Vicki’s life changed more than she could have imagined when she took on full-time care of her grandson Cruz.
As a parent with adult children, Vicki was enjoying working and having time for herself. Yet here she was about to give all of that up and take on the huge responsibility of a new baby, was she crazy?
When Vicki’s daughter was on maternity leave she realised she needed to have more income to afford her house for baby Cruz. She had no choice but to return to work when Cruz was a tiny three month old baby. ‘She didn’t want to leave him’ Vicki says, ‘she would have given anything, he was her first baby and she knew he would be her only child.’
‘My daughter cried a lot the thought of having to leave her baby in day care, so I stepped in and offered to raise him. I gave up work when Cruz was three months old.” Now he is four-years-old. Vicki has been there every day for her grandson, right through the critical first thousand days of his life.
This is not what Vicki was expecting from this season of her life.
She had been planning to help her daughter with Cruz, but caring for him full time, was this something she could manage? ‘I didn’t feel very
comfortable with a new-born baby to be absolutely honest, and that’s why Plunket has been so crucial to me.’
Vicki was worried and extremely nervous, ‘What if I’m not good at this?’ She had been out of the parenting game for so long, and because her own daughter had been in day-care from a young age Vicki didn’t have much confidence or experience in raising a baby full time. She wasn’t sure who she could talk to when she was concerned about Cruz, or who she could turn to for support.
As more and more Kiwi parents struggle to make ends meet, grandparents are giving up their jobs or coming out of retirement to raise children – often without access to information, support and emotional preparation.
Becoming a Guardian Angel to a grandchild is a huge responsibility. Vicki’s friends have drifted away. “The change in my life means that a lot of them are just not interested. What are you doing, Vicki, they said. Are you crazy? This is ridiculous.”
By the end of each day, Vicki is exhausted. “He can be boisterous. He can have a lot of energy. I struggle to do the things I used to do. I’m too tired.”
Vicki’s friends just didn’t want to hear about Cruz’s toilet training, but younger mums were hard to talk to as well. ‘Some of the mothers were very young mothers – and I was old enough to be their grandmother, they took a while to accept me because of the age gap. I wish I had a playgroup that was for people in my situation, people that had the same struggles as me.’
Plunket playgroups are a great place for the kids to be able to play and socialize together, but more than that it is essential for the mums to be able to talk to one another, share stories, learn from one another and discuss what is going on with their children.
Before getting support from Plunket Vicki felt lonely and overwhelmed, she hadn’t raised a child in years. Brain development? Dietary guidelines? Parenting best practice? Things had changed so much since she last changed a nappy.
The prospect of raising a baby was almost too much for her. "I felt worried, that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Cruz had bad colic at the start and that was very stressful for me because I hadn’t encountered anything like that before."
“I kept asking Plunket, am I doing this right, am I too old school, is it ok if I do this, is it ok if I do that?”
Vicki has given up her job, her days, her friends and her hopes for a leisurely retirement. All because her grandson needed her. Being a parent is a full-time job, and parents and grandparents like Vicki are so grateful for the help that Plunket supporters give to keep Playgroups running.
If you would like to help families like Vicki’s, please make a donation today.