Give the grandparents a break - they need it
Published 14/04/2015 | 02:30
Most parents use them as the fallback position because they know that they won't say 'no.' That's grandparents for you.
For most people, this involves calling on the grandparents to collect the children because you are running late, or to take them for the occasional afternoon because there is a football match/lunch you must attend.
But it seems from new research that because of the high cost of childcare, grandparents are not just an occasional emergency option, but expected to become full-time, unpaid childminders for a generation under financial pressure.
Some grandparents (20pc), researchers in Trinity College have found, are providing over 60 hours of childcare per month. The unintended consequence is that this group can be stressed and suffer from depressive symptoms.
The majority of grandparents want to help out, but do they want a full-time child-minding job in their retirement; and are they equipped, emotionally or physically, for what is, after all, a demanding job?
Of course, nobody wants to end the blurred lines where grandparents, like all family members, will step in when an emergency arises, or even for short periods on a regular basis after which they can hand back the kids and get on with enjoying their retirement.
What it does point to, once again, is that we have not yet worked out a suitable, cost-effective, community-based model for childcare.
It is not easy to come up with a solution, as different groups have different needs. But the fact is that many parents seriously struggle until their children reach school-going age, and indeed afterwards, and that is why some of them come to over-rely on their own parents.
The Government is planning a new model of childcare based around the school system, but it remains to be seen if it will work, or indeed if it can do anything to alleviate the estimated €30,000-a-year costs for two children in full-time childcare.
In the meantime, many will continue to rely on grandparents for a vital baby-minding service.