I recently heard a radio interview on K-LOVE that a mom was taken back by the grandma charging to watch her child. While the daughter in law acknowledged that she was grateful to have such a great support system for her child, she wasn't expecting to pay her mother in law for child care and this caused hurt feelings. This got me thinking and made me sad for both parties that something so joyous as watching your grandkids could cause so much hurt as well.
There are many reasons nowadays that grandparents watch their grandchildren full-time: child care shortages, cost of child care, being a single parent and knowing that their children are with someone that loves them to name a few. However, should grandparents be expected to watch their grandchildren for free?
Before you begin watching your grandchildren, communication is key to expectations and no one getting their feelings hurt. Let's face it, watching a grandchild (no matter the age) can be tiring and exhausting but yet so rewarding as well.
Here are some things to consider:
Time - be clear with parents about the time commitment you can and can't do (days of the week, pick up times, etc.).
Essentials - Parents should be providing the essential items: diapers, wipes, food & toys to name a few. Food, transportation or equipment (i.e., high chair, crib, toys, etc) for a child can get quite expensive so talk with your grandchild's parents about providing money to offset costs - especially if finances are tight. I have found that alot of items you can either buy second hand or obtain for free on Facebook marketplace or an app I use called Freebie Alerts.
Contingency Plans - there should be back up care for the child for when grandparents or grandkids are ill or when grandparents want to do a getaway.
Grandchildren's behavior, rules and routines - discuss discipline methods as they have changed considerably over generations, rules and the child's routines.
While there's not great statistics on how many families in America rely on grandparents for full-time child care, some reports estimate up to 30%. Having said that, I found an article that shows the benefits of kids living close to their grandparents.
Grandparents make incredible babysitters - they are individuals that can be trusted to look after the kids when parent are out taking care of other important matters (work, date).
It helps combat future ageism - studies have found that adolescents who have regular, positive contact with their grandparents show fewer signs of prejudice and discrimination against older people.
They can serve as a guiding light during rough times - grandparents are great at guiding kids in the right direction when things are stressful at home and can serve as a safe harbor for kids.
Grandparents have the right words for every situation - they are a treasure trove of wisdom and grandkids will receive the greatest gift that grandparents have to offer - their knowledge. They've been through all of the ups and downs before so no matter whether it's a good or a bad day, they always know exactly what to say.
They can be important role models when there is an absentee parent - many families these days are single-parent households and there can be pain associated with the loss or absence of a parent. Grandparents can really help to fill that gap. No grandchild is going to say no to an additional person that loves them playing a bigger role in their life.
Grandkids develop a stronger link to the past - having the grandparents close by means that the kids will have a direct window into previous generations. Not only to hear stories of how things used to be but to see it for themselves as well.
Good listeners are important to have around - grandparents are the best listeners of all. A grandma or grandpa is often someone kids are willing to confide in. They can discuss their crazy ideas and thoughts with a trusted adult who can then steer them in the right direction, making sure that they stay on the right course.
Depression is reduced in all groups - both grandparents and grandkids benefit from having each other in their lives. A study from The Gerontologist shows that greater affinity between grandparents and grandchildren resulted in reduced depressive symptoms across the board.
Grandparents can teach beliefs and values - in addition to the standard moral guidance from parents, grandparents have an additional set of values to impart. Hearing different perspectives helps to open their minds to varying world views.
They offer an endless amount of love - a grandparent's love is something to be cherished and embraced. It is unconditional and kids can trust their grandparents will be there for them even when things are changing everywhere they look.
Grandparents are both a form of social support and a safety net - during the teenage years when life is getting increasingly volatile, grandparents can be a source of reliable stability that makes kids feel secure.
Active grandparents are more likely to live longer - grandparents who are regularly involved in the lives of their grandkids have a higher chance of being alive five years down the road. In addition, a study demonstrates that grandparents who babysat at least one day per week showed higher cognitive test scores than those who didn't.
Personally, I have watched a couple of my grandkids full-time and currently I watch my 7 1/2 month old granddaughter. Are my days exhausting and full? Yes! However, they are also so enriched and full of so much joy!
There are so many things I feel I missed when I was raising our children because life gets in the way. As a Gigi, any time I spend with my grandchildren, I am looking through a different lens. For instance, as a Gigi, I do know how quickly they grow up, I do cherish those adorable sayings or questions they might have and my patience as a Gigi is more abundant.
So, getting back to where I began this blog - should grandparents get paid to watch their grandchildren? There is no right answer and every circumstance is different. So, communication is essential between parents and grandparents to ensure noone's feelings get hurt and parents please remember to appreciate the time and love that the grandparents pour into your child. Yes, we love to love on them and to make a difference in their lives but we also want to feel appreciated by all!
I watch my grandchildren because I want each one of them to know how very special they are to their Gigi and to always know how much I love them!