It Is Possible for Grandmas to Overindulge on Time With Their Grandkids

One day with the kids is boon to cognitive performance, but five days is draining

Photo: Catherine Scott

Hassled parents would, no doubt, like to believe that no amount of time with the grandkids would be too much for a doting grandmother. But, for grandmothers, there's a sweet spot of spending enough time—but not too much—with their grandkids. Their level of involvement could play a role in the risks of developing Alzheimer's or other cognitive diseases, PsychCentral reports, but taking on too much childcare, ultimately, can hurt grandmothers' mental performance.

As PsychCentral describes, researchers in Australia reached these findings after recruiting 186 women aged 57 to 68 to take part in a study. They asked all participants who had kids whether they found their children's demands on their time to be reasonable or over the top. For the 120 who were grandparents, the team also asked them how much time they spent with their grandkids. Finally, they requested that the women to take three tests meant to measure their cognitive abilities. 

Grandmothers who tend to their grandkids for one day per week, the authors found, performed significantly better on two of the three tests than the other participants. But those who spent the the majority of their time caring for grandkids—five days per week or more—performed significantly worse on the test that measured memory and mental processing, PsychCentral reports. Those grandmothers who spent the most time with their grandkids also tended to be the ones who complained that their kids were asking too much of them, perhaps indicating that they were aware of their energy and time being stretched a bit too thinly. 

“We know that older women who are socially engaged have better cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia later, but too much of a good thing just might be bad,” study author Margery Gass, M.D., told PsychCentral. Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for postmenopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health.”

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