Babysitting boundaries for ‘Granny Nannies’

Soaring childcare costs have led to the phenomenon known as ‘Granny Nanny’. 
As you read this you might recognise yourself as one of these.

You are the kind of parent who, in order to help your adult children get ahead in life and pay off a large mortgage, are chipping in to babysit grandchildren to ease the burden of childcare costs.

The amount of caring you are doing may vary from a few hours a week to multiple days per week.
In doing so you are also contributing significantly to the nation’s coffers. Research shows that $5.54 billion is added to the Australian economy by unpaid carers and $1.26 billion from unpaid childcare provided by the over 50s.

It is a very natural, altruistic and noble intention to want to help your children in this way and research published in May this year by the University of Melbourne revealed that it can be good for you. The study found postmenopausal women who took care of their grandchildren one day a week had better memory and faster cognitive speed than those who didn’t.

Balancing yours and your children’s needs
The researchers however carry a warning about over-using the generous nature of grandparents noting that women who cared for grandchildren five or more days a week had significantly slower processing speed and planning scores, possibly because they felt exhausted and stressed.

National Seniors CEO, Michael O’Neill says it’s important for grandparents to aim for a balance in enjoying their retirement years and providing support to their children.

“It’s about balance and not giving up on your dreams, expectations and goals to achieve. Those goals shouldn’t be subsumed by the demands of a younger generation".

However, the economic reality is that there is an increasing reliance on grandparents for childcare assistance in dual income families and so here are some good ideas for negotiating the babysitting/caring parameters successfully:

Tips for setting babysitting boundaries
Set limits early on – you might even like to start the conversation with your adult child before your grandchild is born

  • Consider how far in advance of sitting time you'd like to be approached. If you prefer a week’s notice and not same-day requests 
  • Let your children know in advance if you are okay with taking grandchildren to doctor’s appointments or something similar.
  • Let your children know if you are comfortable with supervising homework/study.
  • Set time parameters around drop-off and pick-up 
  • School holiday arrangements need to be set early and be clear about school holiday activities i.e. signing grandkids up to camps/classes etc.
  • Will you have grandchildren for sleepovers or not?
  • Will playdates need to be arranged?

More ideas for stress-free babysitting

  • If you have a skill or hobby that you are talented at share this with your grandkids where appropriate
  • Decide if and/or how you will deliver discipline. You are not obligated to share this role, but it will help your child and grandchild if you have a plan in place
  • Let your household standards slip a bit and put away the precious ornaments while grandkids are around, as this can save heartache for them and you
  • Discuss food and nutrition issues with your child as they may have strong views on this
  • Discuss sleep pattern and arrangements i.e. will the grandchild be required to nap during the day or not
  • Discuss appropriateness of certain movies, books and video games with your child ahead of the sitting/caring time
  • The key thing to remember is to have open, honest communication about babysitting with your children early to avoid unrealistic expectations. You shouldn’t have to do anything you are uncomfortable with so you should try not to be a ‘yes’ man or woman to your children all the time, or your generosity could be taken for granted and lead to stress for both you and your children.

Leave a comment below if you'd like to share some of your own tips.