Written by: Cally Worden
Time-pressed and cash-strapped parents are increasingly looking to the Grandparents as a potential source of free childcare. Recent statistics suggest, as many as 1 in 4 working families depend on it in some form or another. On the face of it, Grandparents are the perfect option, the child knows them, and the parents trust them, if they are amenable to helping out, most will do so for free. But before you go knocking on the door of The Nursery of Mum and Dad, take a moment to consider their thoughts and feelings. Here are some of the questions they may be asking themselves.
How Much Time Can I Commit?
Many Grandparents involved with childcare are retired, but not all. Clearly, those who already have commitments outside the home will be limited in the time they have to offer and, frankly, may be reluctant to share all of their free time. For those who are retired, time may be less of an issue. Many Grandparents have active social lives that need to be taken into consideration; others may deliberately keep their diaries light on commitments because they tire easily. Don’t assume that your parents will automatically want, or be able to devote their ‘free’ time in the pursuit of childcare. Remember, they have a life too.
Every parent has different views on how to bring up their kids. Your rules on discipline, eating, sleeping and so on may not align with those of the Grandparents. It’s important before you begin, to establish expectations on both sides, saving confusion occurring later on. Children thrive on consistency; free access to the sweetie tub at Granny’s is not a good plan if your home rule is to only indulge at the weekend, for example. Be sure to address these kinds of issues in advance, review any fresh issues regularly to avoid conflict and frustrations setting in.
How do we Address The Money Issue?
There tends to be an assumption that Grandparents will be happy to offer childcare for free. While this may be the case for many, some Grandparents may be short on cash themselves and look upon childcare as a way to supplement their funds. If everyone is honest, this need not be an issue. Perhaps a payment level can be agreed that helps both parties out – less than the cost of external childcare, but enough to help out the Grandparent coffers too. Be wary of entering into an employer:employee relationship though, as this brings legal obligations and responsibilities with it. There are ways around this – you could offer to pay for their car to be serviced, for example, or for some maintenance work they need doing around the house.
Other costs of care should be thrashed out too, if potential irritations are to be avoided. Lunches, travel, toys, days out – all these things cost money. Again, many Grandparents wouldn’t dream of asking for a contribution, but others might. Raising the issue up front will prevent any resentments festering.
Grandparents who elect to stop working in order to provide childcare can protect their pensions via a National Insurance Credit designed specifically for this purpose. These payments are called Specified Adult Childcare Credits; this was introduced in 2011-12 for relatives who provide care for children less than 12 years of age to enable the parent of that child to work.
Grandparents bring something extra to childcare that no external source can provide. The love, trust and family bond that exists is like no other, this alone can make Grandparent care attractive to any parent. The most important thing to remember is that Grandparents are independent people – some may relish the chance to be involved so deeply with their grandchildren. Others may not. As parents we need to respect that and leave our assumptions at home. Honest, open dialogue is the best starting point in any discussion about childcare. It can, and does, work brilliantly for many families.