The Disinterested Grandparent: Redefining Your “Village”

Does raising kids this year feel like a whole new game, or is it just me? The days are long and the years oh so short. Some days I feel like I’ve got the hang of things, but just as fast discover that – nope, it was an illusion. I think I need help, but who is in my corner?

I am sure we all have heard the saying “it takes a village” when it comes to raising kids. This isn’t a new concept, and consequently the saying has been around for decades. However, the more I’ve looked into this concept, the more I realize that it just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Parents of the most recent generations (Gen Z and Alpha) have reported feeling more alone than any that came before them. But why? What changed? Well, it turns out there are a few trends popping up that could explain some of these questions. 

Traditionally, the “village” consisted of both immediate and extended family. During my research and in community polls, many women in our community noted that their own grandparents were involved in trips and holidays, as well as family dinners and sporting events growing up. Nearly everyone I spoke with noted that their grandparents played a role in assisting their parents while they were growing up, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Grandparents were available and considered a large part of our childhoods in many ways. This is where I believe the largest shift in the “village” is happening.

We have these memories of our grandparents participating in the childrearing phase of our lives; offering a helping hand when our parents were dealing with their own issues (whether professional or personal). This is where a huge shift is starting to occur. I know several moms in our community have started to wonder, where are the grandparents that we thought were going to be around to help in raising our kids? Their absence – or lack of availability – might mean it is time to rethink the “village” we thought would be around us, and consider that what we have instead looks more like a multi-story condo with lots of families helping each other through the joys of childrearing – not the neat little village of close or immediate family members. 

I’ve seen a phenomenon coined as the “disinterested grandparent” or “uninvolved grandparent” in multiple articles lately (in both the Business Insider and Wall Street Journal) in regards to those grandparents who are more hands off than previous generations. A common occurrence in these articles point out that our parents are: working into their 60s/70s, never wanted to be parents so why would they want to be grandparents, too busy, have low energy, medical concerns, changes in relationship dynamics, and more. These are, of course, all valid reasons to not provide assistance in childcare. But what is alarming is that these trends seem to have an impact on the grandparent-grandchild relationships we expected to flourish when we became parents. These trends are widespread enough to suggest that a cultural shift is occurring. If a sociologist would like to weigh in on this, I’d love to hear from you! The publications linked above seem to demonstrate that disinterest among grandparents is an issue affecting large portions of our country, so I wanted to know how this trend played out on our local San Antonio community. 

I reached out to both the ACM team and our wider community to ask these questions… “What role did your grandparents play in your life growing up?” and “What role do your parents play in your children’s lives now?” Our city is such a cultural megaplex that I was given perspectives on this topic from moms who consider their culture as southern American, Italian, Eastern European, Western European, Asian, Hispanic, mid-western American, and military. I had hoped that in speaking with various cultures there would be some differences… however the answers took me more by surprise than I had thought. After reading the responses, I feel like I can comfortably say that changes are happening, but not in all areas.

Everyone I spoke with indicated that location played a role in the relationships. Families are increasingly moving away from “home,” and that definitely has created a disconnect between grandchild and grandparent in lots of cases. However, there were several cultures who indicated that distance didn’t matter (or, perhaps more accurately, could be overcome) and that grandparents continued to participate in the lives of their grandkids via FaceTime, phone calls, and frequent trips that kept their relationship tight knit. A friend commented that even though her parents are in the north-east, she has always known that they would get on a plane within the next hour if they needed to help.

Another common theme that popped up was grandparent health. Many couples are choosing to wait til they are older to have children, therefore their parents are also older than the generations of grandparents who came before them. Our parents may not be in the best physical health, or are dealing with specific health concerns that limit their ability to provide the type of care young children need.

A further trend amongst grandparents today is a later retirement age. Many of our parents have chosen (or needed) to remain in the workplace well into their 60s and 70s, which in turn leads to less time available to spend with their grandchildren. Shifts and differences in parenting styles were also brought into the discussion. I have personally experienced grandparents having a difference of opinion on how to raise my children, which can lead to possible rifts in family relationships. Unfortunately, these kind of disagreements are hard to overcome – they can lead to separation, resentment, and less time spent together as a family unit.

Finally, a few other trends that I could pick out were grandmothers being more involved than grandfathers, and more maternal-side presence than paternal. Of course these trends aren’t true for everyone, and I certainly don’t want to make a blanket statement that all grandparents are uninterested in their grandchildren – but I do think that this is a really interesting trend in our society that demands further attention. 

So all of this being said, who is in your multi-story condo? Some members might include grandparents, aunts and uncles, but also include babysitters and nannies, book club friends, classroom moms, Bible study group members, neighbors, coworkers, and more! Though these may not be the relationships in the “traditional” village network, they are valued members of any childrearing community. I think we can all agree that the current generation of babies are unique, so perhaps it just makes sense that their “village” is more complex, diverse, and unusual, too.

See you in the mail room! 


Florida born and Boerne raised - with a little west Texas small town living thrown in the middle. Tayler loves the Alamo city and is thrilled to experience all things SA with her family. Tayler is a mom to Clara (2020) and wife to her high school sweetheart Zach. She has a Masters in Communication Sciences and Disorders and considers herself a "silky" mom with a little crunch. When she is not running around momming she is a pediatric speech-language pathologist. She loves her fur-babies, books, and craft beer. Favorite Restaurant: Ladino Favorite Landmark: Pearl Brewery Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Boerne's Dickens on Main