Need a grandmother? Woman looking for honorary grandkids finds many on Bunz
Torontoians eagerly adopt a granny after reading her plea
There are many wonderful perks to having a grandmother: fresh-baked goods, hard-won life lessons, an endless supply of knitwear. But many folks, sadly, don't have a granny in their life. Now, one Toronto-based woman is on a mission to be "adopted" by anyone who may be in need of a granny.
Administrative assistant Margaret Nipshaven, 57, turned to Bunz to find her potential honorary grandkids. Bunz began as a Facebook group, Bunz Trading Zone, where users could trade goods and services; now Bunz has grown into an investor-backed network that includes a popular app, with 130,000 users around the world and sections for trading, advice, housing rentals and more. Nipshaven posted this Tuesday in the Bunz Helping Zone Facebook group, whose 20,187 members (called "buns") offer advice, recommendation and assistance to each other: "Seeking some kind soul who will adopt me as a Grandparent?"
Nipshaven originally read about Bunz in the newspaper and has been a member of Bunz Helping Zone for over a year. "There are so many accounts of Bunz helping those in need who are struggling," she told us. "It inspires me to remember that there are truly wonderful humans, who will go out of their way to make their city and the world a better place to live, and to enrich the community they live in."
She wanted to become an honorary grandmother because, she says, she felt there was a void in her life. "I was on a never ending treadmill of going to work, coming home, watching Netflix, and not doing much else. I felt disconnected from the world, isolated and quite frankly, a bit lonely," she says. "I had a sense of not being useful or purposeful in this life and so I decided to do something about it and reach out to others to see if I could offer them company, or advice, or a tiny bit of wisdom, laughter, or insight over a cup of tea or coffee, or dinner." Nipshaven has an older teenage son, but he is often busy with school, friends and sports, so she turned to her fellow buns for help.
"What are folks going to think about this?" she wondered as she composed her post. "I was a little fearful when I first posted; it was scary to put myself out there."
But, it turns out, there are people who need a grandmother.
A lot of people.
The second she published her post, the responses came flying in. Within one day, the post had over 350 likes and 66 comments, with dozens of offers to adopt Nipshaven from buns of all different ages, genders, races and sexual identities.
Some buns who replied do not have any family in Canada; others are estranged from theirs. Many have recently lost their own grandparents or parents. One bun was eager to knit with Nipshaven. "Add me to that list too pls!" another bun replied. "Would love to learn this stuff! My family's all out of town, estranged, &/or passed away. I've been blessed to have a few people, who had 'mom' energy, around in my life over the years through volunteering & work experiences. Much appreciated!" (Nipshaven doesn't knit, but suggested they all learn together.)
A few people tagged friends and offered to do a joint adoption. Another senior bun suggested she could tag-team with Nipshaven and offer grandma services in the other end of town. One person and their roommate are having a wedding for their dogs this Saturday: "My grandma can't come! If you would like to message me so I can add you to the event page."
"Margaret seems to have hit a nerve..."
Bunz community manager Eli Klein found it "incredible, watching people open up about their own situations," he says. "Margaret seems to have hit a nerve with some people and it really does show how offline connections are what people are craving most in the digital ubiquity that is modern life. The helping feed has such huge potential to get people out of binds, to source advice and to break down the walls between strangers. It's further evidence that we're all in this together."
Nipshaven agrees; she found the common theme of her responses is people seeking "connection with others in our hurried, fast-paced world and getting to know one another on a one-on-one basis," she says. "An especially memorable reply was of a mother raising a daughter who wishes for a connection to a person or family to cook together, go shopping, go on outings and be able to share life's moments with. This reply resonated with me because this is exactly what I am looking for as well. It can be very isolating living in a 'big city' and hard to make valuable connections with our busy schedules, duties and obligations."
Many of the grandkids-to-be are, in fact, mothers themselves who yearn for more inter-generational relationships. The aforementioned single mom bun posted ."I was going to post something very similar but I didn't have the courage to do it I'm essentially an orphan lol all joking aside both my parents have passed and so have all my grandparents; it's just my daughter and I and it gets pretty sad and lonely sometimes!!" Another person had been discussing with a friend recently how there should be an app that can connect older and younger folks. "I have a three year old and my mom lives outside of Ottawa and my partner's parents have zero interest in making the drive down from Orangeville to see us here in Toronto," she posted. "I totally long for a connection with a 'grandparent' to be in my daughter's life more on the regular. And intensely dislike how our society is not set up to help older folks be more integrated into the lives of younger people, I think it's so necessary."
In previous centuries, extended families were more likely to live together, or, at least, spend more significant amounts of time with one another. This seems to be less common for many people today, which could be a great loss for our society, says Nipshaven. "Surrogate senior/youth arrangements are mutually enriching and beneficial because older adults like myself can offer a helping hand and listen to the younger generations and perhaps offer them advice if that is asked for. For older adults, spending time with younger people is eye-opening and enriching by teaching us what it is like to live as a young person in this very different world than what we grew up in," she says. "By learning about each other, it teaches us to understand and respect what the values, ideals and thoughts are of inter-generational groups and to form a bond and an connections with one another, based on mutual understanding and respect."
"...Quick question though, are you a lgbtq friendly gran?"
Another common thread was buns looking for a more supportive family member. "I have no relatives living here and I could totally use a grandma. Quick question though, are you a lgbtq friendly gran? ( just asking because that's part of the problem I face with my relatives," read one post. "I'm estranged from most of my family due to being queer/trans and I'd love to invite new 'family' into my life!" read another. Nipshaven is excited to connect with these buns, she says, because it's important for her to be a more inclusive grandma figure: "It's my belief that love, kindness, understanding and compassion makes the world a better place. Love is the most important element in my life and I would like to extend it to whomever wishes it."
Nipshaven has many ideas for activities with her new grandkids, including cooking, baking, eating together, going to the AGO, catching a Blue Jays game, or daytrips to Terre Bleu Lavender Farm in Milton or an animal sanctuary. She's even purchasing a new, large calendar to track all her upcoming hangouts. "Other than that," she says, "I'm dusting off my Nikes in anticipation of lots of zipping back and forth to see my new Bunz friends and their children!"
Briony Smith is a culture and fashion writer and editor, and contributor to the CBC, The Kit and FASHION. She is a former senior editor at FLARE, columnist and stylist at THE GRID and fashion editor at blogTO. Hear more from her @brionycwsmith on Twitter and Instagram.