All that grey matter underneath the grey hair is a valuable commodity for our kids. But by delaying parenthood our society is jeopardising our inter-generational relationships. The declining birthrate doesn’t just mean fewer children. It also means fewer grandparents.
Parents wish the world for their children. They want for them tertiary education, world travel, a good career and financial stability. But as they see their wishes for their children fulfilled, they are stalling their own journey into grandparenthood.
Many young Australians are spending their 20s studying, gaining overseas experiences and then coming home and attempting to establish a career. The result is an increasing number of adults becoming parents later in life.
The average age of first-time mothers is now 30.2, and has been increasing for two decades. The average age for first-time dads is 32.5 years: an all-time high.
A child born when its mother is 35, who then doesn’t have a child until they themselves are 35 years old, will decrease the chances of developing strong inter-generational relationships. Being a first-time grandparent at 70 will always be a challenge.
It is difficult to find voices to question what the impact this loss of dynamic inter-generational relationships will mean. It demonstrates the limitations of the public debate surrounding population.
My three-year-old is fortunate to have contact with his great-great-grandmother, great-grandparents and grandparents. This is partly because we are all living longer; but it is also because he was born when I was in my early 20s.
The connection between my children and the older generation in my family is not something you can readily quantify. My son plays ball with grandpa and shares stories on great-grandma’s knee.
I tell my son that I used to do these things too. We share a sense of belonging that our family gives us, but it is more than that. My son and I bond through a shared experience of family ritual, even though we experienced those rituals over 20 years apart.
To see my 95-year-old great grandmother handing out lollies and kissing her three-year-old great-great grandson is a delightfully intangible experience that teaches my whole family something about the cycle of human life, about family and community.
My fear is that our valuing of financial security is threatening what we really hold most dear.
Grandparents are the historians of families. They pass on knowledge to younger generations and in doing so help form the identity of the succeeding generations. Grandparents are mentors and role-models. They provide a family with cohesion and provide us with a perspective of what is to come in the journey of our lives.
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