What to do with the aspiration to become a grandparent when it is slow to find an answer?

What to do with the aspiration to become a grandparent when it is slow to find an answer?

They thought about giving a bottle, reading stories, learning to ride a bike or apple pie… But their offspring are slow to start a family or don't want children. How do those who see themselves as grandparents react and are not (yet)?

At the market in his village in Bas-Rhin, Jean regularly meets acquaintances. During the conversations, the grandchildren often invite themselves. This thirty-year-old father of two boys doesn't have one yet. “Hearing the stories of my friends, their wonder, their laughter, does not make me jealous, but I envy them. Becoming a grandfather one day was obvious, a logical continuity. I remain optimistic. That said, if these little ones arrive, I hope to be able to take full advantage of them. As you age, this might become more difficult. » In 2021, half of seniors became grandparents between the ages of 50 and 59 and almost a third before the age of 50. At 70 years old, Jean is a bit of an exception!

In 2013, INSEE counted 15.1 million grandparents in France. A figure increasing due to the aging of the generations born after the war. “The baby boom has transformed into a grandpa boom,” note the authors of the study “15 million grandparents” which mentions another percentage: 20% of those aged 75 and over have not had children. -children 14% because they have not become parents themselves, 6% because their children have not become parents either. If the National Institute of Statistics has not since investigated the lines of seniors, there is every reason to believe that, ten years later, this percentage has increased. In question ? The increasingly later occurrence of first births within couples (29 years in 2021 for mothers compared to 24 years in 1974, 22 years in 1967); the decline in the birth rate; the media coverage of the words of adults who do not wish to become parents, which pushes others to question their desire to give life early. “That thirty-somethings refuse to reproduce the experience of their elders is not new, but what is new is their questioning of parenthood and its family, moral and religious foundations. Today's over-60s generally did not ask themselves the question: they formed a relationship and had children. This is why some people are amazed,” notes philosopher and family therapist Nicole Prieur.

The constraint of the choice of others

“Seniors are subject to a desire which is not theirs, but which will have consequences in their lives”, underlines Béatrice Copper-Royer, psychologist, who hears suffering expressed in the face of the absence of descendants in the second degree. In Tours (Indre-et-Loire), Nadine and Laurent, 70 years old, parents of three boys aged 43 to 37, went through several stages: “When our eldest became a couple, more than twenty years ago years ago, I teased him with “if you two had a child, he would be so intelligent, so handsome…” Over time, my son ended up telling me that a child increases an individual’s carbon footprint. ! He and his partner built their lives differently. It's their choice. What else can you do but bow? I moved on to something else. We will grow old alone, even if our children are often by our side. My husband is more unhappy. He can't help but hope that our youngest, the adventurer of the siblings, will start a family. »

A painful situation sometimes, almost always destabilizing, as society still assimilates the elderly to the art of being grandparents. A reductive vision that pushes some to silence their feelings. “We don’t talk much about seniors who are not grandparents. Perhaps their situation goes against the representation we have of their place? Advancing age and the end of professional life erase the functions that each person holds in society. Becoming or being grandma or grandpa seems to bring an extra soul as well as a role to play,” explains Béatrice Copper-Royer. In the privacy of her office, Nicole Prieur perceives in her patients “that their finitude then appears more frightening to them. Some will wonder about what they could have passed on from this negative point that their children do not want to give birth. Others experience a strong sense of failure. That of not having transmitted enough hope, resilience, life force.”

Composing without it is possible

What to do with the aspiration to become a grandparent when it is slow to find an answer? Between sporting activities, cultural outings and social relations, Jean flourishes. And be patient. From time to time, he talks about it, without anxiety, with his partner in the same situation as him: “When, while discussing their projects with our children, we perceive clues proving that they have not given up on becoming parents , we say to ourselves that it is not lost. »

At 75 years old, Françoise has taken very well the decision of her daughter, now aged 53. “She told me years ago that she didn’t see herself becoming a mother,” she says. Also, when she got married, I didn't imagine one day becoming a grandmother. » This Grenobloise, surrounded by fifteen nephews and nieces, was delighted to see her brothers and sisters become grandparents: “It’s a deep source of happiness. » To help them out, she took care of the children of two of her nieces. “Their presence was very pleasant, as was the nickname they gave me, “Mamie Saçoise” instead of Françoise. But these shared times did not generate any regrets in me. »

Become a grandparent?

Like her, some retirees experience another form of grandparenthood, by forging intergenerational ties with relatives or neighbors. Others actively seek to fill a gap with associations that put them in contact with families without grandparents or geographically far from them. Christiane and Jeanne thus joined the Grands-Parrains association, the first in Mauguio (Hérault), the other in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône). “With my partner, we took care of twins, from when they were 9 months old to when they were 4 years old,” remembers Christiane. Going to the bakery, their little hands in ours, it was a gift that life gave us! We felt like grandparents. » But the relationship ended three years ago. In families of the heart, as in those of blood, expectations were not easily reconciled. “It was very painful. We have not replaced them. » Jeanne guarantees it: “We experience relationships there that we do not have with our own families. » President of the association's branches in Provence and Brittany, she witnesses precious stories, such as that of a member who walks alongside an 18-year-old girl, met when she was 5, in sharing his weekends. And we think of the verse inspired by Victor Hugo by another Jeanne: “I have no other business here than to love. » The art of being a grandfather (or grandmother) is not limited to blood ties.

Create a heart connection

In 2010, when she had just moved to Rezé (Loire-Atlantique) with her young children, Sophie met an elderly neighbor. An alchemy is born and they share beautiful years of family life. This is the starting point of the Manou Partages association, imagined by Sophie Charteau confronted, in her neighborhood, with both the loneliness of the elderly and the significant presence of single-parent families. In eleven years, the association has connected 130 families around Nantes, and more recently in Sarthe. “Requests are pouring in from all over France,” explains Sophie Charteau. By sharing simple moments: playing, walking, cooking, reading, these three generations provide mutual help, support and affection. »

Information: manou-partages.org and 07 64 71 26 92.

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