"I just sometimes feel like I can't say no." Not all grandparents want to be babysitters.

Becoming a grandparent is a life changing experience. But what happens when you don’t want your new role changing your life?

There comes a time for a lot of mothers when we have to start thinking about returning to work. Some have been lucky enough to spend time with our babies but sometimes, reality calls and the bills need to be paid. Maybe returning to work is not so much financial, but something mum wants to do.

Either way, childcare needs to be considered.

The cost of formal childcare is undoubtedly high with some centres charging up to $170 per day, per child. Naturally, a lot of parents then start looking at alternative arrangements and often, grandparents blip on to the radar. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates that some 937,000 children receive regular care from a grandparent.

A lot of grandparents are thrilled with the idea of looking after their grandchildren on a regular basis. It’s a special time to bond and really be involved with the child.

But we shouldn’t just assume that this is the case and it’s not fair to think all grandparents will jump at the offer.

More and more, internet users on mature age forums are complaining about the expectation placed on them to be available and willing to care for their children’s children.

A lot of parents are lucky to have regular care while they're at work. Image: iStock.

"I just sometimes feel like I can't say no," says one user on granny net. "I know of one gran who said she'd look after her grandson for three days and found it too much. She had to tell her daughter and it caused so much trouble," says another.

One lady notes how she felt she needed to draw the line with her son and daughter in law. "I've done it (looking after children) but I think we have done our bit now. The trouble is that they want more kids and I've got a younger son who will think we will be there to care for children. I've had to lay down the law and say enough. I have a wonderful time with them (the kids) but health and age catches up with you. I want my life back. If they want more kids they need to ensure they can pay for childcare or one of them has to stay home."


We need to look at the issues associated with committing to a regular arrangement of childcare to understand why some older people are not too keen on the idea.

Firstly, young children are exhausting. Any parent will tell you that. They’re high energy and needy. In direct contrast, a lot of grandparents are of an age where they are starting to slow down both mentally and physically. Asking them to keep up with a child on a regular basis is significant.

Young children are by nature, very tiring. Image: iStock.

Pushing a child in a stroller, constant lifting and carrying, chasing and playing. All of these things place a great deal of pressure on your body- especially in the later years of life.

Not only that but it’s mentally draining. Supervision, interaction and simply just being accountable for someone else makes you very tired.

We need to consider whether having a grandchild on a regular basis would impinge on a grandparents lifestyle. While activities like social functions, golf games or catching up with friends seem trivial when discussing work commitments, paying bills and all the essential parts of raising children, a grandparent's right to an enjoyable lifestyle is equally as important.

Likely they've spent many, many years in the workforce, earning the right to take up hobbies, enjoy the quiet life- frankly, do whatever the hell they want. The last thing you want is a grandparent harbouring some kind of resentment towards you, or your children because they feel like they haven't got the life they've dreamed about and worked towards.


If grandparents are still in the workforce, then asking them to care for a child on a regular basis impacts them financially as well. Some wonder if they should be receiving payments from parents, reimbursements- which is not unrealistic given their loss of income. It can be an awkward topic to broach.

It can be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Image: iStock.

Then there is the issue of money needed to entertain children, it all adds up. Playcentres, an ice cream when out and about, excursions and food. If parents are not clear about funding these kinds of activities all of a sudden grandparents finances may not be looking as happy as they once were.

A regular care arrangement also has the potential to spark disagreements between parents and grandparents. Relinquishing care of your child to someone else is difficult and often, parents like the care of the child to be consistent. However it can be hard. Issues around, sleeping, crying, discipline and food can all lead to arguments because of different ways of doing things, opposing beliefs.

Parents also need to have reasonable expectations of grandparents during the day. It's fine to be a stickler for routine at home but we need to consider that grandparents have their own commitments to attend which might not always work in with a concrete routine. That needs to be respected.

Having a grandparent regularly care for a child can be an fantastic situation- mutually beneficial to all parties and way to form a special bond but it's not something that should be assumed or taken for granted. It should be accepted that if a grandparent doesn't jump at the chance to be a regular babysitter, they may have some very good reasons.

Do you use your parents as regular babysitters? 

00:00 / ???