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When grandparents aren’t always available for childcare…

Family babysitters: Are you taking advantage?

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When grandparents aren’t always available for childcare, it can leave many parents in a never ending financial and emotional battle. When I was a nipper, my mum used to ferry me off to my grandmother’s house during the summer holidays while she went to work. My grandmother lived in a beautiful countryside location, and me and my sister would roam the fields walking the dog and catching frogs. At teatime, we would dash back, and be greeted with a splendid spread of cheese and ham sandwiches and freshly baked cake.

Ahhh. How idyllic. But it seems things have changed. Both of my parents still work full time, meaning it’s practically impossible for me to use them as day care. Don’t get me wrong – my parents love my kids, and do everything they can to spoil them, including giving them sweets when I’m not looking.When grandparents aren't always available for childcare

But as the retirement age increases, and people work longer to make ends meet, the likelihood of using grandparents to babysit is fading into history, like my own hazy summer memories of running wild in the country.

Other implications

Asking grandparents to babysit also has more serious implications: In 2011, a survey discovered that grandparents provided the main childcare for 35% of families, although that was only for 10 hours a week or less. What’s more, grandparents who looked after children for longer were found to be less satisfied, and it even had a negative impact on their health and well-being.

It’s also worth noting that a small fraction of children who are looked after by grandparents do less well on literacy and numeracy and have more issues with hyperactivity. On the upshot, kids who are looked after by grandparents can have better vocabularies than other children of the same age.

We all need to work and make money, and if we have children, things start to get difficult. Clearly options are limited when grandparents are absent, and even if they’re not, using them is often clearly not the way forward. So what alternatives are there?

Day Nursery

Day nursery is one of the most flexible ways to arrange childcare. When choosing one, check several things – is it well maintained? Do you feel comfortable with the manager? Is there an outdoor play area? Are nappies provided? And, trust your gut instinct – if you get a good feeling about a place, then go for it. And would you believe that basic places can often offer higher standards of education and care, as opposed to those which are all-singing and all-dancing.

Wise up to Montessori

Montessori nurseries are also an option: Practised in over 20,000 schools across the world, these offer an educational approach as developed by Italian educator and physician Maria Montessori.


A childminder will care for your child in a home environment. This can be more comforting to parents because it breeds familiarity, contentment and continuity. Childminders often have children themselves, undoubtedly a comfort to anxious parents. Childminders who look after children under eight years old must be members of the OFSTED Early Years Register.

When choosing your childminder, ask to see the latest OFSTED inspection report, chat to other people who’ve used the childminder, and ask the childminder how they would look after your child. Gut instinct rules here as well, but don’t forget to ask the opinion of your child. How do they get on with the childminder? Smiles, hugs, laughs, and rapport? Then it’s looking good.

Finding your Mary PoppinsWhen grandparents aren't always available for childcare

Okay, it’s unlikely your new nanny will whizz kids up above the chimney pots or leap into a pavement painting, but a nanny is a great way to provide childcare in your own home. Nannies look after kids of any age, and work flexible hours to fit in with your hours. This is perfect if you work crazy or variable shifts. Nannying is a two-way deal: You must provide good working conditions, a contract, a decent salary, and also make tax and National Insurance arrangements.

Another option is nanny-sharing, where you share your employee with other parents. This gives children much-needed social interaction, and reduces the cost. Google Nanny Agencies for a list of providers in your area.

Say ‘oh yeah’ to an Au Pair

And finally we come to the au pair. An au pair literally becomes part of a host family, looking after the childcare, and even doing some of the housework. In return for this arrangement, they get their own room, and a small allowance. Remember, an au pair is not a traditional domestic worker. Usually, they work around five hours a day, with two days off. Duties can include taking the kids to school, cleaning, cooking, babysitting, and ironing. The government suggests a minimum of £70 pay per week, and you can find local agencies on the Internet.

Sweet rewards

When your grandparents aren’t available, it’s reassuring to know there are plenty of other options. And just make sure those moments your child spends with Grandma and Grandad are precious as possible, and even allow them the occasional sweet treat. After all, we all used to eat sweets, and it never did us any harm…Good luck!







About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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