kids

"Never in a million years did I think I'd be raising kids at the age of 50."

It’s been just over 10 years since Deb left America, where she had moved to start the next phase of her life with her partner, to look after her three grandchildren full-time.

“Never in a million years” did Deb think, after raising children of her own, she would find herself in the role of primary caregiver for her daughter’s three children, aged three, 13 months, and seven weeks old at the time.

However, when her daughter’s domestic situation deteriorated, Deb was forced into a situation she knew was right for her grandchildren.

“When my third grandaughter was born, [my daughter and I] realised she wasn’t able to do what she needed to do for the children,” the 50-year-old explaines.

“I got care of the children, so that I could make all the right decisions about what was best for the kids.”

"Never in a million years" did Deb think, after raising children of her own, she would find herself in the role of primary caregiver for her daughter's three children. (Image: Supplied)
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While it was the right thing to do at the time, the decision to raise three young children came with sacrifices.

"It was just after my 50th birthday and I had already moved overseas," Deb said.

"I came home for the third granddaughter's birth and seven weeks later I got given care of them.

"But I think the greatest thing I've had to give up is working. It became very clear early on that I couldn't raise three young children and go to work.

"I've worked all my life and loved working, but I knew I couldn't do that. I needed to be there for the kids 24/7."

For the better part of the last 20 years, Deb worked in a number of unique and demanding jobs.

Most recently she was a sheriff for the Attorney General's Department, and before that in the state police department, the Royal Australian Air force and as a Qantas aircraft maintenance engineer - all of which helped her accrue the superannuation that is now dedicated to raising her grandchildren.

"Financially, I've had to dig into my super, and I haven't been able to add a lot to my mortgage during the time I've had them," she said.

Ten years on, Deb's grandchildren are nearing adolescence, meaning it's time for Deb to start considering re-entering the workforce at 61 - a daunting prospect for many older workers in a similar position.

"I miss a lot of things, like planning things for myself, but to me from day one, I was their parent." (Image: Supplied)

"That's probably my biggest concern," she said of her future employment opportunities.

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"It's not just around getting a job, it's thinking, 'Who is going to employ someone who's by that stage, will be nearing 65?'"

"It doesn't matter how many skills I've got, how confident I am and what I can do. I look older and I don't move around as well as I used to.

"I think I can do anything... I'm wondering how employers are going to look at me, thinking what can I contribute.

"I will have to go back to work part-time because I need a certain income to keep up the house and the kids. Every three or four months I have to buy all new clothes and shoes and meet their demands about what they want and need... they're very focused on what brands they wear, and these are the issues we have to deal with."

Deb with two of her grandchildren on Insight. (Image: Supplied)

Although the foreseeable future is "a bit uncertain", Deb feels fortunate she is able to continue to provide a safe and loving environment for her grandchildren.

"I don't feel deprived of a life at all," she said.

"I miss a lot of things, like planning things for myself, but to me from day one, I was their parent.

"That's life with children. You never know what's going to happen, whether or not you've got a 'normal' family of two parents, you never know what's going to happen. All I know is that I want to be there for them 24/7 until they're old enough to live their own lives."

Deb is a guest on tonight's episode of Insight: Granny Nanny which explores the role grandparents play in caring for their grandchildren. You can catch this episode tonight at 8:30pm on SBS, or after airing on SBS on Demand.

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