I have a friend who has published a travel book. The book was printed by a major publishing house and has been distributed across Australia and Europe. The publishers have offered my friend a contract to write a second travel book, which is fantastic news … however my friend cannot find the time to write her second book because she spends a lot of her life babysitting her two small granddaughters. Do you think this is right?
My friend would love to get her second book out. Yes she’s started it but can’t find the time to complete it. Her daughter-in-law, the children’s mother, is in a managerial position. Sometimes my friend feels obligated to mind her grandchildren because she believes her daughter-in-law’s job is very important. But she does not realise that her book is also important. Her career as a writer is important! She even missed going to her publisher’s Christmas party last year because her daughter-in-law’s Christmas party was on the same night, and she again ended up minding her granddaughters.
Saying no is not a rejection of family
This friend of mine also feels that she can’t refuse to mind her granddaughters because she perceives it as a form of ‘rejection’. If she said she couldn’t mind the girls it would be akin to saying, “I don’t love my granddaughters.” I want to point out that my friend loves and adores her granddaughters. She is the perfect grandmother. She is always happy to get down on the floor and have a play with them. She is also always buying them gifts and invests time in their development by reading them books and playing educational games.
I worry about my friend, and it makes me sad that she is not acknowledging the importance of her writing and creativity. At this stage of her life, she has earnt the right to do what makes her happy. At the same time I know that it is important to help out family. It is difficult for some young people to get ahead these days.
New survey on child-minding grandparents
The Mozo website recently conducted a survey about childminding for relatives. It found that almost one in four Australian children is minded regularly through the week by a grandparent. The average carer-grandparent does around 30 hours of babysitting in a month. That is about 7.5 hours a week, or at least one working day in each week. According to the Mojo survey, Australian grandparents are doing the equivalent of $3.94 billion dollars of childminding. By doing four days childcare a month, grandparents save their adult children more than $300 a month. According to the survey some grandparents do much more than 30 hours a month. A large percentage of grandparents do 60 hours a month. That is about two days a week and would save their adult children around $600 a month.
Of the grandparents who responded to the survey, some 40 percent still have paid employment (usually part-time). That is quite a workload for a mature person. Two out of three grandparents said they were unhappy to care for a grandchild, but one third resented the situation and 28 percent of the ‘happy’ grandparents said they found childminding tiring.
Childcare is expensive
Mozo director Kirsty Lamont told Fairfax Media that childcare costs are a “major financial strain for many families”. Some childcare centres charge more than $180 a day. “As the cost of living continues to rise and wage growth stagnates, it’s little wonder that many parents are turning to their parents as a childcare solution,” Ms Lamont said.
But it is not just about the money. Many parents only return to work because a trusted family member is prepared to care for their children. I know of mothers and fathers who won’t let strangers care for their children. They want their children to be with their grandparents. They know their children will be looked after with love. It is wonderful to be able to help your children and spend time with your grandchildren. However I am still of the view that adult parents should not emotionally exploit the grandparents or expect them to bring up their children. I think before you agree to care for a relative’s children you need to have a frank conversation and set some boundaries.
Set some boundaries with adult children
The first thing the parents of young children need to know is that your health and fitness levels do not match theirs! Looking after toddlers is easier when you are 30 not 60! They need to be realistic in what they ask of you. They should also consider whether your house is appropriate. Do you have a fenced yard? Would it be easier if you go to their house?
Both grandparents need to agree to do childminding. It is no good if grandma relishes the experience while Grandpa resents missing out on his golf. This will only lead to family fights. I also think it is important to say that you have your own life. You want to have lunch with friends on Thursday. You want to play tennis on Friday. You want at least three free days a week to write your next book! Sometimes being honest with family members is harder than being honest with strangers!
You also need to ask your adult children if they have a contingency plan if you can’t babysit. Who will step in if you are sick or unavailable? Are they prepared to be flexible if you have an unexpected social invitation? What will they do if you want to go on holidays?
Before you start to babysit for relatives determine the length of time you will be childminding from the start. What days will you be childminding and will this continue for months or years?
Good luck sorting this out with your family. Be kind, be cheerful, but above all be honest when you have these conversations.
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.