As parents all you want for your children as they become adults and make their own way in the world is that they find a partner who loves them and a job that fulfils them. You cannot – or at least shouldn’t – pass judgement on their life choices; your role is to support them, offer them guidance when asked and mop up the tears if things go wrong.
Partners may come and go – you welcome them into your home and they frequently become part of the family and in the fullness of time you may even come to love them. So when the relationship comes to an end you feel a loss too.
Sometimes they may keep in touch but more often than not these young men and women who have sat at your dinner table, shared you celebrations, opened gifts from under your Christmas Tree and joined your family holidays simply disappear out of your lives.
It goes without saying that your loyalties lie with your children whoever’s decision it was to make the break.
But what happens when there are grandchildren involved? If it is your daughter who has split from her partner your relationship with your grandchildren is unlikely to be affected, in fact you could find yourself more involved in their lives as you support your single-parent daughter. But what if it is your son? After a messy breakup, are you able to maintain a relationship with your son’s ex? Will you still be as big a part of your grandchildren’s lives as you were before the split? What if the ex-partner moves away, perhaps to be closer to her own parents or because of a new relationship?
In the UK grandparents have few if any legal rights and are reliant solely on goodwill if they wish to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren.
It seems to me that grandparents have a bit of a bum deal here. In an age where it is almost impossible to survive on one wage, working parents are increasingly reliant on grandparents to help with the [unpaid] childcare (and government estimates suggest that nearly 7 million grandparents are doing just that) and yet when things go wrong they have no automatic right of access. Can this be right? I am yet to become a grandmother but when and if I do, I hope to god that I never have to experience the pain that so many estranged grandparents go through when things go wrong for their children.