"What a sacrifice!" Those were the first words out of my friend Eva's mouth when I brought up the subject of Mrs Robinson--mother of Michelle Obama and mother-in-law of the president-elect. Mrs. Robinson is the one who,famously, made the whole presidential campaign possible by stepping in and overseeing the care and nurturing of her grandchildren while the Obamas set off to bring change to the country.
That wasn't the sacrifice either Eva or I were alluding to. Rather, it was Mrs. Robinson's decision to pull up stakes and move with her daughter and family into a new home in another city.
Those of us the business of parenting grown children who have children know what it's like to be called in to help out. There are health emergencies--grownchildren get sick or the grands do at an inopportune time. Or the grownchildren are scheduled to attend a conference or whatever and they need a loving pair of hands to help out while they're gone. Most of us have been there, done that. Willingly. When that call is to help out and the grownchildren live in cities far from our own, that raises the stakes. I've done it four or five times and each time I find it rewarding, yes; I'm thrilled, frankly, that I'm trusted to help. But it's incredibly lonely, and that's true no matter how loving the Grands are and whether my grownchild or their spouse is around or not.
I've tried to put my finger on why this should be so. Maybe it's the lack of independence. You are at home but it's not your home. You are cut off from the things that are familiar to you--your job, the people who say hello to you, your sense of purpose. Yes, you have another "purpose"--you're there to take care of your grandchildren and help out your grownchildren. That's worthwhile and necessary. And they are always appreciative. But I still have this , as though I can't quite find my footing.
As I understand it from press reports, Mrs. Robinson weighed several factors--possibly some like these. She didn't make the decision to head for the White House--glamorous and exciting though it is--easily. Those of us who've had even a little bit of a toe in her shoes can only admire her decision--and recognize what a sacrifice she's making for her grown child.