The Grandparent Economy. The money not accounted, not changing hands, not requested… is a subject I become aware of regularly.
Today I’m putting pen to paper (or at least fingers to keyboard).
Grandparents with pre-schoolers
I was shopping this morning. As the required dog food was umpteen departments from the entrance, I passed many other shoppers. Over half of them were grandparents with pre-schoolers.
I notice this same demographic when my grandson is off school and I take him somewhere fun.
I walk him to school several mornings each week and now have a bit of a chuckle with a couple of other Grammas about being G.O.D. – Gramma On Duty. When I pick him up after school, I am one of a bevy of grandparents hanging about waiting for the bell.
The cost of daycare
A big reason I moved back to my current city was because the cost of daycare for my infant grandson was so high that to add before- and after-school care fees to the mix made the cost of child care more than the family’s rent. My decision has never been a hardship – I adore my grandkids and I consider it a privilege to have one-on-one time with them, and I have the freedom to make these choices.
My grandson has been spending school breaks with me since he started Kindergarten. Again, it has been my pleasure, but there has been another reason too – practical as well as financial. During the two-month Summer break there are many “camps” available for children: soccer, science, day… a gamut of choices. As well as being costly, they usually run from 10 AM – 4 PM. That’s not a full-time day for any employee I know, so the back-to-back “camps” would have to be enhanced by before and after camp care… more logistics as well as costs.
This situation is really quite common. The cost of living in this west coast city is higher than the national average… but both my daughter and her partner have good jobs here as well as friends and family. The volume of grandparents I see confirms that the reality of my daughter is the reality of many other young families.
We’re managing quite well with the arrangements we have organized… but I know many others struggle. Whether it’s lower paying jobs, or the unavailability of extended family to help out, many young parents and their children have to compromise somehow.
What’s the answer?
What’s the answer?
I’m not sure.
In this city, there are a number of daycares ready to open to offer more spots for pre-schoolers – but the disparity between expected staff wages and what is reasonable (or competitive) to charge parents leaves them with doors closed.
It’s easy to suggest government gets involved, but I’m not sure which intercession makes the most logic. Do they subsidize at the family level? the agency level? perhaps the grandparent economy level? What would be the qualifying income level that makes it equitable both here in the city and in the smaller, less expensive communities.
A conundrum, and an issue
It’s a modern-day conundrum, perhaps a developed nation conundrum… but it’s an issue for many, many people.
I’d love to hear your reality around the care requirements of the youngest of your family. Are you able to help out?
I’ll be interested to read your comments as soon as I get back from walking my grandson to school in the morning!
My husband and I have 10 grandchildren ranging from 9 to 19 years of age. We have helped care for all of them at some point or another. Right now, I take our 15-year-old grandson to school each morning, and the youngest granddaughter comes to our house everyday after school. My husband works at home, so he is able to be there with her. The time is rapidly approaching when our help will no longer be needed in this way, so we are savoring the time we have with them and the bonds we’ve built.
It’s wonderful that you spend so much time caring for your grandson. I’m Australian, and it’s quite rare there that grandparents look after their grandchildren. However, in Russia where I currently live, it’s much more common. Grandparents walking their grandchildren to school, and picking them up after school is nothing out of the ordinary. And, in the summer holidays, 3 months, in some families the children go and live with the grandparents in a totally different town, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away from the parents, or sometimes just in their summer house which might be only a few kilometres from… Read more »
The cultural differences can be noticeable, Cheryl. Most of the grandparents in my neighbourhood are ethnically diverse. After my grandson started school he too spent Sunday evening to Friday evening 3 hours away from his parents with me during school breaks.
I have always worked with the “elderly” so my children grew up with great respect for them, and I see the same response/understanding developing in my grandson when he accompanies me on my current visits.
I was a grandparent carer for almost all of my now 8 grandkids and I would not have missed that time for the world. I took leave from my work to help with Miss GD #1 and then had various days/nights and weekends for her siblings. Quite a gap happened for our son to have his family and then we went on to care for 3 of his from around 6 months till school age up to 3 days a week. I had parts of the house very grandchild centred which made it a home away from home for them.… Read more »
I agree about the memories, Denyse – I still have great memories of Summers spent with my Gran and auntie in England. I think many of us will agree we are better Grammas than we were Mums… my priorities and temperament are far more mellow than when my children were young. All the stages of life… if not the younger generation, it’s us!!
Hi Agnes, like you I have taken care of my grandson who is now 5 one day per week since he was about 18 months. I am now doing the same for his little brother. At the moment,my daughter has just returned to work after taking 10 months parental leave. She and her husband took the decision when Ethan their first son was born to have Ian take 6 – 8 months off work when Rachel returned to work. That way Ethan would have a parent for at least the first two years of life. I then took over one… Read more »
Hi, Sue! Let me first clarify that my grandson doesn’t call me G.O.D. – it’s a fun phrase I use with other Grammas! It really is a gift to spend consistent time with grandchildren – everyone wins, I believe. As well as the relationship with our grandchildren, it also firms the bond with our children. I do feel concern for young parents who have no extended family nearby, it’s such a safety net.
Hi, Agnes – You have identified a very tricky issue that has multiple layers. My oldest grandchild turns four this August. His parents both work. Fortunately, he attends a great daycare. Within 24 hours of having a fever, diarrhea or pink eye (he’s had all three this winter), he is (understandably) not allowed to go to daycare….even when he is feeling fine. To get a trustworthy last-minute babysitter during the weekday in Vancouver is near impossible — regardless of how much you are willing to pay. On those days, my husband and/or I take an early ferry into Vancouver and… Read more »
It really does have multiple layers, Donna! My daughter in Vancouver decided to not return to work after her mat leave, and took on another child for daycare as she was a professional nanny internationally for a number of years. Within hours of her company newsletter wishing her well in her new endeavours, she had a dozen emails asking for that one spot! They are fortunate you are able to make the ferry trips, and are young enough to handle the long days!
It’s a tricky one – my daughter-in-law is a stay at home mum and I am so grateful that our son earns enough for them to allow her to be with their daughters during this important stage. I’m not a fan of commercial day care centres – I know they have become a necessity and the norm, but I still believe from the bottom of my heart that you can’t beat a parent or grandparent or in home care for young children. You’re so blessed to be able to provide this care and your relationship with your grandkids will be… Read more »
I agree with you whole-heartedly, Leanne. I was fortunate to be a full-time Mum too when my children were small. In our major urban centres these days though, it is next to impossible to live on one salary unless it is a sizeable one. As a teenager I used to spend my Summer breaks with my Gran and my aunt in England and I have great memories of those Summers, so I wanted to do the same with my grands if possible. Thanks for the share!