Helping the kids out - obligation or fun?

The school holidays are just over, and grandparents everywhere are breathing a sigh of gentle relief as the weeks where extra support is required by working parents comes to an end. My step mum was the first to admit, after a week of grandkid love, she was ready for a rest this week, and some time alone.

I have to admit, my parents have been a godsend over the last week, taking my three kids to their house for five days, along with three of my sister’s children and giving them memorable school holidays that they will carry with them for their whole future. Their help allowed us all to work a little longer and a little harder than we might have been able to otherwise and let’s face it – the kids did not feel ripped off at all. Their grandparents, my dad and stepmum make such a terrific effort with them. Simple things that make kids day like trips to the beach, days playing board games with interested grown ups, lunch at McDonalds, and swims at the local heated pool make for loads of chatter afterwards, and the time spent with cousins unhindered by having to go home later on is priceless. But how many people are as lucky as I am, with parents craving the opportunity to be a help to their kids on the holidays? How many of you embrace the opportunity to be a hands-on part of your grandkids holidays and your kids support network?

My family have not always been that helpful. In fact, my mother in law will remember the strong words she uttered when I had a toddler and wanted to go back to work. “I don’t want to become a regular babysitter for you while my body is fit and healthy . I have too much to do!” she said. At the time I was mortified that she didn’t want to spend every waking moment with her first grandchild. But now that young girl is nearly 12 I understand exactly what she meant. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to help out, or be an awesome part of the kids’ life, she just didn’t want to be the crutch we leant on when we wanted to build our careers after becoming parents and by pushing back on us then, she also taught us to be self-sufficient. Now we only need the extra support as a luxury moment or when something really goes wrong in life like ambulance trips or major dilemmas. The relationships our parents have all managed to build through their “crisis only” and “occasional school holiday fun trips” approach to helping out means we don’t overuse them as babysitters, nor take them for granted, and we put in place a longer term strategy for our everyday childcare needs.

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It works now, because bless them, our parents feel relaxed enough about hanging out with the grandkids to ring us and offer to help rather than us having to beg for support and impinge on their life and lifestyle. And, even better, the grandkids now demand to go to Nanny and Poppos on holidays like it is part of their best-times dreams and ring them to ask when they can come. It makes it fun for all to know it is happening for the love of it, rather than the obligation.

All our parents are over 60, and frankly, they are at the point where I can appreciate them living their best lives right now.   I am thankful for their help, but more than that I am grateful they look forward to being helpful for the right reasons rather than because I beg.

Did you look after your grandkids on the school holidays?   How does it work in your family – is it obligation or leisure?