Why Grandmothers Are Important
were the source of oral histories and narratives that helped their grandchildren
resist the oppression of the larger society. This early role has been linked to the role
of grandmothers since World War II.
While not every family has this dynamic (there is no right or wrong), science is
beginning to show that grandparents, and grandmothers in particular, have played a
crucial role in human evolution and most importantly, how we connect with each
We often think of grandmothers as providing a gentle touch for our grandchildren, but
the role of grandmothers encompasses something much more concrete. Currently,
60 percent of grandmothers provide childcare for their grandchildren, according to
Waite. In her book, Grandmother Power, Gianturco writes that the future of Africa
may well depend on its grandmothers.
Nowadays a grandmother can provide everything from occasional babysitting to
residing with and sometimes raising grandchildren. Grandparents, now more than
ever before, are playing an increasing role for families because of the increase of
working mothers. Thirty percent of mothers with children under five years depend on
grandmothers to provide childcare.
What does all this means for our society and what should we be paying attention to
since older people are the only naturally occurring resource in our society that is
increasing. We are living in the “age of old age” with Baby Boomers retiring. Let us
choose to look at this as a resource to be tapped which could help our harried
Today’s grandmothers are younger, healthier, and more educated. They have
professional expertise and because Boomer grandmas came of age in the sixties,
they know how to be activists and make the world better for grandchildren because
they were activists when they were students.
Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have been questioning the reason for
women to go through menopause, a stage in life that we do not share with other
primates. After all, would not it be better for the species if women were able to
continue bearing children for the entirety of their lives? Note: I’m reasonably sure a
man initially jumped to this conclusion. Men can procreate for as long as they can
rise to the occasion.
The ‘Grandmother Hypothesis’ argues that the role of grandmothers in society helps
shape who we are. Kristen Hawkes, an anthropologist at the University of Utah, who
looked into this hypothesis and indicates that grandmothers have helped us develop
an array of social capacities. This includes those that are “the foundation for the
evolution of other distinctly human traits, including pair bonding, bigger brains,
learning new skills and our tendency for cooperation.”
From a survival perspective, researchers suggest that if a mother has help with
multiple children, larger families become more viable. They found that grandmothers
can assist families by acting as supplementary caregivers, and also help with the
collection of food.
The study acknowledged that, of course, in the real world many mothers get help
from other sources, such as fathers and older siblings. But grandmothers are unique
in the sense that they have often, but not always, already been a mother. They are
qualified for the job without the distractions of youth and the sometimes dominant
In conclusion, the following are my non-scientific reasons why I think grandmothers
are so important:
Grandmothers always seem to have the patience that mothers do not. Being a
mother now I can tell you that is the absolute truth! I do not know where they or I, get
it from, but grandmothers are able to stay calm even during the worst temper
tantrums that would have any mother running for the door.
Grandmothers let you get away with just about anything! Or is this just me?
Grandmothers have a way of making it all better. They always seem to have the right
words at the right time no matter the situation.
Grandmothers will play with you all the time. Wait. “Isn’t this what we are supposed
to do?” I say, as we prep for another science experiment in the kitchen.
Grandmothers always seem to have time for you. Do not get me wrong, moms
always have time for their kids too. But, grandmothers have that time that seems to
I am blessed to be called Nana, to my three grandchildren. Being a mom is great, but
being Nana is priceless.
“Becoming a grandmother is wonderful.
One moment you’re just a mother. The
next you are all-wise and prehistoric.” —
In keeping with “Women’s History Month,”
I wanted my article to focus on women
and since the lock-down I have not been
able to spend as much time with my
grandchildren as I would like. Eureka! I
will be right about grandmothers.
We will begin by looking at the role of
grandmothers in the African‐American
community from Reconstruction through
the New Deal. It suggests that
grandmothers were central to the
economic survival of their families and
worked as long as they lived, in paid
labor and household labor, to help
provide for their families. Grandmothers