparents may find caring for a grandchild rewarding," the report notes. "Caregiving grandparents report feeling closer to their grandchildren and enjoying time spent with them. Caring for a grandchild may lead to a more active lifestyle, healthier meals, or a reduction in smoking. Some grandparents feel that caring for their grandchildren makes them healthier and more active."
I know this firsthand.
I work four days a week. On the fifth day, I babysit my 3-year-old granddaughter Evie and my 19-month-old grandson William. Evie goes to day care two days a week, and the other two days she stays with my 85-year-old mom. William goes to day care four days a week (we felt caring for a baby was too hard for my mom, even though she volunteered to keep him).
My mother and I agree that these children are keeping us young; we also kept granddaughter Tilleigh, 7, until she started preschool and kindergarten. My mom's doctors are consistently amazed at how sharp she is mentally, her high level of energy and her quick wit. Her doctors have told her that spending time with her great-grandchildren has contributed to her youthful attitude and good health.
I am physically engaged with the children on a regular basis. Just last week, I set up an impressive downhill runway for the girls to race their Big Wheels. I'm running back and forth to keep them from running into shrubs as they fly down the path. It's much more entertaining than jogging but just as physically demanding.
And every other weekend, when all the grandchildren stay with us, I spend about 45 minutes putting together three tents, one for each grandchild, that has me crawling around on the ground, bending and standing, sweating and panting (I should invest in pop-up tents). It's a workout.
Additionally when they play outside, it takes about a dozen trips to help them carry their toys outside - and then back inside.
I'm also constantly lifting. My grandchildren are super-affectionate, and that's a good thing since I'm always kissing them. At any given moment, one of them wants to be picked up and hugged (although Tilleigh is getting tall, she still enjoys being picked up and cuddled). So add weightlifting to my babysitting benefits.
It's very hard to be dormant when I'm with the children. William is very active and has started climbing on everything. I've got to be mentally alert to his whereabouts at all times because he could easily be scaling a chair to get access to the top of a table or chest.
Evenings with the children ends in baths. While Tilleigh opts for a shower, the younger two enjoy time in the tub. I bathe the kids while on my knees leaning over the tub. Add stretching to my exercise regime.
The physical part of taking care of the grandkids is definitely beneficial, but the loving part is what keeps me going. My endorphins work over time when I'm around these kids.
So no wonder they're keeping me young. They're contributing to my active lifestyle and I'm enjoying every second.
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396.