Menu
Lifestyle

What happens when a grandma is left to raise her grandkids?

Carole Smith (pictured here with husband Ray): “The hardest part has been the social isolation. You lose your friends. They have raised their kids and are off doing their own thing.” (Pic: Jason Edwards)
Carole Smith (pictured here with husband Ray): “The hardest part has been the social isolation. You lose your friends. They have raised their kids and are off doing their own thing.” (Pic: Jason Edwards)

WITH her own children fully grown, grandmother Carole Smith was supposed to be enjoying her twilight years. But then she and her husband found themselves being the primary caregivers to five children under four, and had to start over again.

My husband Ray and I had a daughter who had fallen into drugs. We hadn't seen her for a while, and then she came home to us pregnant. When our granddaughter Tegan was born, things were seemingly going along fine but then my daughter got back on drugs. Tegan's father was on them too, and he was imprisoned. Our daughter became pregnant again. This time it was a boy, Daniel.

We were given full-time care of both children. Around this time, my son Gregory's wife was diagnosed with cancer.

At first, Ray and I travelled back and forth to help care for their three kids while Gregory supported his wife. She got much sicker, so we decided to let the kids live with us. I had to give up my job at the hospital because I suddenly had five kids under the age of four at home; the two youngest were just 18 months old. It was like starting all over again.

Starting all over again... (Pic: Jason Edwards)
Starting all over again... (Pic: Jason Edwards)

When his wife died, Gregory didn't cope. We all decided it would be best to keep the kids with us.

The hardest part has been the social isolation. You lose your friends. They have raised their kids and are off doing their own thing. But you're starting all over again… nappies, tantrums, lunch boxes, the whole lot.

The kids have grown into teenagers now, and the financial side is tough. Friends offer me their old clothes, which I absolutely love. I get out the spray and wipe to clean up the shoes, I take hems down, take things in, let things out. We cook at home. Somehow, you get by.

I was diagnosed with pulmonary lung fibrosis (I don't smoke) and I worry about what might happen to the kids as my own health gets worse. The doctors have given me three to five years to live and I'm on oxygen more than 20 hours a day.

Carole Smith features in Stellar magazine.
Carole Smith features in Stellar magazine.

The kids ask me where they will go if I die. And Ray, who keeps himself so fit says, "Well, if anything happens to Gran, we'll be right." I'm so lucky with Ray - we have been dating since we were teenagers. He is the absolute love of my life, the best thing since sliced bread.

A lot of people out there wouldn't care for their grandkids but, then again, a lot would. Despite it all, in our home there's a lot of laughter. Whenever I hear that sound, it reminds me how I'd do it all again if I had to.

Mirabel Foundation assists children who are in the care of extended family (kinship care); mirabelfoundation.org.au.

Advice for grandparents who are primary caregivers:

1 Reach out to friends, family and charities for help. There are many good people in the world.

2 Prioritise your partner. When we go out, Ray says, "Carole, if you get lost just hang on to the

back of my pants." We hold on to each other.

3 Learn to live with chaos. It's an absolute circus here. But it's our circus.

MORE AT STELLARMAG.COM.AU

Topics:  children editors picks grandparents lifestyle parenting

News Corp Australia


Marine Rescue leads to life of memories at sea

BON VOYAGE: Bernie Gabriel reflects on his time in the Marine Rescue NSW Service.

Bernie Gabriel looks back on early days.

Long road ahead to ease pain of stabbing death

Imogen Larter with horse Nelson.

Victim's family tells of heartache, healing

Local Partners

‘I have slept with 100 people’

MANY of us would be coy about revealing how many sexual partners we’ve had. It’s unlikely we’d attempt to track them down again.

Pregnant Erin Molan hospitalised

Erin Molan has been announced as the new host of the Footy Show. Picture: Jonathan Ng

She collapsed, hitting her head on the ground

Botched jump led to years of hell

Hilary Judith nearly died in a skydiving accident. But that was only the start of the trauma.

Her body was reliving the accident, over and over again

Return to sender

HEAR THE ECHO: The Mountain Story is a metaphor for life in general.

Like a voice echoes in the mountains, in life we get what we give

Tough love day care

.

Nothing quite like a headbutt in modern child raising

Don't just dream about it

RELAX: Create an inviting place to retire to at night with a comfortable mattress and quality bedding.

Make your bed a place where dreams are made