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When Granny Becomes Nanny

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 25 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
When Granny Becomes Nanny

With rising child care costs, an increase in lone parent families and a pressure for both parents in a two-parent family to have to go out to work, flexible and affordable childcare is extremely difficult to find. Step in Granny.

Good or Bad?

The jury is still out as to whether grandparents make good child carers and it is certainly dependent on the individual, their fitness for the task and the relationship they share with the parents and grandchildren. However, there is quite a bit of research being done at the moment on the whole aspect of grandparents taking on the role of childminder in recognition of the fact that a lot of charitable work of this kind is being undertaken.

Grandparents are Big Business

Various research that A British Nanny looked at report that nearly 50% of grandparents provide an average of 20 hours of childcare per week and that 25% of families have a grandparent who helps out with childcare for up to 16 hours each week.

Economists estimate that this level of free help equates to about £2.4 billion in childcare costs per year.

Unsung Heroes

If these figures are true, then grandparents are the unsung heroes of the childcare world. Opinions differ, however, as to whether the use of grandparents in this way amounts to exploitation, or if it is a totally natural domestic family arrangement.

Campaign for Working Rights

Natural or not, Grandparents receive no tax breaks, grants, pay, or subsidies for providing childcare and yet as people live longer and pensions diminish, they may still need to provide financially for themselves. Age Concern is campaigning for similar flexible working rights for grandparents who look after children that parents get, so they can continue to work if needed whilst also helping to support their family.

Grandparenting Classes

Additionally, in recognition of the fact that granny often becomes nanny, parenting classes are beginning to be available for grandparents who feel the need for a refresher course in parenting, to maintain safety and confidence when looking after youngsters, and also to help introduce them to issues which might have moved on or been updated since their own children were little.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you consider saving money and asking a parent to help with your children’s childcare, it’s worth giving careful consideration to whether you would be gaining more than saving money at the end of the day – or if everyone will benefit from the arrangement. Before you proceed, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you have a happy childhood and enjoy your Mum looking after you?
  • Does your Mum and/or Dad have the energy to cope with a baby, toddler, or young child?
  • Is their home safe?
  • Will they resent their time being used in this way?
  • Will you offer to pay them?
  • How will you feel if you don’t like the way your parents are disciplining your children?
  • How will you feel if your children don’t want to be with your parents – especially if they are older?
  • Have you thought about the fact that your parents may not want to do it?

Set up a Family Meeting

Once you have thought through the pros and cons of asking your parents to help, it is worth setting up a meeting with them to discuss how they feel, assess whether they could cope, and whether supporting your family would adversely impact on their ability to earn money elsewhere or enjoy their retirement as they wish.

If you are careful to consider everyone’s feelings and are also certain that having Granny acting as Nanny would be of benefit to all parties, then a hugely positive advantage is it can help to form a strong and secure emotional bond between your child and their grandparent.

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