Tshepiso Makhele
4 minute read
12 Nov 2018
2:40 pm

What to do when granny becomes the nanny

Tshepiso Makhele

Never go overboard with dos and don’ts and remember your parents are helping you, not the other way round, so give them some breathing space.

Picture: iStock

Let’s face facts, grandparents are, indeed, the glue that keeps the family together.

In most black communities, where mothers work away from home and don’t earn enough to live with their kids, grandparents move from just being koko (grandmother) to nanny, and even mother.

For other parents, December is when they drop the kids off at the grandparents … and let the fun begin for mommy and daddy.

Grandparents play a pivotal role in our lives and often parents abuse their kindness, forgetting they also have a life to live.

Having your parents willing to take care of your children can be a plus. Who better to look after your little ones than the very people who raised you?

You don’t have to check references, conduct endless interviews or part with a lot of money for babysitting. Another plus, of course, is the sense of safety and trust you feel, with your mother or father looking after your child/children.

Having grandparents play nanny can be a brilliant arrangement, but it can also trigger bad feelings if you don’t tread carefully.

Firstly, do not assume your mother and father are interested in spending their days diapering, burping and feeding your child, much as they adore him or her.

I have no doubt that my mother loves my child. She is a wonderful grandmother, who helps out where she can. But I know that even beyond the age of 60, as she is, she is woman who loves her job, is a bit of a workaholic and is not ready to be a stay-at-home granny.

That is okay. We can’t expect our mothers to drop their lives and all they love doing because we have given birth. They raised us, and that should be enough.

Taking care of the grand kids shouldn’t really be a hard-and-fast rule for grandparents. There are those willing to play nanny to their grand kids or even play mommy. When this happens, there are a few things every parent and grandparent should consider.

Communication is always best in these types of situations be cause mommy or daddy, despite being raised by these very people, can have a different parenting style from them, and you don’t want to clash with your folks over this, because disagreements can result in power struggles.

Rather hold meetings with your parents to talk about no-argument areas; issues you feel most strongly about, like sleeping times, no sweets before food and other such important topics.

The meetings should be a regular thing, nothing too formal, but a time to talk to grandparents about how the child is doing, and what your plans are for the upcoming week, as well as issues you may need to discuss, such as grandparents not sticking to the sleeping times or you forgetting to buy milk.

Never go overboard with dos and don’ts and remember your parents are helping you, not the other way round, so give them some breathing space to make decisions and plan the day, tackling caring for the children as a group and not a dictatorship. Allow them to have a bit of fun with their grandchild without rules being too rigid.

Graphic: Costa Mokola

Yes, sometimes grandparents will spoil their grandchildren in ways they could not when raising their own kids; something parents should deal with without letting their blood pressures go up. And, with granny and granddad in charge, rules can become blurred at times, but care and love will be evident.

It can never be a perfect babysitting situation. Taking care of children is no walk in the park, and while it may be a bit of an awkward topic to discuss, try putting your parents on a payroll because childcare is a job.

While you might not pay them as much as you would a stranger, suggesting payment is not a bad idea. Some grandparents may refuse. So think of other methods you could, perhaps, compensate them, showing them you acknowledge their sacrifices and the hard work they are putting in to raise your children.

Maybe you could hire someone to do their laundry and clean their house once a week, or book them for a massage and dinner for two on a night you are available to take care of the children.

I’m sure any grandparent who dedicates their time to raising children can appreciate being pampered every now and them.

Try to be thoughtful and show some appreciation for a job they are doing – keeping pace with your energetic kids and doing it from the goodness of their hearts.

As much as they love your children, it’s unfair to expect grandparents to spend their money on your kids.

Don’t get too comfortable; you are still the parent and you have an obligation to provide. Your parents are kind enough to provide childcare, so don’t be the spoiled brat.

Show them the love and respect they rightfully deserve. They are busy changing nappies, reading bedtime stories, playing games, picking up toys, cooking and putting the children to sleep, so the least you can do is ensure you supply them with food, nappies, toys and other necessities.

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