Friday, July 17, 2009

When Granny Becomes Nanny By CBS

Survey Says Grandparents are Taking Over Child Care in Recession, Expert Addresses Effect on Family Relationships

(CBS) Are roles changing for grandparents -- from granny to nanny?

In a survey of 10,000 grandparents across the country, 61 percent of those polled said they take care of their grandkids on a regular basis. Twelve percent said they were the primary caregiver.

Marian Robinson, the "first grandmother," is known to be the bedrock and stability of the Obama family, helping to raise her granddaughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.

In light of these economic times, many grandparents are becoming the babysitters du jour.

There are 56 million grandparents in the United States, according to They head 37 percent of households and have the highest net worth of any group, putting them in the best position to weather the economic downturn.

And, for some grandparents such as Jacqueline Rafla, a grandmother of 12, caring for grandchildren keeps them going.

"It's life, it's youth," she said on "The Early Show" Thursday. "You're reliving your own children through these little children."

This trend toward grandparent care is in part because of the recession. In fact, according to National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, 40 percent of grandparents now living within an hour's drive of their grandchildren provide regular child care -- and just eight percent of grandparents receive any pay.

So how do you manage this relationship respectfully without taking advantage of the situation?

Dr. Georgia Witkin, senior editor and grandparenting expert for, said 92 percent of grandparents don't want to be paid for watching their grandchildren, they just want to be appreciated for what they do for the family.

"[Grandparents] want to know that you know what they're doing is of value and money is not the only way of showing that," she said.

Witkin said caring for the children is "worth it" because grandparents get to feel needed again.

"A lot of us are busy working and so forth, but this is part of what we've done before, we'd do it again, and we're doing it for the family in hard economic times," Witkin said. "We've seen it before. The family comes together. If you're helping your son or daughter work, it's good for you. It's good for your grandchildren. Instead of leaving them the out now and get appreciation."

Witkin added the benefits are also present for the children with grandparent care, including a low adult-child ratio, which she said, is much better than at daycare. In addition, she said the food is better and the children are getting unconditional love.

Another benefit or grandparent care, she added, is that several studies have suggested children who have a great grandparent presence have less delinquency and less drug abuse.

Witkin also gave these tips for grandparents taking care of grandchildren:

Parent Yourself: "If you're taking care of everyone else, remember to parent yourself too. Not better than everybody else, but put yourself on your own list of loved ones."

Pause: "Pace Yourself. Remember to pause. [Women] typically take care of everybody else...The moment you have down time, those children are busy watching TV, do something for yourself instead of another chore."

Play: "I love grandmothers taking care of grandchildren because the grandchildren will never remember all the laundry you do, but they will always remember the day you went down the slide with them or you were in the pool with them. You know what I say to the grandmothers and grandmas too? 'Go out and play with them. Don't just send them out to play.'"

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

I have a dear friend who is a mother going to school while her husband works and the grandmother and grandfather help out. But it has created much tension in the family. The grandparents really do not have the energy level needed to care for the young children are a bit neglected. Basically the mother and grandparents are angry on another. Instead of bonding with the grandchildren the grandparents are becoming resentful of the critical mother.

At least when hiring child care outside the family you won't break family bonds with those you should love. Firing a non-family member is much easier than letting a grandparent "go."

Anonymous said...

Well there is one grandma at the church playgroup that is not loving the long hours of childcare she provides for her grandkids. It is hard for a grandparent to say "no" since she loves her daughter and grandkids. But when the parents make enough money to afford an au pair or nanny the grandma has been complaining a lot. In fact, she enjoys retirement in Florida most winters now yet stayed in NJ in the snow this winter to care for her grandkids.

When parents can afford other options it sometimes is better to not burden the grandparents.
Mountian Lakes NJ

Anonymous said...

My grandmother watched my niece and nephew (twins) each summer for about 35 hour per week.(so she was their "GreatGrandmother."

She was 70 at the time and a bit loney. When she started the kids were aged 5, and when she stopped caring for them- they were 13 and she was 83!

Caring for her great-grandchildren helped to keep her busy and young!
She never asked for any money but my sister would give her as much as she could. My grandmother always ended spending any money she rec'd from my sister on her kids. The kids had a blast each summer. My grandma did not drive anymore, so she used to take them on the bus- all over town, to the library, for lunches out, to the mall, movies, etc. The kids learned early on how to manuver public transit. They also learned how to cook many different meals of their nationality, as well as to speak a little of my GG's native tounge. They also learned how to plant/maintain a garden.
How to sew and play traditional games. My niece/nephew are going off to college this year- and still fondly remember all the fun summers spent with "GREAT-Grandma".

I also want to say that Aunts can fall into this catagory too.
I was blessed to be able to care for my brother's children when they were young- 12 months and 3 years old- while I attended business school. I am glad I had that special time with them- and was able to see them develop on a day to day basis in their young years. I too never asked for any money- but they ALWAYS made me feel special and appreciated- and showed their thanks by remembering me very well on Holidays and my Birthday.

So in my families case it can be a win-win situation.

~Andrea, Nanny in NJ

Anonymous said...

Grandparents have been helping care for their grandparents forever. Very natural. But, in modern times the hectic schedules may be more demanding than the grandparents like. Parents have to be careful to not take advantage of grandparents. If the parents are wealthy enough they ought to hire help then have grandparents available in case of emergency or perhaps one day per week so they do not become resentful.

Mimi, Dallas TX