The cost of childcare was a feature of Tuesday’s Federal Budget but made no mention of the estimated $4.4 billion in childcare assistance provided by this group in 2017.
Nor the lifestyle changes that were necessary to enable that valuable contribution.
We’re talking grandparents – and, in particular, grandmothers.
Associate Professor Myra Hamilton, from the University of Sydney, says grandmothers deserve acknowledgment for the efforts they make to keep Australian mothers working, “often to the detriment of their own work and financial security”.
Nine reports that Assoc. Prof. Hamilton’s newly published research reveals that 70 per cent of grandmothers have changed their working hours so they can look after their grandchildren. Half of grandmothers have cut back on their working hours to help their offspring work more.
“And one in five grandmothers changed jobs just so they could fulfil their childcare responsibilities,” says Assoc. Prof. Hamilton.
And more grandmothers are working, she says, revealing that between 2010 and 2020, women aged between 60 and 69 accounted for the largest increases for female labour force participation rates. Women aged between 70 and 74 weren’t far behind, she says.
Childcare search site careforkids.com.au says 26 per cent of all children in childcare are usually cared for by their grandparents because childcare places are at a premium and the cost of care is rising.
Read more: The long distance grandparent
Dr Margo Lowy, a psychotherapist and author, told kidspot.com.au that grandparent care far outstrips other forms of childcare in Australia.
“This is the dilemma going on across homes all over the country right now,” she said. “You don’t want to say no to your daughter; you love your grandkids, and you want to help. But there is always that niggling thought at the back of your mind – one you cannot admit to your own kids – that this is meant to be YOUR time to enjoy a game of golf or two, go on long coastal walks with your friends or just spend a few nights away on a whim.
“Yes, you love your grandkids. Yes, you want to spend time with them, but that time should be made up of snuggles and painting, of secret treats and trips to the playground, not picking up a tired and grizzly child from childcare, cooking endless meals and snacks and cleaning many dirty bottoms.”
Then there is the problem that the grandmother’s care “is never quite right by our daughters”.
“I’ve studied the field of mothering for more than a decade and spoken to many groups of women, both young and old,” says Dr Lowy. “I see these problems time and time again. We want to help but our help is never quite enough, and it’s never quite good enough.”
Dr Lowy advises grandparents to talk to other grandparents in the same situation to “take the stress off your day”.
And honest communication is necessary with the parents. All parties must know what is and is not negotiable.
“Don’t stress! It’s not the end of the world if a toddler is late for kindergarten, or little Johnny misses the first 10 minutes of his soccer game. Make sure you get your chores and errands done when looking after the grandkids – most love a ride in the trolley at the supermarket – and finally, and most importantly, carve an hour or two out of your busy day to just sit, read and cuddle your grandchild.
“All jobs have their difficult parts but also very rewarding moments, and those are the ones you need to hang onto as you see your grandchildren grow into beautiful little humans.”
Read more: Fun things to do with the grandkids
Ideally, before using a grandparent for childcare, all parties will consider exactly where and when the care will take place; whether they will be paid; what are the non-negotiables about discipline, nutrition, sleep, routine and other contentious topics.
Expert site careforkids.com.au says to also consider the following:
- are the grandparents physically up to the job?
- are the grandparents mentally and emotionally up to the job?
- would a regular childcare commitment impinge on their lifestyle and personal commitments leading to feelings of resentment?
Agree on the ground rules and make sure everyone agrees on what the commitment entails.
“Grandparents have plenty of experience when it comes to raising kids and you are living proof of that! However, parenting involves many personal decisions and you and your relative’s ideas on the best ways to bring up the grandkids may not always marry up,” careforkids says.
Grandparent carers and non-parent carers may be eligible to receive the following: Family Tax Benefit Part A, Family Tax Benefit Part B, Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy, Foster Health Care Card.
Have you undertaken unpaid childcare? Should grandparents receive payment for their childcare? Have your say in the comments section below.
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