GRANNIES, OR NANNIES?
My mother likes to joke that our childcare arrangements went awry from the moment my five year-old daughter starting recounting the storylines from The Bold and The Beautiful after a day spent at Nana’s house while I worked.
We still laugh about it ten years later, but there are a lot of tricky emotions around having your parents look after your kids, and a lot of them have to do with gratitude and parental expectations.
New figures released today by the Council on the Ageing show grandparents are saving parents $90 million a year on childcare in New South Wales alone.
The report found between 10 and 20 per cent of people aged over 65 are providing unpaid care for their grandchildren, and with news over the weekend about chronic shortages in childcare in certain areas, that number is only set to rise.
But it can be an emotional minefield.
Mothering guru Robin Barker wrote recently that she believed some grandparents secretly resented looking after their grandchildren while their parents went back to work.
“It’s a huge commitment when you’re doing even one day a week,” she said, “We really don’t have the physical and emotional strength we had when we were raising our own children. A day with a toddler is a very long day.”
Ms Barker said she heard ”a lot of complaints” from grandparents who felt put upon by their children. ”There is resentment about what children expect their parents to do. Many grandparents present one face to their children and one face to their friends.”
Ian Day from the NSW Council on the Ageing told ABC radio today: “If we talk to grandparents they will always say, look, my children need it, my grandchildren need it. I will be there, come hell or high water. They are giving up their time freely and happily.
“As an aside they may very well say to us but geez it’d be nice sometimes if somebody said thank you.”
Is it simply a matter of gratitude?
Advice on the internet suggest parents and grandparents need to be detailed and clear when setting up arrangements for regular care while parents work.
One suggests that parents need to be particularly clear with with boundaries around junk food, sleeping times, watching television (hello, The Bold and The Beautiful), and matters of discipline.
Perhaps parents should write clear instructions for grandparents, About.com suggests, which would seem to be a bit patronizing to the person who brought you up: if you can trust them to love and look after your precious children and thereby save you a buckteload of money, surely you can let them call the shots throughout the day?
Robin Barker believes many grandparents who agreed to a child-minding arrangement come to regret it as the reality of the regular commitment sinks in.”They’d rather not be doing it – but I doubt many people would publicly acknowledge this.”
She did also say that some grandparents absolutely love it.
Do you look after your grandkids? Do you ever feel exploited, or are you creating wonderful bonds with your grandchildren?
Do your parents look after your kids, and do you say thank you enough?
…By the way, I never had a problem with my mum sitting down at the end of the day watching her show, but I did tie myself up in knots explaining to my daughter why Amber gave birth to a black baby when she and Liam were white.
I’m also quite sure I never said thank you enough. And I’m sorry I was always rushing, Mum.
MORE ARTICLES BY LUCY CLARK
*Lucy (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on Twitter: @lucykateclark.