TOM UTLEY: What would young parents do without the saintly Granny Army
TOM UTLEY: What would young parents do without the saintly Granny Army on nappy duty while they go out to work (pity about the grandads!)
At least once a week over the past four years, my wife made the exhausting trek across the capital to look after two of our four grandchildren while their parents were at work.
The round trip from South to North London and home took three hours when the trains and buses were running smoothly, and a great deal longer when they weren’t.
She was always exhausted by the time she got home – and never more so than when she’d had to cope with one of the frequent tantrums thrown by our beloved granddaughter, just turned three, who spent her terrible twos switching in the blink of an eye from the most angelic child in Christendom to a demonic fountain of tears.
Mrs U is one of the army of grannies all over the country who have rallied to the rescue of sons and daughters, to save them at least a little of the ever-rising expense of professional childcare.
A survey published this week finds that nearly six in ten grandparents – and I bet that the great majority of these are grannies – will look after their grandchildren between now and September, when the new school year begins.
A survey published this week finds that nearly six in ten grandparents will look after their grandchildren between now and September, when the new school year begins
Utley says there is an army of grannies all over the country who have rallied to the rescue of sons and daughters, to save them at least a little of the ever-rising expense of professional childcare
The study by the train ticketing company, Railcard, finds that oldies will typically spend 264 hours caring for school-aged grandchildren during the holidays, saving their sons and daughters a small fortune in childminders’ fees. More than a quarter of grandparents have even moved house so they can be on hand when their services are required.
Indeed, heaven alone knows how young, working parents could make ends meet, if they weren’t able to rely on at least a little help from saintly OAPs like my wife.
I say this because the average cost of sending a child under two to a nursery, even part-time, now stands at £138.70 a week, or £7,212.40 a year. Meanwhile a full-time place, according to the government website MoneyHelper, costs a blistering average of £269.86 a week. And that’s just for one child.
It’s worse still in London, where the National Childbirth Trust reckons parents have to pay an extra £45 a week on top of the national average. Even that looks cheap, beside the £110 a day that a friend’s daughter has had to cough up for someone to look after her baby.
Add the extortionate cost of housing in the South East, and the slump in the value of everyone’s money through the curse of inflation, and I just don’t understand how any but the richest young parents in the capital manage to keep body and soul together.
Indeed, it’s a cruelly vicious circle. The cost-of-living crisis forces young mothers out to work, whether or not they’d rather stay at home to bring up their children. Yet as soon as they take a paid jobs, the bills start flooding in from the people they have to pay to look after children whom many would much rather care for themselves.
Mind you, I’m not blaming the professional childminders for these spiralling fees. For not only does the cost-of-living crisis affect them, too, but they have to comply with an ever-lengthening list of meddlesome government regulations, on everything from insurance rules and the requirement to attend special courses to statutory limits on the number of children each childminder is allowed to look after.
More than a quarter of grandparents have even moved house so they can be on hand when their services are required (stock photo)
The average cost of sending a child under two to a nursery, even part-time, now stands at £138.70 a week, or £7,212.40 a year
Inevitably, all these rules drive up their costs – and with them the fees they have to charge in order to keep their businesses afloat. No wonder the free childcare offered by grannies is now needed more than ever.
Why grannies, and not grandads? On that point, I must admit that I’m judging by my own general uselessness when it comes to looking after babies and small children.
Call me contemptibly sexist – or maybe just lazy – but I reckon that, generally speaking, women are not only much better at it, but they also seem to enjoy it more. That’s certainly true of Mrs U, who loved almost everything about the hours she spent with our grandchildren every week.
I’d hate you to think I don’t adore them as much as she does. It’s just that – oh, how can I put this kindly? – I seem to have a much lower boredom threshold than my endlessly patient wife, who would be happy to listen to their prattle and wipe away their tears until the crack of doom.
What’s more, I have a horror of changing nappies, which is something I was hardly ever called upon to do when our sons were babies and my wife was a stay-at-home mum. My role was to go off to work and bring home the bacon. Hers was to do, well, practically everything else.
Now, I used to think this division of labour was hard-wired into the human species. Men were the hunter-gatherers, women the child-rearers. But though I still think this is true, to at least some extent, I’m coming to believe that my attitude must also have a lot to do with the way my generation was brought up.
Certainly, the three of our sons who are now fathers themselves all play a much bigger role than I ever did in the child-rearing side of their relationships. Without a murmur of complaint, they are forever changing nappies, wiping jam off faces, clearing up spills, soothing tantrums and doing all the other things I tended to leave to my long-suffering wife. They even give every appearance of enjoying it.
Whatever the truth, however, I suspect Mrs U is very far from alone among women in their 60s in bearing a far greater burden than their menfolk when grandparents are called upon to help out with the grandchildren.
Utley says he has minded his grandchildren alone once, he says it was ‘a pleasant enough day, grandfather and grandson, talking about dinosaurs and watching four Home Alone films, back to back’
In our case, over these past four years, my wife has almost always made that weekly trek across London alone, leaving her lazy husband to think his deep thoughts and watch Pointless at home.
Indeed, I blush to confess that only once have I spent a whole day grandchild-minding on my own. That was when our four-year-old grandson was kept at home by a fever, Mrs U was busy at her part-time job and nobody else was available.
We spent a pleasant enough day, grandfather and grandson, talking about dinosaurs and watching four Home Alone films, back to back. Mercifully, there were no tantrums or tears, and no bottom-wiping was involved.
But goodness, it was a relief when his parents arrived home from the schools where they teach, and I could embark on the long trek back to Utley Towers, pausing only for a well-earned pint at the pub.
From this week, however, neither Mrs U nor I will be making that journey again. This is because on Thursday, my son and his wife packed their belongings into a removal van and headed for Bristol, where both have new jobs and our grandchildren have new schools.
Like so many others, they found the expense of living in the capital had become just too much for them, what with the rent for their little flat, the child-minder’s fees, the crippling cost of keeping a car in Sadiq Khan’s London and the price of everything else going through the roof.
We’re both very sad, my wife in particular, that we’ll be seeing less of them in future, now that the three-hour round trip to see our grandchildren has become more than five hours by car, there and back.
But guess who lives only minutes away from their new house in Bristol? Indeed, she’s the main reason they’ve chosen to live there.
You’ve got it in one. It’s the children’s other grandmother, willing and eager to take over those child-minding duties from Mrs U. It’s granny to the rescue, yet again!
Source: Read Full Article