One of the genuine delights of being retired is having more time to spend with your grandchildren. When planning your retirement, this can be a rosy view of playing with laughing toddlers at times to suit you – and then handing them back at the end of each fun-filled day!
However, the reality can be quite different. The summer holidays are almost upon us, and kids will be breaking up for six weeks of sun, fun – and childcare. As their working parents struggle to juggle jobs and care, you may find you’re looking after grandchildren more often, and for far longer, than you initially planned for. Those well-laid plans for lazy days in the garden may be displaced by bored grandkids demanding to be entertained during yet another summer downpour.
Summer childcare gaps – and costs
Only last week, the Coram Holiday Childcare Survey highlighted both the rising cost and “significant gaps in the availability of holiday childcare” in England.
”A place at a holiday club now costs an average of £157 per week, which is 2.3 times higher than what parents pay for an after-school club during term time. This means that families face costs of £943 for six weeks of holiday childcare for each school age child.”
Not just the summer holidays
In truth, childcare is a struggle pretty much year-round if your adult children have jobs and young kids of their own. According the Gov website, in 2015:
– “1 in 4 working families and 1 in 3 working mothers use grandparents for childcare
– 63% of all grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare
– 1 in 5 grandmothers provide at least 10 hours a week of childcare”
Part of this need will be driven be economic necessity. According to Business in the Community (BITC);
“Full-time nursery for children under the age of two is costing some parents more than half of one person’s weekly take-home pay.”
Even when the grandkids are at school, filling the childcare ‘gaps’ in their parents’ day can cost 17% of one person’s average weekly take-home pay.
The rise of granny daycare
All of these factors contribute to why so many retired people find that their retirement can turn into becoming “granny daycare”. There are an estimated 14 million grandparents in the UK, and almost two thirds of them look after their grandchildren on a regular basis.The latest survey by Unity Mutual suggests that:
- 25% of grandparents provide up to 15 hours childcare a week
- 10% are “on hand” for full-time childcare for their grandchildren
This represents a massive saving of approximately £6.8 billion for working parents in childcare costs, but a lot of retired people in effect working as childminders.
“Can you look after the kids please?”
The emotional pressure to look after grandchildren can be almost overwhelming, especially when your adult children say something like “You’re retired and have all the time in the world.”
However, as one “silver saviour” grandparent said in a Guardian article:
“The most important thing to remember is that if you don’t want to look after your grandchildren, you don’t have to. It really is that simple. Don’t promise anything – you’re not obliged to. It’s their journey as parents now, not yours.”
The truth is that looking after young children can be physically tiring, sapping both your time and your energy. It can also be expensive with extra food to buy, trips out to pay for, fuel to drop them back home, etc. You may not want to take that all on just at the point when you want to take things a bit easier.
Of course, by the time you retire, your grandchildren may be teenagers, and looking after them can be equally challenging. As one member of the Gransnet forum explained:
“Our DGD is staying with us and frankly it’s very hard work! … DH and I appear to be regarded as: cook, cleaner, chauffeur, housekeeper and general factotum. They show no interest in us or our lives: we try hard to show an interest in theirs. … Will we ever again see the lovely young person we used to know?”
Grandparenting in retirement; top tips
The general consensus is that you need to talk through this as a family before committing to anything. Top tips includes:
- Working out when and where you will be looking after the children.
- What happens during the holidays – theirs and yours.
- Setting up a trial period with no obligation to continue.
- Agreeing on how much are you ‘expected’ to do, especially if you go to their house. This might include, cooking, cleaning, feeding pets, collecting from school, overnight care, etc.
- Setting down who pays for what, so you’re not giving twice in terms of time and money.
- Being flexible, as you might need to revise arrangements.
- Deciding if you would be happy to look after a sick child, especially if your own health is not the best.
- Respecting your children’s view on child-raising which might not always completely align with your own.
- Preserving your family time together outside of childcare hours.
Want some help planning your time in retirement?
Contact me to discuss how to create a retirement plan that suits you, your family – and your grandchildren.