Grandparents who are considering becoming regular child care providers for their grandchildren have financial issues
to consider, but must consider other factors as well. Grandparent child care providers will have to make some sacrifices, and they should consider how these sacrifices will impact their quality of life before making the commitment.
1. Realize that you are making a commitment. Once you take on the responsibility of child care for your grandchildren, you are obligated to continue for a reasonable period of time. The parents will need time to make other arrangements if you back out, and children are sometimes upset by such changes. If you have never taken care of your grandchildren for an extended period of time, consider a trial week or weekend before you make the commitment.
2. Be sure you know what you’re getting into. Whether you’re considering being a full-time caregiver or an after-school caregiver, be sure you are aware of the hours involved. Know whether you’ll be providing transportation to and from school, lessons and play dates. Lots of young people in fast-track jobs must put in extended hours, sometimes without much warning. Others are frequently on call. Decide how much you are willing to do and establish the parameters before going ahead with the arrangement.
3. Analyze the assistance that will be available. If your spouse or life partner will be available and willing to share the duties, child care becomes much more feasible. Beware, however, of partners who say they will help but who have never pitched in before. Again, a trial run will tell you how much helping they are willing to do. Other friends or relatives who can pinch hit can also be lifesavers, but be sure that they have received the seal of approval from the parents before planning to call on them.
4. Assess your health and stamina. If taking care of your grandchildren on a regular basis will compromise your own health, you won’t be doing anyone any favors by taking on the job. Maintaining good health means having time to exercise and eat healthful foods. While being with the grands can provide exercise, it may not be of the type that is best for you. Lifting toddlers can be especially hard on aging backs.
5. Think about the germs you’ll be exposed to. Children can be little germ and virus factories. Many older people have some resistance to common illnesses from a lifetime of exposure, but if you have a compromised immune system or impaired respiratory system, you may not want to put yourself at risk.
6. Be prepared for the impact on your social life. If you have a group of friends who don’t have child care responsibilities, they may not want to be constantly in the company of your grandchildren. If you have your grandchildren during the day, those spur-of-the-moment lunch dates or afternoon card games are sure to suffer. In addition, you may be too tired for much evening socializing.
7. Consider the impact on your ability to travel. Many grandparents anticipate using their free time and extra funds to see new sights. Others find that travel doesn’t hold the charms it once did. It’s important to figure out which group you fall into before making a child care commitment.
8. Be aware that other family members may resent the arrangement. Resentment is especially apt to surface if you are providing child care for one of your children and not for another. Many times factors such as distance keep you from being an equal opportunity babysitter, but that doesn’t mean that the siblings won’t squabble about it. If you are providing child care for one set of grandchildren, you will be less available to the other grandchildren. In addition, if you have parents of advanced age, you’ll be less available to take care of their needs, and that may foster resentment from them or from other family members who have to do your part.
9. Think about your marital relationship. If you are married or in a serious relationship, be sure to have a thorough dialogue with your spouse or partner before taking on this responsibility. Many empty-nesters find that their marital relationships become stronger and closer once their household is reduced to two. They may enjoy more frequent intimacy. A commitment to take care of grandchildren could be detrimental to that new closeness. On the other hand, it could bring new vitality to your relationship by getting both of you out of any rut you've fallen into.
10. Be sure that you are making a willing commitment. Don’t allow anyone to coerce you or use a guilt trip to persuade you. Children are the responsibility of their parents, not their grandparents. On the other hand, most of us are willing to step in if there is dire financial need or other circumstances beyond the control of the parents, especially if the arrangement is temporary.
11. Accept that your relationship with your grandchildren may change. If you’ve been the indulgent grandparent, you will have to accept the burden of providing discipline and structure for your grandchildren. On the subject of discipline, you’ll need to have a clear understanding with the parents about what strategies are acceptable. After mulling it over, you may decide that you prefer to be the grandparent who hands out the goodies instead of the one who lays down the law. On the other hand, being a caregiver for your grandchildren can create relationships of unparalleled closeness. Just be certain that you enter into the arrangement with your eyes, as well as your arms, wide open.