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Guest blog: should grandparents be expected to plug the childcare gap?

(65 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 15-Mar-13 11:57:25

A new report from Grandparents Plus argues that society faces a stark choice about the role of grandparents in childcare.  We can either ask older people to work for longer before retiring, or to fill the childcare gap by caring for their grandchildren while the parents go out to work  - but we can't do both. 

In today's guest blog, Gransnet Editor Geraldine Bedell argues that it may not be possible or desirable for grandparents to plug the "looming care-gap crisis" - and that we need to find an alternative solution.

Read her post, and tell us what you think. Do you rely on your own parents for childcare - and would you be forced to stop work if they weren't able to help? If the retirement age increases, what can be done to fill the childcare gap?

Let us have your thoughts - and if you post on this topic, do link to your URL on the thread.

Bonsoir Fri 15-Mar-13 12:05:37

I liked Geraldine Bedell's post and I liked the comparison between the Scandinavian and the Mediterranean childcare models (Spanish grandparents are the most devoted of the lot, IME).

For me, the real, big issue is whether institutionalising our children from the earliest age is going to provide them with the emotional support to make happy, balanced adults of them. I personally have severe reservations about early and continued institutionalisation of children and for that reason alone I cannot support any sort of political system that wants all adults of sound body and mind in paid work outside the home. I think we need a significant proportion of adults of sound body and mind bringing up DC in the home. I know a lot of Scandinavians and I am not impressed with the state of their relationships, and nor are they - most of the Scandinavians I know choose to have a SAHP, because they are in a situation (living outside their home country) where that is possible.

Haven't read everything yet but am just thinking I'd rather spend my late 50's and 60's helping to raise my grandchildren than continuing in the workplace which for me would probably involve caring for other people's children in a more stressful setting, with likely higher ratio's of children (than at home). Though I may consider some further training to become a Health Visitor at some point before the grandchildren arrive ! (DD is 13 ATM and off school today with nasty cold so not likely just yet)
But I like the Spanish model of grandparents being so involved supporting the younger generations. To me work isn't the be all and end all - I'd rather turn my attention to the future as I get older, nurturing the new generation, and supporting my DD and DS on their life journey's at the same time.

CMOTDibbler Fri 15-Mar-13 12:53:47

My parents and PIL were long retired before dh and I chose to have a child - for whom we'd worked out childcare costs and if we could pay them.

My care crisis is not about my child, its about my parents. At 40, with a 6 year old (and a ft job), my parents are right on the very edge of coping at home. And believe me, trying to care for elderly adults with multiple health issues (sometimes they have 5 or more healthcare appointments a week) puts organising nursery or childminders into perspective!

Bonsoir Fri 15-Mar-13 12:55:22

I think a lot of women in their 50s and 60s would like to slow down a bit at work. I know plenty of women who feel or felt that their last years at work before retirement were awful - that their energy levels had dropped and that they had no time or energy for anything once work was finished. Maybe part-time care of grandchildren suits the time of life better than WOHM?

I did a child psychology module (just part of an OU undergrad degree) about 10 years ago and the statistics then indicated children under 3 cared for by grandparents did the least well of any group, in terms of educational attainment and a few other markers, children at home with a parent did narrowly better than children in formal childcare.

I would be deeply unimpressed if there were some state system in place to mean my parents or in-laws were paid to stay at home with my children but which made it financially very difficult or impossible for me to chose to do so, surely if anyone is state subsidised to stay home it should be one parent, not a grandparent, that just makes no sense at all.

A lot of grandparents are of course doubtless incredible and brilliant childcarers, but others are no longer healthy enough to look after children 5 full days a week (my own mother most certainly isn't, and she isn't even especially "old" but is no longer/ no longer considers herself strong enough to take sole charge of a toddler without roping in other adults to help her do it, and of course other parents no longer have their own parents or have such a terrible relationship with them, or live and work so far away from them, that it would be unthinkable to use them as childcare.

What would happen in a scenario where a woman (woman A) had a baby at 17, then later went on to have another at 42, and meanwhile her first baby (now in her mid 20s) had had a couple of children of her own - would the woman be paid to look after her grandchildren but be under pressure from her own mother, potentially also only in her early 60s, to hand her youngest over so that the grandmother of that child would get her stay at home opportunity! grin

People in their late 60s without grandchildren would presumably have to continue working, even if they'd rather be home (caring for grandchildren if they had them).

I can't see how a scheme to officially make grandparents default child-carers and force all parents back into work would ever work, on so very many different levels!

I don't think a formal scheme or subsidy is being suggested at this point MrTumbles - though more recognition of grandparents support through childcare would be good IMHO, and perhaps lead to a change in those stats you opened with ? There could be socio-economic factors at work with those in any case ?

Mandy21 Fri 15-Mar-13 13:11:35

I think its quite short sighted – in my children's class at school there is only one family that lives close enough to grandparents to rely on them for childcare. Its not a question of whether grandparents should / could / would take on the role of childcare, its logistically not possible for the vast majority of people. In my experience, young people starting out on their careers go where the work is – this is more true than ever now. Yes, it is possible for some people to move closer to parents when they consider starting a family but in lots of cases thats not true.

I think it's quite likely that in say ten years time, when I'm 58 and she's 23, that my DD will be more highly employable than me. I will have lots of experience in especially early years education and some counseling skills, but she will have a much better understanding of all the new technologies - unless I do some serious catch-up work in IT etc !
It may work out well for me to provide some of the child-care and for her to continue to develop her career ? I think some of this employability factor may be due to perception and prejudice against older women, with our skills and experience not probably recognised, valued, and rewarded. But some also to rapid changes in work-place practices and expectations.

Agree with bonsoir's second post here, it may suit some women's interests and energy levels better too - to be more involved in nurturing roles within the family at this stage of their lives.

Bonsoir Fri 15-Mar-13 13:29:32

It is difficult to compare countries when the cultural, societal, economic and political predispositions for several generations of a family to live in close physical proximity vary so hugely.

In the UK we have long expected 18 year olds leaving home for university to never return. As ever more young people pursue HE, ever more young people move away from their families to find work. If British GPs are going to help more with childcare, that particular deep-seated trend is going to need to be reversed first.

I do think that in the UK people get themselves in a total logistical twist, expecting to commute long distances to work/school etc. If people lived closer to their place of work, many childcare issues could be eased.

Nannytwotimes Fri 15-Mar-13 14:14:50

I was a stay at home mum, as were all of my friends, back in the 70s.
The main reason parents return to work seems to be financial but what is so different now? We were all hard up but just lived within our means. We didn't go out for coffee, meals or a drink. No Spa treatments or pamper days! We paid our bills and that was about it.

I wish that one parent was able to stay at home for the first 3 years ( I can hear the gasps) so that they could experience the lovely times you can have with friends and their children. Not only did we have a great support network we had great fun too!

Bonsoir Fri 15-Mar-13 14:26:22

You are so right, nannytwotimes. I absolutely loved all the hours in the park with DD and other families and I think it is easy to forget what we miss out on by thinking we need to spend money to have a good time.

Nannytwotimes Fri 15-Mar-13 14:35:31

Sadly, I think we are in the minority. Enjoying doing the same with no. 1 grandson during the Easter/summer holidays. We make a list of outings - one each week - and then do them. They have included ' riding upstairs on a double decker bus!!!! Fab.

skaen Fri 15-Mar-13 14:36:35

Nannytwotimes - I think housing prices and rents may have crept up a little bit since the 70s, and incomes haven't quite gone up so fast. Many parents need to both work to pay their rent or mortgage and bills, and the ones in real financial difficulty are also most likely to be those relying on grandparent help as they can't afford the alternative.

JerryLeadbetter Fri 15-Mar-13 14:44:27

We live in London (zone 4) and are lucky enough that DP grew up here and his parents live just down the road. As a result they are involved in our DCs upbringing, and are always on hand to babysit (providing they're not busy) if we need them to. MIL is now retired, but FIL still working full time, due to cut down/stop over the next couple of years. My Mum, on the otherhand, lives 100 miles away, so visits often, but not directly involved.

I'm a SAHM, but even when I go back to work, I still don't think i'd expect GPs to take the full load of childcare, unless they desperately wanted to- I just don't think it's fair to expect them to take on, let's face it, a knackering role at a time in their lives when they finally have more freedom. They adore the DCs, but since they have other GC as well (DPs bros have 1 child each), even if they only did childcare for 1 or 2 days a week for us, then i'm sure they'd feel that they would have to offer the same to the others, and therefore it really does become a full time job. When the DCs are older, they may well help with after school pick up and tea once or twice a week, we'll have to see how things pan out. I adore my In-laws though, and I think they really do enhance our DCs lives because they see them so often.

I really feel for other parents who i've made friends with via playgroups/NCT, who live in London, far, far away from their parents, and have absolutely no option of having their parents help, even if they wanted to. In fact, not many people I know here have any family close by to call on, not even for evening babysitting, let alone as a permanent daytime role.

MrTumble - Did the study say why children who were looked after by GPs were behind educationally? What were the other markers? Really interested, I would never think this would be the case, not sure why!

randomtask Fri 15-Mar-13 14:45:52

We couldn't afford for me to work (I'd have earnt £10 a day if that after childcare) and there's no way I'd let my IL's look after DC, plus my parents work. When we bought our house we made sure the mortgage was 'do-able' on DH's income (which isn't massive in comparison to most people), realising that meant DC's sharing rooms, not buying amazing new furniture, TV's, having an old car etc.

I don't understand why/how people have DC knowing the only way they can afford it is if their parents look after the children. It probably isn't so bad if they have offered, but, it just isn't the same. DSS (now aged 11) lived with DH and his parents between the ages of 4 and 7-we are still dealing with various 'issues' that have been left over from PIL 'treating' him and him not getting the life experience/friend experience he should have. They wouldn't admit to his problems (even he now admits he's glad it didn't continue) but, they are pleased they can now be 'just' grandparents.

Nannytwotimes Fri 15-Mar-13 14:46:36

I do understand but our mortgage interest rate was fifteen percent! We had no money to spare whereas the kids today have masses of toys and clothes. I feel we had it so much easier in our day with no pressure.

Bonsoir Fri 15-Mar-13 14:50:09

Different forms of childcare promote different sorts of development and children will be good at different things. I seem to remember that study and that DC who had been with grandparents had wider and deeper vocabularies than DC who had been to nursery. It all depends on what you measure.

Yes, there's too much pressure these days Nannytwo - I can feel it stepping up all the time in the workplace, for our children with their exams and other pressures on them, from the government and from society ... to work, to be better parents, to consume and spend !

No space to Be we all have to Do, Do, Do smile

TheCrackFox Fri 15-Mar-13 15:05:57

Most Grandparents don't actually live that close to their grandchildren. My parents live 3hrs away and the PILs live 1000 miles away. Really not that convenient for childcare. I suspect most families are now scattered around the country too.

Moreover, My mum has recently retired at the age of 66 (working full time). She even contemplated working longer as she quite liked earning money and wanted to build her own pension pot up.

soundevenfruity Fri 15-Mar-13 15:06:08

If the current trend for delayed motherhood is going to continue then it is not going to be a really viable option for a lot of people. Especially considering small age gaps between children in UK. I don't know how many over 60 year olds are fit enough to take care of a baby and a toddler or two on a regular basis. If I could I would choose to have DC with people that unconditionally love them and are not just salaried employees (whether a nursery or a nanny).

morethanpotatoprints Fri 15-Mar-13 15:33:25

I think its fine if gps want and offer to provide childcare but it should never be assumed or expected. All our family were miles away from us when dc were little but even if not I would never have expected them to provide childcare. It used to make me angry when I heard parents complaining about the care the gps were giving to their children, usually free of charge. If they only knew how bad they sounded over something really stupid.

Nannytwotimes perhaps daughters react to what their mothers did and want to try the opposite - my mum worked full time when my sisters and I were children in the 70s and left us with a series of nannies (as in employees not grandparents) and then boarding school. I have very few childhood memories of her being anything other than rushed and stressed (coming in from work shouting at us because we were watching TV instead of rushing out to unpack the shopping she had done in her lunch hour from the car and then starting to cook dinner with her coat still on, is a vivid one). My DH and I accepted a move abroad when I was pregnant with my second child as it was the only way we could afford for me to stay at home (we lived in Surrey in a small 3 bed demi and my husband's salary just covered the mortgage and basic bills but with nothing left over for any form of food, never mind meals out! I gave up work outside the home to and became a childminder when I had my first - up side of Surrey prices was huge demand for childminders so I was fully booked up very quickly and better off than I would have been returning to my job and paying childcare - but my second child would have had to take up a childminding "place" and so left us wtih too little income from mindees to cover everything!)

Bonsoir and Jerry I'm afraid I can't remember the details of the study, you are very likely right Bonsoir studies and statistics can prove almost anything you want them to, it depends what you choose to measure and how you measure it, I think my old text book is in the attic, I will try to remember to look at some point! My kids spend a couple of nights each school holiday with my in-laws, each of them has started to do so from about 12 months old, and the in-laws only speak German with them and it certainly has always had a positive effect on their German skills while they've been pre-kindergarten age, but I wouldn't want to ask the in-laws to do any sort of 8-6 type childcare on an on-going basis (not that they live close enough anyway, its an hour's drive), the holiday visits are about right, plus contact as a family of course. My in-laws don't tend to take the children anywhere outside their own house and garden, they play lots with them but never go anywhere, which is fine for 2-3 days but wouldn't be for longer!

MrsHoarder Fri 15-Mar-13 15:50:17

The eldest of DS's GPs is 56. Unsurprisingly none have retired and its unlikely that any will fully retire before he reaches secondary school age. Plus they are all 200 miles away. They have had their turn of raising children and now have the freedom to please themselves, not be pressured into looking after the next generation.

Phineyj Fri 15-Mar-13 15:57:27

I thought it was a little odd in the study that they were saying an issue was losing 50-something Grandmas from the workforce. On current trends, not many people are going to become GPs till their 60s e.g. near retirement age.

Jamdoughnutfiend Fri 15-Mar-13 15:59:44

It must be lovely to have grandparents help, but my DF is dead, my DM, who is 69 still works 5 days a week and my ILs live in another country 13 hours away. I live in the area i grew up in, so our children see their extended family on my side, we dont get help with childcare. So having children for us meant we had to be able to afford to care for them, or rather pay someone to care for them. Everything is getting harder to afford, and don't blame my DM for still working, it means she has a more comfortable life in a job she enjoys. I only know of 1 friend that gets significant help with childcare, it isn't common where I live in greater London.

The government can't have it both ways - if they want extended families like the Greek model, there needs to be support for FAMILY - equally, if we want to be more Scandinavian, then fund childcare properly because I am paying £1800 a month for my 2 and with no pay rises for 5 years, inflation is taking its toll! (Never mind taking child benefit......)

Quite apart from the fact that they live 3 hours away my parents are in their early fifties - so they've easily got 15 years of work left in them before retirement and my dad is a tenured professor so technically may never retire!

nanny I take your point about SAHMs but for many WOHMs it's not simply financial motivations that lead us back to work (saying that I'm on mat leave but going back next month). You also mention a support network but in order to establish a career I had to go where the jobs were: which was and is nowhere near my parents in the North West.

Talkinpeace Fri 15-Mar-13 16:04:41

Only have two still alive.
One lives 3,500 miles away and the other 200 miles away.
For most of my friends - who moved away to University - grandparent childcare has never been an option.

expatinscotland Fri 15-Mar-13 16:05:08

Not at all possible or feasible because cost of living is too high. I didn't become a mother until my 30s. If my children don't have children until their 30s, I will be in my late 60s and probably still working.

Still I think a nice thing to be involved in your grandchildren's lives in your 60's - I'd rather do that than work to 66 - and I'm not sure I can see many people offering me employment at that age anyway, since it already seems hard to come by at 48. Well, I'm sure life will continue to pan out one way or the other ... Spanish or Italian model of big extended families seems very attractive though smile

Talkinpeace Fri 15-Mar-13 16:18:26

Spanish or Italian model of big extended families seems very attractive though
Yeah, its great. Low social and physical mobility, HUGE youth unemployment, over generous pension systems that are being funded by British and German taxpayers. Sorry but the Dolmio advert world is NOT good.

Fashionfail Fri 15-Mar-13 16:24:56

'I've put her to sleep on her front. It never hurt you'.

Grandparents are not always the right answer.

You haven't put me off yet Talkinpeace - maybe it was the mention of the over generous pension system ! But seriously I just imagine being with my DD and her children (or DS's) - if they have them ! - would be heaven smile

nenevomito Fri 15-Mar-13 16:28:42

I rely heavily on my parents for help with childcare and to be honest I have no idea what I would do if I didn't have them.

The upside is that my DCs have a relationship with my parents that I never did as we lived a long way from them. The downside is that I do feel guilty about the amount of effort they put in for not much money and I know my Mum would rather not be doing it at all.

The reality is that full time childcare for my pre-schooler and before and after school club for my elder child would bankrupt us.

The answer isn't to use Grandparents more. The answer is to have more affordable childcare.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Fri 15-Mar-13 16:49:31

If, as seems to be the trend these days women are having children much later, and this continues on another generation, wont' lots of these grandparents be just too old to provide childcare? They might even need care themselves.

I lived and still do live 250 miles from both families, therefore the granparents were obviously unable to provide any childcare. But my Mum said (quite rightly) that she had done it once and would not have stepped in anyway . In the end I was an SAHM for 10 years, returning to a family-friendly hours job.

When we say we need "affordable" childcare, I assume this means goverment subsidies and not paying childminders/nannies peanuts.

Snowme Fri 15-Mar-13 16:58:37

I'm planning on returning to work this September when my youngest starts Reception.
I'm terrified about the childcare options as a lone parent.

I will have to work full time not part time to afford the rent so will need before and after school clubs (fortunately both the infant and junior school do them, and are adjacent to eachother), but it's things like illness and worse, school holidays, that concern me.

If I ever had to move from this house, I wouldn't find somewhere as cheap now because rents have increased significantly in he last 6 months since I've been here, for some reason. And that would impact massively on things like school (not going through rigmarole of in year transfer again), availability of wraparound childcare if I had to move schools of we couldn't find a cheap enough property in the current area, and then the logistics of it all, because to save money I am going to have to work in the same town we live in, because I couldn't afford the bus fares to nearby towns, so that limits my job prospects.

The idea of using virtually all my employed holiday time to cover school holidays isn't pleasant, but even that won't cover the school holidays, and of my 65 year old mother who currently helps out my other sister with childcare during school holidays becomes progressively more poorly, I will be completely stuck.

On a lone parent income I just couldn't afford unpaid time off work to cover school holidays, else how will I pay the rent that month??! I see the future as one where I barely see or interact with my children, just briefly for an hour when Iget home from work and put them to bed, and the weekends, assuming I don't also have to work Saturdays finances depending :/

And when we do have time together during school holidays, I won't have any money to do nice stuff with them anyway as I'll be on unpaid leave.
By which I mean, just the odd day trip to a museum or the seaside or cinema or whatever.

The idea of relying on their grandparent for childcare is good on paper, but my mother can barely walk from the front door to the car lately. I can't rely on that for the next 10 years, until they are old enough to become latchkey kids. Sometimes, I hate being a lone parent family sad

Perriwinkle Fri 15-Mar-13 17:29:54

The idea of using virtually all my employed holiday time to cover school holidays isn't pleasant

As a far as I'm concerned, that's a fact of life for a working parent. I never ever use any of my annual leave outside of term time.

tallulah Fri 15-Mar-13 17:40:11

I was a bit [shocked] that the blog talks about grandparents in their 50s, since I will be 50 in a few months and have a child in Y1 grin

My ILs used to look after DC3 and DC4; picking them up from playgroup and taking them to pre-school. My mum looks after DC5 for odd days during the holidays and if she is sick. We don't expect her to do it - they enjoy spending time together on their own, and actually asked if she could have her for a week in the summer holidays. The rest of the holidays either DH or I cover them with Annual Leave or we pay for Holiday Club.

I wouldn't want grandparents to provide FT care for very small children. I think there is too much potential for conflict. But the odd day or week I think does both parties good. (obviously where it is feasible geographically and no health concerns).

DCs1-4 are all old enough to have children of their own. We both work FT so there is no way we could help them out.

Gales Fri 15-Mar-13 17:44:48

I think maybe we can have both!

Current trend is for women to have their first child in their 30s? If our children do the same, then people won't become GPs until they're approaching 70 and will be retired even with increasing retirement age.

The issue will be whether older GPs are up to it (or still with us) not whether they're still working.

motherinferior Fri 15-Mar-13 17:50:37

I prefer working for pay to doing unpaid childcare. So does my mum (who was a very unhappy SAHM in her day).

CheungFun Fri 15-Mar-13 17:58:24

My DM is 55 this year, but there's no way that she would be physically fit enough to look after DS (1yo) instead of me paying for childcare as she has a bad back due to two slipped discs and a frozen shoulder. One size doesn't fit all. Some people are very lucky to have parents living close by who are able and willing to provide free childcare, but I think for a lot of people this isn't realistic and it shouldn't be expected that grandparents are going to be providing free childcare.

I'm sorry things are tough for you Snow - I hope you can find good ways forward when youngest starts reception in September and you go back to work - hopefully after school club will be a help smile

We are very lucky in being able to work to "the Scandinavian Model". DD goes to nursery, but if she is ill then a grandparent will step in so that we can go to work. They also offer babysitting, including over night. The grandparents would struggle with a lively toddler fulltime, but many of their peers do this and find it very tough. However if I work to 68, I am unlikely to even be able to offer this level of support if DD has chidren at about the same age as we had her.

Xmasbaby11 Fri 15-Mar-13 18:46:19

We have no default. DD is in nursery full time, and if she is sick, DH or I take time off work.

Xmasbaby11 Fri 15-Mar-13 18:53:20

My parents were in their thirties when they had me, and I was in my thirties when I had DD. So they are in their 70s now and they are well but don't have the energy to look after an energetic toddler. I don't expect them to, anyway. They did their bit and my mum stayed at home with me for 5 years. They deserve their retirement.

My DP's are in their 70's and have had my DC's to stay on two occasions for a week whilst I went on holidays to the Highlands with DH. DC's were 8 and 10, then 10 and 12 or thereabouts. Am not sure they will be up to doing it again !
Would have been nice if we'd lived nearer to them whilst DC's growing up for lots of reasons. I go and stay with them for a few days with the DC's in most of the school holidays, and we've done some lovely things together such as interesting days out which has all given me a bit of a break.
Personally I'd like to be more hands on when it's my turn, but we'll have to see how things pan out. I don't know how I'll feel by the time I'm in my 60's I guess ! And will depend on circumstances and how DC's want to do things too I'm sure.

JourneyThroughLife Fri 15-Mar-13 19:45:07

What I'm about to say will probably sound selfish, but no, I'm not going to help out with my daughter's children when I'm a grandparent. When I was a young mother I gave up my best working years for my children, I stayed at home all their young lives and devoted myself to them. I missed out on a career but believe I gave them the best I could offer while they needed me. But those years are over and I returned to the workplace, working myself up to where I am now. I love my job and don't intend to give up until they actually physically remove me directly into a nursing home!! I'm certainly not giving up to look after grandchildren - I did my bit at the right time and don't ever want to have to take on childcare responsibilities again, especially when I'm older.....

That's OK Journey - I had a fair bit of time to do as I pleased in my twenties, and my career, though interesting and rewarding at times hasn't especially gone anywhere. On the whole I haven't especially enjoyed my working life - home life has always given me more happiness. So, if I'm lucky enough to have grandchildren I feel at the moment that I'd be quite content to spend pretty much as much time with them as possible - you could say for selfish reasons !
(Though hopefully it will be a win-win all round)

Nat38 Fri 15-Mar-13 21:27:22

I have always worked around not having help from the Grandparents.sad
I have now separated from my husband & both of his parents have now diedsadsad His mother suffered from epilepsy & was a sahm, died 5/6 years ago, his dad worked ft until he took voluntary redundancy at age 62 & then suddenly died 9 days after his 65th birthday, 10/11 years ago.
My dad is coming up to 70 & never really been in my lifesad
My mum is still working FT & is 65 in June.
My DD`s are 12 & 14.
My in-laws were always there before their deaths for baby sitting duties as & when required & my mum is still there for me for as & when required for babysitting outside of her job, she would also be available in an emergency & take time of work if required & asked!
I do have a good support system in my mum, sister & soon to be ex-husband if needed!smilesmile

gaelicsheep Fri 15-Mar-13 21:35:10

I don't know what the statistics are for the amount of families where grandparents look after the children some/all of the time, but I often get the feeling that social policy and attitudes are based on the assumption that this is possible. With the cost of childcare it is genuinely unaffordable for many families to have two parents in work. I look at families where one parent is working, say, part time in Tesco and I think they MUST have grandparent taking care of the children because how on earth could that job - with the irregular hours that often go with it - possibly be doable if it needed paid childcare. Yet that scenario seems to increasingly be the expectation of Government and society alike.

Me, well my parents are well into their 60s, they couldn't possibly cope with the children, they've never even had them for a full evening. And they live hours away so it is totally impossible in every respect. Consequently one of us stays at home.

babyboomersrock Fri 15-Mar-13 22:03:51

My OH and I are 66 and at the moment we mind our 2 year old grandson 2 days a week from 7.30am - 5pm; one of his parents delivers him to us. His mother works 3 days a week and the other day is covered by the "other grandpa" doing 2 days a month and my son using annual leave for the remaining days.

On one of our days we stay at home and do the usual house-based activities; he "helps" us with the houswork, garden, feeding hens and other pets, baking, playing music and so on. We always have at least two walks as well.

On the other day we go to a museum/park/beach, depending on weather - we take picnics.

We take him home at 5pm. We're lucky that we're fit and active - as are most of the grandparents we meet when we're out and about - but there must be some who are really exhausted, or who don't have transport or money to go anywhere. I don't know how they cope.

I'm fully retired but my husband's an academic and still does a few days' work a month - sometimes from home, though he travels too. I have four children and I anticipate that the others will have families in due course. I simply don't know how we're going to be able to help them all, and of course it's an expense - I don't think we could stretch to doing the same for them all, and that is upsetting.

I know lots of people of our age who're in the same position; their own children aren't having their families until they're in their 30s. By that time, they have huge mortgages and outgoings which mean they both have to work so the grandparents find themselves in their late 60s, retired, but unable to make plans for holidays and so on without asking for "leave" - it's a complicated business.

I love the fact that we see so much of our grandson - but there's no doubt that it changes the relationship. Sometimes I long just to be a granny and not a substitute parent.

My daughter-in-law would prefer to be at home with her son full-time. I can't imagine what it must be like to feel like that and have to hand over to granny a couple of days a week; I was at home until my youngest went to school. We do our utmost to do things their way and make it easy for them - luckily we're on the same wave-length most of the time, and I think it's imperative that we do things their way for the child's sake. If you're an occasional granny, maybe you can be a bit more relaxed and indulgent, but if you're actually providing regular child care, it's more like a job.

(Unpaid, and without lunch breaks!)

My apologies for the long inconclusive post. I don't have an answer.

NK2b1f2 Fri 15-Mar-13 22:27:25

My IL died many years ago before I could meet them and my own parents are mid 70s and mid 80s and abroad, so I have never seen grandparents as an option for regular childcare. And to be honest Even if they were younger and closer, I would never expect them to be on standby to babysit or provide regular full day childcare. I think it's a lot to ask. I am one of four and feel my parents did their bit in bringing us up. Why should they have to go back to pushing prams etc?
I've seen too many examples in my work of grandparents in their 60s an 70s forced to provide long hours of care because they felt that if they refused they may not see their grandchildren again. That's just plain wrong.

Maybe it's slightly unrealistic though to hope for a long period of active retirement where you do as you please and go on lots of holidays ? I think it's only going to be a minority of us that have that sort of retirement - many more will be helping the next generations. To me it seems like a natural and good way to spend that stage of life, though the occasional holiday is always nice, and I hope we'll have enough money to at least take any grandchildren on a few interesting visits and outings as you do babyboomer - Your grandchildren - and children - sound very lucky ! BTW I don't think you can worry too much about offering exactly the same to each of your children - I guess you just have to take things as they come, and see what you feel able to offer as you go along smile

1944girl Fri 15-Mar-13 23:27:22

I am now 68 and have helped to care for all of my five grandchildren since they were babies.The oldest is now 21 and I was working two or three days a week when all of them were born, just fitted in the childcare when ever I could.
The two youngest are now 12 and 10 so it is getting easier now.I have them in school holidays and collect youngest one from school.My DH is unable to do much childcare now as he is disabled with heart disease but helped out with childcare when the older ones were small.

scottishmummy Fri 15-Mar-13 23:35:31

No grandparents should not have expectation of care,it nice if you get it.but not a given

OrWellyAnn Fri 15-Mar-13 23:52:44

My DDad often helps out with childcare, not because he reels he has to, but because he loves DS and wants to spend this time with him. It's given him (and us) an extra dimension to his daily life. i dont think anyone we know can deny seeing the benefits it brings, to ds and DDad in their lovely relationship together, and me in being able to do the odd days work or catch up on things I need to do. it's a real win-win situation.

gaelicsheep Fri 15-Mar-13 23:55:18

I think it is lovely if it's possible and works for both sides, but should never ever be expected - not by society and especially not by parents themselves. My mum is, I think, the only one in her group of friends who does not have regular care of a pre-schooler - it is amazingly common. I think it is a hidden timebomb tbh.

OrWellyAnn Fri 15-Mar-13 23:56:42

Maybe it's slightly unrealistic though to hope for a long period of active retirement where you do as you please and go on lots of holidays ? I think it's only going to be a minority of us that have that sort of retirement.

^^ and y,y,y to this...mostly because our generation will not be able to retire once the Tories have robbed us of our pensions, healthcare and education. We'll be paying for it all AND trying to help our poor bloody kids get any sort of a start in life. The baby boomers really did have the best of life once they hit their teens...they were and are the first and last truly priviliged generation. I see my parents and their friends enjoying a retirement that will be utterly unfathomable to me and most of my friends.

babyboomersrock Sat 16-Mar-13 00:12:38

Well, this particular babyboomer, along with many of her contemporaries, was poor for many years, OrWellyAnn. Most of us were SAHMs, so we lived pretty frugally.

We had one foreign holiday when our children were young (camping) - normally, holidays were spent at grandparents' homes. We had one old car, a house we'd bought but couldn't afford to renovate, we almost never went out socially, no meals out - the sort of thing many younger people take for granted now. Everyone lived like that, so it seemed normal and we certainly didn't feel resentful.

And now? I'm still helping my youngest who's now at the post-grad stage. We provide free child care and help financially when we can. We still don't holiday abroad! Last year we had two days in Morar and two days in Braemar - hard to organise around child care and in any case we'd rather spend it on family. I know a lot of people in our position.

Oh, and I agree it's tragic that the Tories are making life so hard - I certainly didn't vote them in and nor did any of my close friends.

babyboomersrock Sat 16-Mar-13 00:14:11

PS. We did have the best of music, I grant you that. And there were jobs.

BertieBotts Sat 16-Mar-13 00:18:21

None of my DS' grandparents want to be childcarer for him - and that's fine IMO. He's not their child. They will babysit or take him out for the day, but a more regular, permanent arrangement wouldn't work for us. I don't think I'll particularly want to be raising my grandchildren when I'm older either. But I do feel like I don't have enough time for DS at the moment and wish he could be at home with family more. sad It's hard.

NapaCab Sat 16-Mar-13 03:32:04

It's nice for grandparents if they are healthy enough and young enough to be engaged with the care of their grandchildren. I would say about half of the people I know rely on their parents in some capacity for childcare. It's not an option for us as we live abroad and my parents are older and not so fit and DH's parents have always made it very clear that they would not do anything more than occasional babysitting.

There is going to be a crunch point at some stage as the current generation of parents, who mostly are two-income households, become grandparents. Grandparents may not be available to take care of grandchildren as they will be working themselves. I think the only solution is for subsidised childcare of some kind, like the Scandinavian system, and a return of the married couple's tax-free allowance to allow those who want a SAHP option to benefit as well.

We need to stop viewing childcare as some incidental issue that people have to find their own solutions to within the family and offer support to working parents.

moonbells Sat 16-Mar-13 19:04:51

When DS was born my mother was 76, registered disabled and barely able to walk across a room. It's a trial when we visit (she's now 81), as toys get everywhere and I'm forever expecting her to trip over the Lego and break a leg or something. Dad's got one replacement limb and needs another. They also live 140 miles from us and can't move as their friends are there and they couldn't get the same level of council care as they do currently if they moved down here.

My PIL are younger but FIL (75) is having a triple bypass next week, and they too live 140 miles away (in the opposite direction!) They have had DS to stay once in 5y, so we could go to a wedding.

The idea certainly wouldn't work in our case!

taketheribbon Sun 17-Mar-13 11:38:17

The answer is obvious. Have your children with a man 10-15 years younger than you, who is of mediterranean descent, and his parents, who will be relatively young, will be overjoyed to look after your children while you are at work. Your children will also benefit from becoming fully bilingual.

That's what I did. wink

Smart move taketheribbon grin

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