I was watching my mum aka Grandy (to explain the name, she had a beloved Gran who she wanted to emulate but felt ‘Gran’ made her sound too old so came up with Grandy. We’re running with it although buying birthday cards is impossible) with Willow recently and realised that it’s not just your world that changes when you have a baby but everybody around you too.
I think sometimes as parents we get so swallowed up into the whirlwind of family life and keeping everyone fed, watered and clothed that we don’t notice just how much joy your child brings to others. Of course grandparents and other family and friends totally get the better deal. They don’t have to worry about the mundane stuff. They get all the smiles and play time then hand them back at the end of the day when bed time negotiations begin and the fun really starts.
I’ve been thinking about mum’s life and how it has changed so much. From the moment we showed her the first scan photo, that little bean brought her so much happiness. I know she would spend every hour of every day with her if she could. Being with Willow seems to have given her a spark. She seems to have more energy (a plus seeing as she is a major part of our childcare jigsaw puzzle) and the patience of a saint. More than she did with my brother and I if I recall, but we were a pair of devil children whose sole purpose in life was to antagonise each other.
Of course Willow has Grandy wrapped around her little finger and mum lets her which is naturally a grandparent’s prerogative. I’m unsure most days who is looking after who, but they have a whale of a time and I love seeing them creating their special bond that will last a lifetime.
We definitely couldn’t manage without our Grandy. She provides childcare two days a week, is our emergency child care cover when Willow is ill and can’t go to nursery (which is A LOT. Whoever said breastfed babies don’t get ill was lying), is chief baby sitter for rare nights out and peeled me off the ceiling several times over my maternity leave (and after). I’d like to say a massive thank you to her and all the grandparents, aunties, cousins and friends out there providing this essential support. You are the reason we can go back to work and lesson the extortionate cost of nursery (I’ll save this rant for another day).
You lovely people are an unsung army of caregivers helping to keep us in employment while not hesitating to let our children slowly deplete your life savings on ice cream, toys and those daft rides you get in supermarkets. The ‘parent’ groups mum takes Willow to are mostly made up of children who are there with their grandparents. This is a trend no doubt repeated in other parts of the country. To back this up here are some ‘top grandparent facts’ from gov.uk:
- 1 in 4 working families and 1 in 3 working mothers use grandparents for childcare
- 63% of all grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare
- 1 in 5 grandmothers provide at least 10 hours a week of childcare
- the proportion of grandparents who are of working age is set to grow as the retirement age gradually rises
You may have seen in the media recently that grandparents who have given up work to provide childcare for under 12s may be entitled to a ‘Grandparent’s Allowance.’ Don’t get too excited though. You have to sign over your child benefit to the grandparents (nothing comes for free does it?). When we did the sums it would only have worked out financially better for us if mum provided an extra day’s child care instead of Willow going to nursery. This isn’t possible so we’ve decided not to go down this route. It may work out for your family though so check out this info on the Money Saving Expert’s website (it’s the best description of the options available I have found).
Grandparents, we probably won’t ever be able to repay you for your time but I know that I and many other parents are eternally grateful. Just please don’t go on holiday and/or be ill yourself as this throws our childcare into disarray. It will probably result in us having to ensconce the wee ones in our bottom drawer at work or let them run riot around the Board Room when you are trying to give a very important presentation.
What does your child care jigsaw puzzle look like? Are you, like us running that fine line between clockwork precision and complete chaos if one tiny cog in the machine stops turning. Let me know how you cope (or not).
This post was originally published 19 October 2016.