Babysitting grandchildren - When to say 'no'

When parents return to work and face the reality of sourcing childcare, beloved grandparents can seem like the obvious choice. But the choice works both ways – if being tied to weekly childcare isn’t how you hoped to enjoy your retirement, then you MUST be honest about that. Feeling put-upon and resentful is the last thing you want for any of your relationships.

It's OK to say 'no'

While we’d all like extra help, none of us are entitled to commandeer another’s time or energy. Saying that you have other ambitions for your life, after x years in the workplace or rearing your own family, expressing concerns about your physical capacity, or simply saying, ‘I love you all, but no thank you’ is perfectly reasonable.

However, if the thought of a return to nappies and nap times fills you with excitement, then the first thing you need to do is establish some clear ground-rules. For example:

  • How many hours and days are you willing or able to dedicate?
  • Where will the care take place? Your place or theirs? And if yours, who’s going to equip your home with everything children need?
  • If in their home, are they expecting to return to a clean home or the inevitable chaos of a day entertaining little terrors?
  • Who will provide food and, if you, what are their rules around diet?
  • What are the expectations around comforting, sleep and discipline? Around acceptable activities and levels of supervision? 

These are hot and heavy topics for many parents, so it’s best to iron out any differences up front.

Doing it your way

Knowing quite clearly what you want, and what you feel capable of providing – and then being very clear with your own children about what is reasonable - is the best way to ensure that you live your retirement your way.

In any case grandparenting – like parenting – can prove a minefield. Whether you feel there’s no such thing as ‘too much’ or prefer cuddling and spoiling to regular care, it’s important to manage those conversations sensitively and clearly.

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