9 Grandmas on What the Past Year Has Meant to Them
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A lot has been written about the toll that the pandemic has taken on families, particularly the effect that a lack of childcare and in-person learning has had on children and mothers. (Spoiler: It’s not good.) But there’s another group of people for which this pandemic has been especially impactful—grandparents. Over the last year, many grandparents have had to stay away from their loved ones, while others have stepped in as emergency caretakers. Here is what the pandemic has been like for these senior family members.

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1. Podding With Some, Longing For Others

“The past year has meant way too much time away from my youngest grandchildren. I was able to ‘pod’ with my daughters and help my 9- and 11-year-old grandkids during morning virtual learning. That was mostly making snacks for their incredibly frequent breaks. Don’t even ask about ‘new math’! As a retired primary teacher, it drove me nuts! They learned Grandma math. But the hardest part was not seeing my youngest grandkids in person. I was able to Zoom and FaceTime with them but 3- and 5-year-olds change so fast that it was tough keeping up! Watch out now though. Grandma is fully vaccinated and not afraid to drive to visit. So much fun and so many hugs to make up!”  — Linda, Maryland

2. Missing Out in a Big Way

“I have been quarantined this past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and unable to travel to see my daughter or my grandchildren. I have missed out on an entire year of not being with loved ones. I will never be able to make up for this loss.— Donna, New York

3. Grateful For Technology

“The hardest part was missing my youngest granddaughter’s first birthday—it happened about a week after California shut down and we were devastated that we couldn’t go. We were unable to see them for five months, and we didn’t see our oldest granddaughter for about two months. We stayed in touch by FaceTiming and conducting Zoom celebrations and weekly ‘family dinners.’ It wasn’t the same, but it was absolutely better than nothing. I kept thinking that I couldn’t imagine how anyone went through this previously without technology!” — Marla, California

4. Becoming a Teacher

“As a former educator, I was asked to assist my grandchildren with online learning, beginning in March of last year and believing that it would end after just a few weeks. However, this did not occur. Helping with online learning has been an interesting position to be in. Working and assisting my grandchildren has sometimes been challenging. Although I believed that I was familiar with technology, there were many areas which I found quite difficult. And my schedule changed quite abruptly with hours dedicated to school assignments, technical cliches and other issues related to education. Consequently, becoming a full-time caretaker, homework helper, technology support, meal planner, fitness expert and more has become the new normal for me.— Lucy, Illinois

5. Maintaining Calm and Staying Safe

“‘Nana, Nana, everybody sick!’ my 3-year-old grandson told me as he put on his mask last spring. His twin brother was in his car seat in my driveway holding his mask in his hand. 2020 was a balance of decision making under this scary cloud of virus and keeping a smile on my face so my grandchildren wouldn’t live in terror. What should have been a summer of adventure, amusement parks and movies, was one of modeling clay at the kitchen table and bubbles in the backyard, as the virus cast a pall over every aspect of life, and the biggest adventure was staying safe.” — Cathy, West Virginia

6. Intergenerational Living

“Me and my daughter, son-in-law and my two then-preschooler grandkids left our respective apartments, and all lived together for the first half of the pandemic (and would have continued to do so, but we had to return when the kids' school had in-person learning). It was heavenly. I became the parent stand-in while both parents worked full-time. I know I will never have this opportunity again to spend so much quality time with all of them, and I got to know my son-in-law better (even though I thought I knew him well and already loved him like a son). I am indeed blessed.” — Ellen, New York

7. Hugging so Hard You Might Never Let Go

You are missing the way they laugh and squeal when someone walks through the door, and the tears and snuggles after they get a boo boo. You are missing how it feels when they say ‘I wuv you,’ and ‘You want to pway ball with me?’ You are missing when they learn to crawl, and then walk, and every milestone in between. It was so hard not being able to visit at Christmas, my birthday or Mother’s Day. At times I felt alone, but I know I wasn't, because I had my faith to help me stay strong and not give up. I also had my disabled son to look after. When my family finally was able to visit, I couldn't wait. I was so excited when they arrived that I just hugged them and could not let go. My grandson said ‘Granny, I can’t breathe!’ But I just squeezed him tight.” — Annie, Ohio

8. Feeling Trapped in a Retirement Home

The hardest part of the pandemic was the feeling of being stuck. Last year was a big adjustment for me, my family and for everyone. The staff here came up with ways to make the days special—from delivering sweet treats to outdoor musicians. I have eight grandkids, so we were constantly on FaceTime together, and they were always sending me pictures of what they were doing. The first time we came together as a family again was for my 90th birthday. Everyone was there—all the children and grandchildren in my son’s backyard. We were all smiling, even though everyone was in a mask. I couldn’t have been happier how it turned out, because it was a beautiful day surrounded by people I love most.” — Yvette, California

9. Constant but Lovable Chaos

“There have been highs and lows. When the pandemic hit, I stepped in as caretaker of my grandson after my eldest daughter and her husband temporarily relocated to be nearby to survive while working full-time. As a result, I've had so much time that I never would have had with one of my grandsons. It's also been the ultimate distraction. On the darkest of days, I was immersed in playdough, games of hide and seek and teaching him all about bird watching. But it’s been a challenge to integrate a wild toddler into my empty nest routine again. Chaos is an understatement. Bottom line: I find myself thinking about the juxtaposition of wanting this pandemic to be all over, but knowing that on the other side of it, a level of closeness to my daughter and grandson will go away as we resume our lives again. A reminder to cherish this time!” — Linda, Massachusetts

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