Free babysitting comes at a price

Free babysitting comes at a price, and this price is too often paid by a grandparent brought in to be that free babysitter. If you are one of the thousands of UK grandparents who take up the mantle of caring for your grandchildren on a regular basis, you may well recognise the occasional gnawing feeling of being taken for granted with its accompanying resentment. In fact, you may know these feelings well. The situation that brought this about in the first place is usually simple enough to identify: Perhaps one of your children (and/or their spouse), has a demanding work schedule and they need cover for the kids, or possibly your adult child has had to go back to work after recently separating from their partner. Whatever the reason, there you were: ready, able and perhaps even willing to give your time up to look after the grandchildren. You were their saving grace – how could they possibly afford that level of professional child care if it weren’t for you? How could they ever manage on their own as a single parent? How could you possibly say “No”?

The Guardian recently reported that childcare costs are rocketing and many parents rely heavily on grandparents so they can continue working. Figures from the  Family and Childcare Trust show that sending a child under two to nursery part-time (25 hours) costs £115.45 a week in the UK – or £6,003 a year (this translates into roughly £9,000 of your salary before tax!). That’s a 5.1% rise since 2014, and in London it can be much higher. We all know that modern life is an ever shifting landscape with the traditional family no longer being the norm.  And you, the older generation, often find yourselves in the role of linchpin in your child’s working modern family life….

Did you know that 1 in 3 working mothers rely on the grandparents to help? Grandparents Plus recognise the problems which can ensue, warning that many such grandparents feel they are simply left to struggle and all too often feel ‘overlooked’ and ‘undervalued’.  Grandparents wonder if they are genuinely part of their grandchild’s life, or merely a convenient resource to be called on when needed but held in storage when not? To make things a touch worse, UK Grandparents do not share the same legal benefits as their European counterparts, although recent proposals to extend a legal right to working grandparents to have time off to enable them to care for their grandchildren go a small way to addressing the imbalances.

Let’s face it, most grandparents do not want to be caught up in the fast paced lives of their children nor wish to be involved in every aspect of their lives – they’ve been there already and have that T-shirt. Despite this, some grandparents find themselves caught up in, and unable to say no to, the need to be supportive to their children by taking on the role of primary sub-carer of the grandchildren. Sadly, this is often at their own expense. Hence, free babysitting often comes at a price – both financially and physically for these grandparents, yet they don’t always know how to communicate this to their children. Things can be complicated even more when these grandparents suffer from limiting health conditions, or are juggling work commitments of their own while they also work out how to care for their grandchildren.

According to Grandparents Plus, this situation is being replicated time and time again, all across the country. Where it does, resentment builds up and communications become difficult with each side blaming the other. If free babysitting is now creating a price you no longer feel able to pay, a skilled relationship counsellor may well be able to help you and your adult child work through some of these delicate topics. If you would like to learn more about how some focused, short-term counselling may be able you and your adult child facilitate better communication and establish more realistic expectations of each other in this situation where you play such a large part of the family dynamic, please telephone the office on 01279 834467 for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs.