We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Grandmothers at Work

Juggling Families and Jobs

Madonna Harrington Harrington Meyer

Publication Year: 2014

Young working mothers are not the only ones who are struggling to balance family life and careers. Many middle-aged American women face this dilemma as they provide routine childcare for their grandchildren while pursuing careers and trying to make ends meet. Employment among middle-aged women is at an all-time high.  In the same way that women who reduce employment hours when raising their young children experience reductions in salary, savings, and public and private pensions, the mothers of those same women, as grandmothers, are rearranging hours to take care of their grandchildren, experiencing additional loss of salary and reduced old age pension accumulation. Madonna Harrington Meyer’s Grandmothers at Work, based primarily on 48 in-depth interviews conducted in 2009-2012 with grandmothers who juggle working and minding their grandchildren, explores the strategies of, and impacts on, working grandmothers.             
While all of the grandmothers in Harrington Meyer’s book are pleased to spend time with their grandchildren, many are readjusting work schedules, using vacation and sick leave time, gutting retirement accounts, and postponing retirement to care for grandchildren. Some simply want to do this; others do it in part because they have more security and flexibility on the job than their daughters do at their relatively new jobs.  Many are sequential grandmothers, caring for one grandchild after the other as they are born, in very intensive forms of grandmothering.  Some also report that they are putting off retirement out of economic necessity, in part due to the amount of financial help they are providing their grandchildren. Finally, some are also caring for their frail older parents or ailing spouses just as intensively. Most expect to continue feeling the pinch of paid and unpaid work for many years before their retirement. Grandmothers at Work provides a unique perspective on a phenomenon faced by millions of women in America today.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.5 KB)
pp. i-vi


pdf iconDownload PDF (75.2 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (43.9 KB)
pp. ix -x

I never really had a grandmother growing up. My mother’s mom, Kathryn, died decades before I was born. My mom was just 18. My father’s mom, Anna, died when I was very young. I have only two memories of Anna. In one, she was at our home for a holiday. The house was filled...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (55.1 KB)
pp. xi-xii

This research was partially supported by the Syracuse University Center for Aging and Policy Studies, with funding provided through grant number P30-AG034464 from the National Institute on Aging. I am indebted to many friends and colleagues who helped me find grandmothers...

read more

1. Balancing Care and Work

pdf iconDownload PDF (337.0 KB)
pp. 1-31

Legions of working grandmothers across the United States are quietly, almost invisibly, caring for grandchildren so that parents can work or have a break from busy schedules. Deanne is one of 48 working grandmothers I interviewed who is balancing paid work and caring for...

read more

2. Joys and Second Chances

pdf iconDownload PDF (260.9 KB)
pp. 32-61

Much is said about the negative aspects of carework, but the working grandmothers I interviewed who care for their grandchildren reap tremendous positive rewards. Indeed, to talk to these 48 grandmothers is to talk to 48 women who know joy. To a person, the grandmothers I...

read more

3. Intensive Grandmothering

pdf iconDownload PDF (194.1 KB)
pp. 62-97

Much has been said about the intensification of mothering in the United States. Sharon Hays traces evolving practices and suggests that for about three decades we have been in an era of increasingly intensive mothering in which mothers, even if working, are encouraged to invest a great...

read more

4. Juggling Work and Grandchildren

pdf iconDownload PDF (167.0 KB)
pp. 98-130

Many grandmothers juggle work and caring for grandchildren. One-half of Americans are grandparents by age 50; 70 percent of those in their early 50s, and nearly 65 percent of those in their late 50s, are still employed.1 Studies show that working grandparents are just as likely to...

read more

5. Financial Ebbs and Flows

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.8 KB)
pp. 131-152

Intensive grandmothering can be quite expensive. Many grandmothers who care for their grandchildren report less money coming in and more money going out. Some grandmothers reduce earnings because they reduce paid work hours to increase unpaid carework hours. Some...

read more

6. Containing Carework

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.2 KB)
pp. 153-173

Though grandmothers may love their grandchildren, and many may want to provide almost limitless care and support, some want to set limits. For some grandmothers, enough is enough. These grandmothers limit grandchild care to protect their time, health, finances, jobs, social...

read more

7. Emotional Ups and Downs

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.1 KB)
pp. 174-206

The emotional impacts of working, and caring for grandkids, are mixed. For some the combination of roles generates a tremendous emotional high, but for others it generates somewhat more negative sensations. Many working grandmothers enjoy terrific emotional rewards of providing...

read more

8. Social and Health Pros and Cons

pdf iconDownload PDF (131.4 KB)
pp. 207-229

The impact of caring for grandchildren on working grandmothers’ social and physical well-being is mixed.1 Grandmothers with more resources, who are working and caring for fewer hours per week, can readily juggle multiple roles of work and grandchild care and maintain...

read more

Conclusions: Grandmothers at Work

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.3 KB)
pp. 230-238

Working grandmothers in the United States provide a great deal of care for their grandchildren, ranging from child care, emotional supports, financial supports, and, at times, custodial care. We have not known much about how working grandmothers balance work and care of...

read more

Appendix: Grandmas at Work Survey

pdf iconDownload PDF (124.7 KB)
pp. 239-258

To assess how working grandmothers balance work and care for grandchildren, including the types and intensities of care provided, and the impact of that care on financial, emotional, social, and physical well-being, I conducted in-depth interviews with 48 working grandmothers...


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.4 KB)
pp. 259-264


pdf iconDownload PDF (140.9 KB)
pp. 265-274


pdf iconDownload PDF (365.1 KB)
pp. 275-280

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (52.0 KB)
pp. 281

E-ISBN-13: 9780814738153
E-ISBN-10: 081473815X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814729236
Print-ISBN-10: 0814729231

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014