Move over super mums – here comes Super Gran (and I’m not talking about the children’s series).
I’ll let you in on a secret. Grandmothering isn’t all about cookies and hugs.
Today’s grandmothers are juggling work, home and babysitting commitments with the flair of the best superheroes. This is a far different picture than the many cartoons littering the internet depicting grandmothers as little old ladies wearing aprons and baking cookies.
Grandparenting has become a much more serious business.
SUPER GRAN – THE GRANDEST OF JOBS
Today’s grandmothers make up part of the Australian grandparent team that regularly look after nearly one million children. That’s about a quarter of all kids under 12.
They spend an average of 12 hours a week on childcare duties and save families around $90 million a year in childcare fees in New South Wales alone.
In short, we grandparents are spending more time with our grandkids than past generations have. And most of us consider it the grandest of jobs.
Grandparents are the most popular form of childcare in Australia today. Around 837,000 Australian children were cared for by their grandparents in a typical week during 2014, according to statistics. This number was much larger than for other forms of child care.
Grandparents provide care for an average eight hours per week, which is worth $1.5 billion, according to Michael O’Neill, former chief executive of National Seniors Australia (NSA).
Around 300,000 Australians aged between 50 and 74 care for their grandchildren. A third of them also juggle jobs.
One of the main attractions to leaving the kids with grandparents, aside from the safe environment, (and the cookies and hugs), is the flexibility it provides.
Grandparents tend to fit in with the needs and desires of their children when it comes to caring for the grandkids.
They fill in the gaps left by the formal child care options and are more likely to be available during nights and weekends.
Many grandmothers actually adjust their working lives to accommodate the employment requirements of their daughters and daughters-in-law.
Some even give up their careers early or put retirement plans on hold.
Most grandmothers happily make these sacrifices to help their adult kids and enjoy bonding with their grandchildren. However, they acknowledge the impact it has on their work and retirement decisions.
While they enjoy providing care and do not want to give it up, they also feel a deep obligation, due to the high costs of living faced by their children.
They take their commitment to care seriously, which means they have limited their choices regarding how to spend their time.
Some research suggests there is a ‘tipping point’ beyond which caring can become less enjoyable.
According to the research, grandparents who provide 13 or more hours of care per week are less likely to enjoy caring for their grandchildren and more likely to feel effects on their work and retirement decisions.
Regardless of this, and a sense of deja vu, (haven’t we already been here, caring for our own young children?), these Super Grans continue to give their time and energy freely.
They add a special element into the lives of their grandchildren by providing a link to the past and to family history. They eagerly share whatever skills they have, hoping to leave a lasting legacy.
The big payoff with the grandest of jobs is, of course, the love and enjoyment they get from their grandkids.
And it’s a good thing that love and fun are so strong too, as many have expressed feelings of being unappreciated by the adult children they are trying to help.
Some grandmothers say their adult children have unreal and unfair expectations of what the grandparenting role should entail.
They feel there is little gratitude for the extra commitment and responsibility they take on. There is even a sense the adult children have convinced themselves they are doing the grandparents a favour by allowing them to spend extra time with their grandchildren.
Some grandmothers express concern at the lack of appreciation and understanding regarding the physical toll of chasing after young children in their care when at grandparenting age.
Adding to the pressure is the need to respect the parents’ wishes regarding the grandchildren’s diet, routine and discipline while caring for them.
Grandmothers are taking on the grandest of jobs, but following someone else’s set of rules.
They are doing it with (mostly) joy, while putting off lunch dates with friends to accommodate their babysitting commitments, delaying travel plans to fit in with their family needs, changing their work schedules and ambitions and dipping into their retirement fund to help their adult children.
They are rearranging their homes to facilitate their grandkids (read Grand Designs – How to Prepare Your Home for Grandkids). These Super Grans are discovering within themselves reserves of tolerance and patience they never knew they had.
Today’s Super Grans are tapping into diplomatic superpowers to avoid family breakdowns. They are using their superpowers of juggling to meet all the demands of their time.
These Super Grans are sharing the knowledge of their superpowers to help their grandchildren become happy and healthy adults.
Today’s Super Grans are using their superpowers to understand and embrace our ever-advancing technology.
And then there’s those other superpowers – the cookies and the hugs.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, lets hear it for the Super Grans; the nannies, grandmas, grannies, grams, grammas, nans, nannas, nonnies, grandies, onas – to all of the Super Grans, thank you.
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.