In a lot of cases, grandparents are essential to allow both parents to return to work.
With the forever increasing cost of living and childcare
, grandparents are an essential aspect of allowing both parents being able to work. In some cases, even just one parent being able to return to work.
It’s estimated that, in Ireland today, almost one-third of people aged 50+ provide care to a child or grandchild at least weekly. Their assistance is invaluable - without the help of my mother-in-law, I would find it very difficult to balance everything.
1. Talk it through
Every situation is different, and every grandparent is different. Talk it through with them. Don’t assume grandparents are happy to provide your childcare for free. But also don’t offend them by assuming they expect to be paid for it either.
If your children’s grandparents do some childcare but don’t want or expect to be paid a great idea would be to gift them a bottle of wine, flowers, some groceries or even a meal out every so often. The gesture doesn’t have to be big but the thought will definitely count.
2. How much is too much?
Even if payment isn’t an issue, hours still may present a challenge. While a paid minder is obliged to do certain hours, an unpaid grandparent has no such obligation.
If Granny has a book club or a coffee morning that she attends weekly, its important that she isn't pressured to mind her little ones. Unless it’s an emergency, activities or things grandparents enjoy to do during their retirement should always be respected.
Grandparents who feel obliged to take on full-time childcare don’t always fare well. In 2015, researchers at Trinity College found that providing high levels (over 60 hours per month) of childcare had a negative impact on grandparents’ mental health.
We need to remember to value retirement as an important stage of life. It’s an important time to discover yourself and make new friends. We need to remember to let grandparents enjoy this chapter of their lives and not to expect them to become taken for granted.
Should the state pay?
I for one think the state should be recognising the grandparents out there who help families get back to work or continue to work with the help of minding their grandchildren. For many families, working and paying for childcare is just not physically possible, including paying grandparents. There are also families who feel that professional childcare is not the right fit for their family. In those cases, grandparents are invaluable. The state, in my opinion, should be recognising the value of carers in our country and showing that through a payment or an allowance.
Let the choice be theirs
As much as your parents may adore their grandchildren, asking a retired person to go back to work, doing 40 unpaid hours or more a week may physically be too much for them. Having an element of choice matters.
I think the main point to take from this is a clear line of honest communication is the best way forward.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.