Fiona Ness: 'Granny crisis awaits for next generation'
The infertility crisis is one thing, but what about the granny crisis? Because, mark my words, it's coming too. As the national trend for having children later in life continues, at 42 I'm already worried that I'm never going to make it to grannyhood - or if I do, that I'll be too old to be of any use to my over-worked, over-stressed offspring in helping them care for their families. And where will we all be then?
The latest 'Growing Up in Ireland' survey reports how grandparents are an essential part of family life, especially when it comes to childcare. Moreover, it notes that almost 90pc of nine-year-olds reported having a close relationship with at least one grandparent.
Yet if my children have children at the age I had children, I'll be 74 when my youngest child's first child is born. And don't give me any tosh about 'not to worry, people today are ageing better than ever before'. The NHS is stating that stress is a massive modern medical disaster just waiting in the wings for my generation, so I can realistically expect to skip the third act and go straight to the epilogue.
"I'm starting to wonder what that pair actually do?" laughed my aunt as she brought her grandchildren homeward, along with a basket of their freshly ironed laundry and a pot of homemade stew. "That pair" are her daughter and son-and-law, for whom she is in loco parentis five days a week from 8am until 6pm - and she cooks and cleans for them too. For gran, it's an (unpaid) labour of love.
Living a combined total of 1,600km from either grandmother in our family, I've never had the benefit of 'the mam factor', but I feel its absence daily.
You know - the colleague who, when called by the school because her child is projectile vomiting in class, can say, 'My mam will collect her"; the sister who doesn't have to take a half day for a dental appointment because your mam will bring them. So on top of the many reasons I would like my own mam to be closer, I have to admit I also like the optics of it - knowing I have someone to ask for help if we're having a crisis; someone I don't first have to pay.
By the time I left home, aged 20, I was still visiting my grandparents three or four times a week. The tea set would come out, the wireless would go off and we'd discuss New Labour, old films. I'd find a few pounds in my pocket on the way home. My gran was 48 when her first grandchild was born and a great grandmother at 77. By then she was tired and four years later she was gone.
There is so much I could say here, but instead I'll say this: If we think we're going to be relying on grandparents to provide the childcare for the next generation, we'd better come up with a better plan.
All's not well in our fast-food nation
Of course, all this worry might count for naught, if we continue in thrall to what Bord Bia terms our "new, on-demand food service culture". It certainly doesn't bode well for the obesity crisis.
Earlier this week, the State food body reported that our city centres had reached "saturation point" for quick-serve restaurants, and said delivery-only kitchens were on the way.
Fast-food doyenne McDonald's stirred the pot by launching its own home delivery service too.
Are we really all too lazy, too busy, too isolated or too demotivated to prepare our own food?
But hey, at least we're still interested in the process. Apparently a new YouTube phenomenon of 'Mukbang' - a mash-up of muok-da (Korean for eating) with bang song (Korean for broadcast) - has brought millions of people the pleasure of watching people preparing food, and then eating it alone, in the privacy of their own homes.