A poll of more than 1,600 users of the Gransnet social networking site, aimed at the over 50s, reveals that over half (51 per cent) regularly look after their grandchildren all year round.
Of those that say they provide regular childcare for their grandchildren, 21 have either given up work or reduced their working hours to do so. Consequently, this has led to 27 per cent becoming ‘financially unstable’.
The majority of survey respondents (56 per cent) provide one or two days of childcare per week. However, for 7 per cent, it is a five-day commitment.
More than 80 per cent of grandparents are looking after one or two grandchildren, while 3 per cent are looking after four or more at a time.
For 12 per cent, providing childcare is exhausting. Other respondents admitted it has had an adverse effect on their physical health.
One respondent said, 'At 82 and 76 we are too old for two uunder-fives,, so it is a strain.'
Some Grandparents said juggling the demands of providing childcare and trying to meet the needs of working parents has led to tensions and conflict in their families. A total of 8 per cent said turning down childcare requests had led to arguments, while 5 per cent said their relationship with their children had become ‘permanently strained’ or ‘entirely estranged’ as a result.
The survey also revealed grandparents are helping out families financially, buying toys and games, school uniform and paying for other expenses, such as speech and language therapy, school dinner money and parents’ mortgages. A quarter help with holidays or have a savings account for them.
Gransnet editor Cari Rosen said, ‘It’s clear grandparents provide lots of valuable help to parents where they can. Gransnet users say that the trick to making this sort of childcare work is for everyone to be really clear about their expectations. Grandparents certainly shouldn’t be afraid to speak up if they realise they’ve taken on too much.’