When grandparents retire, they often look forward to having more free time to spend with their families. There are many different ways to define that desire, however. Some grandparents are eager to become full-time babysitters, but just as many want to be involved with their families while still having the freedom to pursue their own interests.
With their years of prior parenting experience, retired grandparents may find that caring for their grandchildren is a rewarding and fulfilling way to spend their time. Parents often feel safer leaving their children with grandparents, and the children benefit from having a variety of loving adult caregivers in their lives. Here are some considerations for grandparents who may be shouldering childcare during retirement.
From a practical standpoint, parents usually save money on childcare costs when their own parents babysit. This is nice when parents want an occasional evening out, but it becomes a significant money saver when grandparents are willing to regularly babysit while they are at work or school.
There are a few significant downsides that come up when retirees become full-time babysitters. The most common conflicts occur when grandparents and their adult children have different expectations. Active adults look forward to spending their retirement years pursuing hobbies, traveling, or simply having some well-deserved time to themselves. They often enjoy babysitting for their grandchildren from time to time, but they may resent being pushed into providing free childcare on a daily basis.
It’s important to realize that there is a very big difference between occasionally babysitting and taking on full-time childcare while the parents are at work or school. Before agreeing to a childcare arrangement, both retired grandparents and their adult children should look at the situation very carefully.
Differences in Parenting Styles
Conflicts can also arise when grandparents and their adult children have different approaches to parenting. While grandparents may have years of experience, they should also respect their adult children’s parenting wishes. For some families, this can be a tricky balance, which can lead to hurt feelings on both sides, but these issues can most often be resolved. The best way to find an arrangement that fits everyone is to have open, honest communication. No one likes being taken for granted or having others impose on their time, and parenting power struggles can be uncomfortable for everyone. Issues like these will only get worse if they aren’t discussed openly.
Having Realistic Expectations
Even when retired grandparents are willing to babysit regularly, they may quickly realize that they aren’t as young as they were when they raised their own children. Current health problems may make it more difficult from what they expected to keep up with young kids all day long. Financial issues may be a problem if retired grandparents end up taking on the costs of diapers, baby food, and other supplies along with the childcare responsibilities. Even when parents are providing the supplies, small additional costs can add up over time.
Retirees have every right to set limits on the amount of time they are willing to babysit. There are many reasons why they might not want to become full-time babysitters, but that should not get in the way of having a close relationship with their grandchildren. Retired grandparents who choose to live near their families enjoy spending time with them but also want to pursue their own interests.
By respecting each others' wishes and expectations, retired grandparents and their adult children can find a babysitting balance which works for everyone involved.