DEAR HARRIETTE: I just read "Don't Know What to Do" from West Orange, N.J., who is a single mother of three and whose daughter just had a baby. She was overwhelmed with four children to take care of, and she is concerned about the spirits of her two younger daughters.
Nowhere do you tell the woman that raising the new baby is not her responsibility. She should not have four children to raise. The baby is not hers, and her daughter should take most of the responsibility for this baby. After all, she is the one who made the choice to get pregnant by having sex. What if she has another baby? Is the grandmother going to raise it, too? There are far too many grandparents raising their grandchildren, while the parents shoulder little or no responsibility.
It is OK for the woman to assist and support her daughter, but the major responsibility in raising and caring for this child should go to its mother. -- Keeping it Real, Charlotte, N.C.
DEAR KEEPING IT REAL: You are right that the mother of a child, not the grandmother, should be responsible for her child. Whether it is right or not, what does typically happen when teenagers have children is that the grandmother needs to step in to ensure that the baby is cared for properly.
This is always a prickly situation. While there certainly are stories of teens who successfully learn to parent their children and build satisfying lives, it is more common to hear of struggles and challenges that directly impact the child's life in a negative way. This is why adoption is an important option for anyone who does not have the ability to care for an infant effectively.
I would venture to say that in order for a grandmother of a teen mother's child to be able to step back and NOT parent that grandchild, she will have to work closely with her child to set guidelines for what her daughter must do to care for her child, which includes presenting options that range from rules about around-the-clock care to the possibility of adoption if she cannot handle her responsibilities.