Is too much expected of you as grandparents?

Do your children rely on you (or expect to rely on you) to look after their children? It’s not a

Do your children rely on you (or expect to rely on you) to look after their children? It’s not a new thing, but there have been many stories of how children are using you as a drop off point for grandkids while they head off to work, a romantic dinner or even a weekend away.

Sure, as a grandparent you want to help out with your grandchildren, but you don’t want to be taken for granted.

“Sometimes it seems as though my son and his wife view our every visit as an open invitation for them to escape — sometimes literally — and leave us with their four little ones,” Kathy* tells Starts at 60.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandchildren, and enjoy spending time with them, but when my son was a baby I never dreamed of asking my parents, or my husband’s parents, to take care of our son while we headed off on a cheeky weekend away.”

In Australia, it’s estimated that 50 per cent of children aged under three are regularly cared for by their grandparents. This free childcare adds a whopping $1.26 billion our economy.

Unfortunately for some grandparents, taking care of a young family means that retirement is effectively put on hold.

“For many, retirement aspirations include spending more time with lifelong friends, starting a new hobby, finding new interests or packing up for extended time abroad with loved ones,” National Seniors explains.

“However, contemporary studies reveal that a small (but increasing) number of Australians are spending their later years raising grandchildren, instead of pursuing retirement goals.”

New York City psychotherapist and grandmother Florence Falk says there is no question children today expect more from their parents than you ever did from your own parents. However, she admits this is largely because the parent-child relationship is a lot more relaxed and open now than it was with her own parents.

“But such a high level of expectation can put a real strain on grandparents,” she adds.

“In my case, I have to remind myself 20 times a day that I’m the grandmother, not the babysitter. My goal is to help out as much as I possibly can, stopping short of the point where I start feeling resentful, completely drained, or out of touch with my own needs. There’s a fine line,” she says, “and it takes constant vigilance not to cross it.”

Do you agree? What advice do you have for grandparents feeling overwhelmed with responsibility?

  1. Beverley  

    I raised this question 4 years ago now and haven’t seen my son our grandchildren since.
    I was finding it difficult to have the children then aged 5 1/2 & 2 1/2 years old, it was 7am when my son dropped them off. My role was to get breakfast for then and at 8:45 thake one to school. Then the other for the day, it was great fun and sometimes a little tricky as the younger one was asleep when it was time for school pick up.
    After school it was games, dinner and bath they were collected at 8:30 pm ready for bed. After parents had dinner together and played basket ball.
    Whilst, I loved having them and still would love to have them or be able to see them.
    One needs to be very careful, how you have this conversation, as I would not like to see others fall into this situation.
    Letters, phone calls and counselling has not been able to undo what was done.
    Tread carefully would be my advice

  2. Jackie Nicol  

    You are lucky to have the joy of having grandchildren in your life. Some of us are not so fortunate. Maybe you don’t realise the treasure that you have.

    • Lynne Highfield  

      I understand that some of us are not fortunate enough to have grandchildren and although I dearly love my own two littlies, because of 2 lots of back surgery, a broken ankle and being a Type 1 diabetic, I find I am only able to assist with childcare for short periods of time and this makes me feel guilty. Caring for littlies when one is older does often put a strain on the grandparents and we should be open and honest enough to discuss this with our adult children.

      • Wiso  

        I agree Lynne. It is one thing to help out as much as possible, but it is quite another to be expected to do it all the time. It then becomes a chore and not a choice.

        One would hope that your adult children would be mature and reasonable enough to have this conversation without offense or misunderstanding.

  3. I am an adult child who has family who are inactive grandparents and it is very sad for my children missing out on a binding relationship with their grandparents because they are too busy. I respect any grandparents who make any effort and understand that there are boundaries that need to be made for their own health and well being. Grandparents who help with their grandchildren in any form of assistance should be appreciated and rewarded for their goodness and not have their generosity abused.

  4. Nell Hamilton  

    My husband and I are retired. We have our grandchildren two days a week including overnight. (For the next three months we will have them three days a week.) We also regularly pop to Sydney, 2 hours away, to give our other child a break with a 6 month old. We have been doing this for over 6 years and have about 5 year to go. It does get tiring. We do not get paid. We love to have them, but the moment we feel we are bring taken for granted, the joy will go out of

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