A joint survey by Mumsnet and Gransnet found that one in five mums couldn’t afford to work without the unpaid childcare provided by their own parents. However, a third of those surveyed said that clashes with their child’s grandparents about being disciplined or how long their child is allowed to watch TV for, as just a couple of examples, is on the increase.
The Loose Women panel were on hand to discuss the survey data and to give their thoughts on this all-important, yet slightly tense matter.
Ruth had a question for the panel: if you’re getting free childcare from grandparents, do you have the right to lay down the law as opposed to paying someone to look after your children?
“Gloria, I’m assuming you’ve looked after your grandchildren?” Ruth asked.
“Of course. Between Steve and myself we have ten grandchildren, so I can speak with a little bit of authority,” Gloria said. “I want to back track a bit, as a few years ago I wrote a book about grandparenting and I had to do a lot of research for that.
“This is a very important topic. If you look at the school gates now, because of the economy, grandparents are picking up children from school. When your daughter (it tends to be mostly daughters) says ‘Mum, we just can’t afford childcare, will you look after the children?’ your inclination is that because you love your grandchildren, you say ‘of course darling, I’ll do that.’ But here’s a very important point: you have to watch that as you get older as a grandparent and you’ve retired and want to go on long holidays, or whatever you like to do, that you don’t in the end resent having to look after your grandchildren” she added.
“Research shows that the better way to do it is to say to your daughter: ‘look darling, I love you and I love my grandchild, but I can only really do two days a week’ and then as a grandparent you love those two days rather than being fraught by the end.”
Jane felt the same: “I think that’s a really good point, but I guess a lot of people aren’t in that situation financially, so they need somebody to help them out five days a week. My Mum looked after my older daughter full-time when I was at work, but with my younger daughter I was freelance [at the time] so we could dip in and out.”
“-But if you’re not paying, would you ever have a situation with your Mum, where you say, right I want her to do this, eat that and nap at this time?” Ruth questioned.
“There’s a very clear set of rules with my daughter, which is that when she’s with my mum, it’s my mum’s rules and when she’s with the both of us, it’s my rules” Jane explained. “My mum’s brilliant. We never fall out really but just recently we had words because my daughter had some exams coming up and I was cracking the whip on doing three hours of revision.”
“Then my mum butted in, in front of me and went ‘oh come on though that’s a bit much’ and I turned, and snapped her head off because I felt she was undermining me in front of my daughter”, Jane added.
“But I would never impose rules on my mum when she’s looking after her,” she finished.
Ruth touched upon a more common theme: “A lot of parents, predominantly mums, it seems, are saying it’s things like when you want them to eat a certain something or have a nap and then the grandparent goes ‘oh they didn’t want a nap, they were having fun playing’ and then you take them home and they’re kicking up a fuss.”
Continuing with this train of thought, Ruth posed the question again to the panel, as to whether you have the right to say to a grandparent, who’s looking after your child payment free all day, that they have to do things a certain way.
Gabrielle, Monday’s guest panellist, agreed: “I think it makes it really tricky if it’s free childcare. If they’re your parents and they were good enough to look after you, then by rights your children. But sometimes there is that line that gets crossed, I’ve had a friend call me in complete frustration, because she felt her mother had undermined her with the food situation and her child knew they shouldn’t be having what they were having,” she said with a smile.
“Because the grandma said it was ok, my friend said ‘I can’t even say anything, because my daughter said, ‘she’s the boss of you as she’s your mum.’ I would hate to be in that situation,” Gabrielle laughed. “It throws up a lot of things, you want to show appreciation to your parent, they’re giving their precious time that they’ve earned being your parents.”
“You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes” she concluded.
Jane was the voice of reason, “It comes down to personalities and set ups. If it’s your daughter’s children, you have a greater powerbase. If it’s your son’s children and your daughter-in-law has a very set idea?”
The Loose Women agreed with a resounding “Ohhhh.”
“I think that’s a whole different kettle of fish” Jane stated.
On that note, we’d love to know – do your parents take care of your children payment-free? Do you find it harder to advise your mother-in-law than your own mum on how to look after your children? Send your comments in below.