Becoming a grandparent is one of the joys of aging, and while it doesn't necessarily upend your whole life and change who you are as a person, it does require making some adjustments and adapting to a new family dynamic.
While being a grandparent can be stressful, it also has many rewards. Having grandchildren has emotional and physical benefits and lets you develop new, fulfilling relationships using the wisdom you've acquired over the decades.
Here are 27 ways, for better and for worse, that your life will change when you have grandchildren.
You get a new name
Grandma, Gran, Meema and Nana or Grandpa, Gramps, Pawpaw and Pops - there are a variety of traditional or unique names you'll acquire as a grandparent. Many grandparents-to-be try to pick out their own names, but there's also something special about the names grandkids come up with. The kids from different branches of the family might opt for different names, so you might have to get used to responding to a few new names.
You'll have a new part-time job
Unlike in generations past, grandma or grandpa isn't necessarily an entirely new identity or your new full-time job. But it's still an important aspect of your life that requires time and attention. The job of grandparent has different responsibilities that differ from person to person, but some basic job requirements might be changing diapers, babysitting and cheerleading at games, performances and more.
Your kids will rely on you again
Most new parents rely on help from their own parents, especially during the early years of their children's lives. It might've been years or decades since your own children moved out of the house and became independent, so it might be surprising to have them turning to you for help driving places or giving them life advice again.
You receive unconditional love
One of the things grandparents love most about their grandchildren is their endless supply of hugs and kisses, which they will happily dole out for no reason at all. Hearing their sweet voices sincerely say "I love you" will brighten your day every time.
You are more active
Grandparents are more likely than older adults without grandchildren to be physically active, whether that's simply going for a walk or doing activities like playing sports or gardening. Staying active also leads to higher energy levels, so the benefits will carry over even when you're not trying to keep up with the grandkids.
You'll sit still more too
Holding a sleeping baby forces you to sit still and be quiet, which can sometimes be a problem for active baby boomers who are always on the go. You may also find yourself spending hours looking for shapes in passing clouds or attending a tea party. These more peaceful moments are precious.
Your memory will improve
Studies have shown that grandparents who read to and play games and puzzles with their grandchildren have stronger memory. These games are similar to the brain-boosting activities doctors recommend to help seniors combat dementia, Alzheimer's and other cognitive disorders.
You lower your risk for depression
A strong emotional relationship between young adult grandchildren and grandparents protects against depression and leads to better mental health in both generations, according to a study from Boston College. Spending quality time with grandkids has also been linked to fewer symptoms of depression in grandparents.
You take better care of yourself
You can't let an injury or illness slow you down when you've got grandchildren to keep up with and milestones you want to be able to witness. That's why many grandparents guarantee they'll stay fit as a fiddle by going to the doctor more regularly or sooner upon not feeling their best. They'll also be more proactive about their health, often by watching their diet and exercising.
You stay young at heart
With the internet, pop culture seems to move a mile a minute these days. But grandkids will make sure you don't fall too far behind the times. They can help you stay up to date on social media, video games, celebrities and more as well as help you troubleshoot technology.
Your retirement plans change
Where you want to live and how you spend your time in your golden years could change after you have grandchildren. You might've always dreamed of retiring to Florida, but if your grandchildren live in Salt Lake City, Utah, you might find yourself considering moving west to be closer to them instead.
You plan vacation around family
Similarly, you might not get to spend your vacation days and budget as selfishly as you'd like once you have grandchildren. You might devote vacation time and funds to visit them for graduations or recitals. Instead of jetting off on couples' vacations, you might find yourself planning multi-generational trips to the beach with a dozen family members.
You bond with your children's partners
A new grandchild changes many relationships. You will likely see a lot more of your child's spouse or partner as you visit and help them look after the baby. You might also see them for the first time when they're stressed, haggard and not putting their best foot forward for their in-laws. Them relying on you as a grandparent creates trust and a deeper bond between the two of you.
You get to spoil your grandkids
One of the great things about becoming a grandparent is loving and caring for your grandchildren without being responsible for them in the same way their parents are. While you might've been scrimping and saving as a young parent with your children, you might now have more financial stability and freedom to spend money on your grandchildren for non-necessities. Rather than paying for groceries or doctor's visits, you can use your money on special treats for your grandchildren.
You learn not to play favorites
Especially if you have multiple children and multiple grandchildren, you have to be vigilant about playing favorites. Some grandchildren might live closer to you than others or be easier to visit - but you have to be thoughtful about how the rest of the family sees the way you spend your time and money and put in the work to cultivate relationships with all your grandchildren.
You'll get more family time
While prioritizing family time might seem like a chore to some, it can be seen as a blessing by others. Grandchildren are a great excuse for you visit your children or for them to visit you more often. Jetting around the world might suddenly seem far less appealing than spending a night in playing games with your grandkids.
You develop a thicker skin
Kids are brutally honest. If you have any insecurities about signs of aging such as wrinkles, sagging skin or liver spots, these will get worn away by your precocious grandkids bluntly pointing things out to you. You'll also learn to laugh off questions as they reckon with how old you are, such as "Were you alive during the Civil War?"
You are more curious
Children are notorious for asking why - why is the sky blue? Why do birds sing? Why does the grass grow? This can spark your own curiosity as you find answers to their questions or are inspired to think from their more childlike perspective.
Life is less serious
Grandkids will help you stop and smell the roses, sometimes literally, distracting you from some of your everyday stresses such as retirement, mortgages, health issues and more. Grandchildren will also remind you what's really important when you get wrapped up in worrying.
You can stir up some trouble
Since you're not the main authority figure for your grandchildren, you can afford to have a little fun. You can enjoy the adrenaline rush of breaking a few low-level rules with them, like staying up past bedtime for a special movie night, or teaching them something their parents might find crass, like spitting watermelon seeds. While it's fun to act up with your grandchildren, make sure you don't cross the line into being disrespectful of your children and their parenting choices.
You learn from past mistakes
Being a grandparent is almost like a second chance at parenting. Becoming a grandparent gives you the opportunity to course-correct on any major mistakes you feel you made while raising your own children. You can also implement new strategies you've learned since first becoming a parent, use wisdom shared with you by friends who are already grandparents or find advice in places you didn't have access to before, such as the internet.
You see your hard work pay off
Seeing how your children behave as parents can fill you with pride. It's amazing to see your adult children being responsible and mature and attempting to teach their own children the ideals you tried to pass down to them.
You pass down family traditions
Grandparents are the keepers of traditions, and it's special to be able to pass down recipes, holiday rituals and more. You can guarantee your precious family traditions get passed down and make new memories by sharing them with your grandchildren.
Your traits get passed down
Sometimes more gets passed down than just your family values and traditions when you have grandchildren. Oftentimes, they'll have your son's smile, your mother's nose or your sister's laugh. It's fascinating to see what genetic traits from you or even your parents get passed down to the next generation.
You share special stories
Tales of your youth that might've been boring or embarrassing to your children when they were growing up can be exciting to your grandchildren. You'll amaze them with stories of your childhood before technology like the internet or iPads and entertain them with tales of what their own parents were like as children.
You have a renewed sense of purpose
Aging is known for coming hand-in-hand with midlife crises and feelings of rudderlessness. People approaching their twilight years can struggle with their changing roles at work, in their personal lives and in their new physical limitations, feeling like they aren't needed in the ways they once were. But having grandchildren gives people a new sense of responsibility.
You have hope for future generations
It's easy to get cynical about the state of the world today. But seeing that your grandchildren are bright, compassionate and being raised well can instill in you hope for future generations. When you're not reaping the benefits of spending quality time with your grandchildren, there are still plenty of exciting things you can do as an empty-nester.
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