Grandparents: Stop The Free Day-Care

Did you know that 63% of grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare?!

We’re currently on holiday at my in-law’s house. Our children LOVE visiting their grandma and grandpa – it’s always a chilled-out, meandering, rustic, back to nature sort of holiday, punctuated with feeding the chickens, donning a bee suit to collect honey, and pond-dipping. It’s a far cry from our chaotic, busy lives back home!

Grandparents Have Ambitions Too

All that being said, our kids’ grandparents certainly aren’t sitting back from life. Far from it, in fact. They’ve grabbed this new child-free period of life with both hands – they’re reaching for dreams that they’ve previously been unable to fulfil due to grandparents sombrerochildcare demands. My mother-in-law now has her own flourishing arts business. My father-in-law has gone back to university to do a master’s degree. After a lifetime dedicated to successful careers and the duties of family life, they now have the opportunity to pursue their hobbies.

Grandparent Day-Care Has Become The Norm

We live a long way from both sets of grandparents. I can’t tell you the number of times I have bitterly resented that fact, as I see other young families sharing childcare responsibilities with their parents and wider family.

We have raised our children alone.

As I sit here, though, sipping my diet coke and peering into my mother-in-law’s pottery studio, I can’t help but think “Good on them!” Somewhere along the line, it has become expected that grandparents will become the day-care service for working parents. But why should they?! They’ve worked hard to raise their own children, making sacrifices for them to give them the best start in life, then they snatch a few short child-free years, before suddenly then being expected to give up everything for their children’s children as well. No way!

Give Grandparents A Break

Let’s stop being so selfish as a generation, and let’s give our parents our blessing in doing something for themselves for a change! They will always love their grandchildren, and their help is greatly appreciated, but maybe we shouldn’t expect it on-tap 24-7!



A few people have commented to say that this has come across as quite a judgemental post and that grandparents WANT to help out. I just wanted to say that I totally agree – grandparents do a fantastic job! And their willingness to help out is a life-line for a lot of families. What I was trying to get at with this post is that what they do is a huge favour and so they should be able to pick and choose how much they do and when, rather than having it dictated to them by us. I hope that makes it clearer.

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  1. 1
    (Mostly) Yummy Mummy

    Like you, we have raised our children alone but we have four and it hasn’t always been easy. My childhood was the complete opposite and my own grandparents helped a lot with childcare and I have to say that I loved that time with them. Now that they’re gone, I’m glad I have those memories to look back on. I’m quite sure that those grandparents that can help actually want to? I know I will want to when the time comes if I can! I don’t think for one minute that parents see it as just free childcare, nor do I think that grandparents feel put on for helping out. I think it must be great to have that help from extended family. It isn’t how things have worked out for my children but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see the advantages. Surely that’s better than farming them out to strangers?

    • 2
      Lucy At Home

      Oh I think grandparents do a fantastic job! I honestly wish we lived closer to our parents so that they could see our kids more and I know they would love to be able to help us out with childcare, etc. What I was trying to get at is that I see a lot of people who EXPECT their parents to help out or who take it a bit for granted. I hear people complaining that their parents are on holiday AGAIN so they’ve got to make alternative childcare arrangements. That seems a bit unfair to me – haven’t grandparents worked hard all their lives and had work and childcare duties of their own – I don’t think it’s fair to tie them down if they want to pursue some of their own interests. Lucy

  2. 3

    Interesting post. While I don’t agree with farming the kids out 24/7, if they offer the help then why shouldn’t we take it? Times have changed massively over the last generation or 2. Unfortunately, in my circumstance we as a family are unable to manage a household etc on 1 income, thus I have to work, albeit part time but still we rely on my income. I’m very lucky in that I have my parents who live 5 minutes down the road and are both retired and like to help out when they can. I certainly don’t take that for granted. With the rising cost of living compounded with expensive child care costs, if we can keep it ‘in house’ as it were then we certainly will. The thought of my son being in a nursery et al with strangers on a day to day basis has never sat well with me and I consider myself one of the lucky ones who has family nearby to help out when they can. Every family and their situation is different and I for one wouldn’t judge anybody on their decisions. #sharingthebloglove

    • 4
      Lucy At Home

      Oh dear – that’s not what I meant all! I think grandparents are amazing, and I would DEFINITELY choose to send my kids to grandparents over a nursery if I could.

      What I was trying to say is that grandparents should be allowed to say what days / hours they want to have the children without the parents complaining. The grandparents are doing a massive favour and so should be able to pick and choose how much they do and when.

      Thanks for your comment. I will look at my post again and see if it needs rewording. L

  3. 5
    Cal at Family Makes

    Even without further clarification, I can totally see where you’re coming from. I think many people, including my own sibling, abuse the services of Grandparents, many of whom are still working themselves, others who are actually quite elderly and past the age where they should be running around after little ones. Grandparents often feel like it is a way to show or prove their love for their Grandchildren, which is really not necessary. I do, however, really appreciate the help I do get from my parents, but would never assume it to be available 24/7. Sorry if that’s a bit ranty – I just feel quite strongly! #SharingtheBlogLove

    • 6
      Lucy At Home

      Oh good I’m glad you understood what meant 🙂 I think you’re right that they want to show their love but then as parents we need to be loving to the grandparents and let them have a break if they want to. Thanks for commenting. L

  4. 7

    I’m on board with this! I watch my in laws have two of the grandchildren on a very regular basis and it takes it’s toll. I don’t see how it can be as magical and fun when it’s so regular. We have ours babysat, but not all the time. When I was working we had a childminder. I still do for my eldest (free hours for 3 year olds) as it means she gets to socialise and be her own person away from me for a little time.
    I much prefer when the grandparents ask us if we’d like a night out as they want to take our two rather than the other way around. X

    • 9
      Lucy At Home

      Yes we’ve been fortunate enough to have the odd night away while the kiddies have a ‘sleepover’ at Nana’s house. It’s so exciting (for everyone involved – kids, parents, grandparents). I think it’s fine to use grandparents if they want to help out though, but you have to stick to their terms. Thank you for your comment. L

  5. 10
    Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons

    I think the difficulty probably comes with the misunderstanding of expectations on each side. Sadly I am that bit too far from my parents for them to offer any childcare, but they do this for my sister 2 days a week, having offered when she fell pregnant.

    The problem I see is that parents want to help and want to see the grandchildren for some of the time, but often don’t understand how nurseries work (i.e. you can’t just book in for an extra session if they happen to be on holiday, which my parents are, a lot), that it’s actually more cost effective to have them in nursery 5 days a week rather than 4 and have the grandparents have them for one day. There is also the fact that looking after a young child is exhausting – a fact that I think a lot of grandparents forget when they make the offer, and by the time they realise they feel it’s too late to say they’re finding it tough. I think it’s important to be able to talk honestly and openly about the situation if grandparent childcare is something that you want to take up. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove – I like a thought provoking post!

    • 11
      Lucy At Home

      Yes I can definitely appreciate that being left in the lurch when grandparents are away must be frustrating. I think you’re right – when both sides have different expectations, things can be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Being open and honest about how the arrangement is working / not working is the key. It’s just much harder to have that conversation with family than, say, a professional childminder. Thank you for commenting. L

  6. 12
    Laura - dear bear and beany

    When Alice was 13 mths old I was offered a job 3 days a week and when deciding if I should take it or not, looking a finances etc. Both our parents offered independently to look after Alice 2 days a week. We were amazed and truly thankful. They shared the 3 days between them for 10 months. This meant no nursery fees for us and it also meant that we could afford to have a 2nd baby sooner. I will always be grateful to them for offering, the word their being offering. I would never have asked them, as it is their retirement, something they have worked hard for. But their view is they are so pleased that they are retired to be able to spend this quality time with their grandchildren and the relationship they have with my girls is so special. I think it should be the grandparents choice and we should respect that whatever their choice may be. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove Laura x

  7. 13
    Karen : TwoTinyHands

    I was formulating a response and then saw your edit. I’m in the same camp as you sort of, our parents live a long way away (apart from my Mum), and I stay at home to look after our son. We manage on the one income and have a fairly easy life. I love the fact that my parents go off and do what they want. I said sort of before because my Mum who is 30 minutes away would love to look after my son but I won’t let her. She has a busy social life and works amongst this so is always here there and everywhere, her health isn’t the best for all the running around she does. I just worry something would happen to her while looking after my son that I might as well just look after him myself!!! Sorry for the long comment, and a bit wittery!! #sharethebloglove

    • 14
      Lucy At Home

      Not a wittery comment at all – I love getting detailed responses! I can see that grandparents wanting to help out when it isn’t very convenient could be quite an awkward problem to have, but well done you for doing what you feel is right for your son. Thank you for your comment. L

  8. 15
    In Conversation With - Lucy at Home - Over Heaven's Hill

    […] Grandparents: Stop the Free Daycare – this post definitely spoke to me. My parents are retired but consistently, and rightly so, say that they have reared their kids and are done. They help out whenever my sister or I are stuck but they are not there for consistent daycare. A is cared for by B’s aunt, which is pretty much the same thing and I often feel horrendous that we may be taking advantage of her. […]

  9. 16
    MayB Today

    I couldn’t agree more, controversial yes but we shouldn’t assume that our parents want to spend their retirement looking after our little darlings. After all parenting is the hardest job I have ever had, endless love gets me through. Love this post. Great stuff xx

    • 17
      Lucy At Home

      Exactly! I mean it’s fab if they want to help but it shouldn’t be assumed, and our parents shouldn’t feel guilty if they have other things that they want to do or if they have to limits on how much childcare they can offer. Thanks for commenting. L

  10. 18

    Please don’t change your wording. I completely agree with you! This is the twilight years for many grandparents and after bringing you into the world, nurturing and nourishing every element of your life and helping you grow so you can become an independent young person with a family, it then is the parents time to take the reigns and do the same for their children. Yes, grandparents will help etc and that’s all brilliant, but they deserve and have earned time for themselves again. Great post! #bloggerclubuk

    • 19
      Lucy At Home

      Yeah that’s exactly what I was getting at. They’ve earned a break, really. And, as you say, they’ve looked after us ask that time so that we are capable of looking after our own children. Thank you for your comment. L

  11. 20

    I live far away from my family and truly resent the fact that fact. I know their help would be invaluable. My in laws however help out loads with our little ones. They don’t commit to set days per se and we rely on nursery for childcare for the eldest but I really couldn’t be without their help. They give me a few hours a week to myself to do things I can’t normally or for the OH and I to have a few hours out together. I know they enjoy it but also aren’t bound by the commitment of a set schedule – hopefully they have the best of both worlds… #bloggerclubuk

  12. 23
    Sarah - @threedinners

    All of the grandparents live too far away to be really useful and I am v jealous of people who can just call upon their parents all the time. And my parents would really love to be more hands on with my children and really be a part of their lives, not just for ‘high days and holidays’. But yes, just assuming that your parent will manage all your childcare for free is not right! #bloggerclubuk

    • 24
      Lucy At Home

      Yes my parents would love to be more hands on too (and it would definitely help us out) but I do like how exciting it is for the girls when we go to see their grandparents because it’s such a treat for them 🙂

  13. 25

    I really don’t know what I would do without the help and support that I get from my parents. They look after Cygnet two days one week and three days the next. Without them I wouldn’t be able to work. I wouldn’t be able to live. They are also a great emotional support for me as a single mum.

    I often feel guilty that they should charge me, or they want to do something else with their time, but they argue that they see looking after my son as a privilege for them. They want to get to know him and to have a really good relationship with their grandson.

    All I can say is that I am immensely privileged that they see looking after my son as a privilege.

    thanks for your post. Pen x #bloggerclubUK

    • 26
      Lucy At Home

      Aaaw I’m so glad you’ve got your parents for support. I think it’s really great when they want to help out and everyone is happy. It’s lovely that they see looking after your son as a privilege. You’ve obviously spoken to them about what they want, and that’s what this post is about really – not expecting or demanding anything. And now everyone is happy with the arrangement so that’s fab! Thank you for leaving a comment. L

  14. 27

    Thank you for this post! I COMPLETELY agree. It’s ridiculous to me how many grandparents provide so much free childcare now. I get that some parents can’t afford childcare but does this make it right? I know many families who can easily afford childcare but send their kids to mum and dad four or five times a week just so they can splurge their money on other luxuries. I know it’s controversial but honestly it’s wrong in my opinion. One or two days a week MAYBE, if your parents willingly voluteer, enjoy it, have the time and energy etc but not five days! And they shouldn’t be forced into it!

    All T’s grandparents live close by and although they adore babysitting for us I would never ask them to provide free childcare, and frankly, I know my mum would have no qualms in saying no. It enrages me, truth be told, and MASSIVE well done for blogging about it 😀 #bloggerclubuk

    • 28
      Lucy At Home

      Yes I think that’s really sad when parents expect free childcare from their parents but then have loads of luxuries. I think that our parents have made enough sacrifices for us. If they really WANT to do it, then that’s different, but it shouldn’t be expected. Thanks for commenting. L

  15. 30
    You've Changed; Are We Still Compatible? — Lucy At Home

    […] got married, had 2 children, and bought my own home. My parents have moved to a completely different part of the country, with new jobs, new friends, and a new lifestyle. My younger brothers have left home now too, and […]

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