Granny nannies

Granny nannies

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Being my usual organised self, six months before returning to work after having a baby I started to look into Chiswick’s childcare provisions, only to discover to my horror, waiting lists for various local nurseries and childminders were mind-bogglingly long. One local nursery had an 18-month waiting list, meaning I should have booked a place before I’d actually conceived!

Those that had spaces were either too far away or not suitable. One minder reeked of cigarette smoke and another, when asked what food would be on the menu, admitted that not being much of a cook, chicken nuggets were regular features. Why not go all out and serve the infamous turkey twizzlers, I thought.

Looking into nannies only dismayed me further, with the average London nanny costing around £20,000-£30,000 a year plus benefits. This option was totally out of my league.

Surprised and panicked by this lack of suitable provision led to a family discussion whereby my lovely mum came to the rescue. After admitting she’d be waiting for a reason to semi-retire, she said she would love nothing more than to look after my little girl part-time. And so emerged my mum as my new granny nanny.

“It’s such a precious time and a privilege to be with Ellie when she’s really small and to bond with my daughter’s baby,” enthuses my mum. “My mother was never around to help me and I think it’s a lovely thing to be able to do for your child. I’m also looking forward to going back to that stage, but being able to take the time to enjoy it more than I did the first time round.”

Turns out, we’re not the only ones to come to this arrangement. According to The Grandparents’ Association 60 per cent of childcare is undertaken by kindly relatives, which Age Concern reports is a saving to parents of an estimated £4 billion.

But, of course, it’s not just about saving cash. It’s about being lucky enough to have a healthy, able and local parent who wants to take the time off work, or out of their own lives to look after your little one(s).

One granny nanny, who flew over from Australia to help her daughter out of a childcare jam was thrilled to have the chance to get close to her grandson and enthusiastically offered to look after him.

Granny W says, “I was very excited about looking after Oliver and honoured that my daughter and son-in-law had faith in my ability to do so.” “I’m not sure I would have asked them to do it if they hadn’t offered,” admits mummy W. “They’re in their 70’s, live on the other side of the world, my dad still works and my mother is very socially active. I wouldn’t have asked them to give all that up. Unsurprisingly, however, I jumped at their offer and said yes before she had even finished the sentence!”

But is it too much hard work at a time your parents should be slowing down? Granny W argues, “Being a granny nanny just came very naturally, as I don’t think you ever forget how it’s done. I was very tired each day but I just made sure I went to bed early.”

Of course, once you’ve agreed on the arrangement that is just the beginning. The reality can prove a minefield if you’re not careful, risking your own relationship with your mother if things go wrong. Communication as always, is the key to success.

It’s very important to talk to each other before you begin, to make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet. If you’re an avid Gina Ford follower, it’s never going to work if granny insists on an “earth mother” approach.

Anne Babb, owner of Chiswick’s professional nanny agency, Swansons says, “Keeping it in the family is lovely if it can be managed. As long as granny is fit and young at heart it’s fine, but some do find it a bit exhausting and can’t quite cope.”

The way to keep on top of this is to make sure you have open, frank and regular chats. Anne continues, “Ground rules have to be very firmly agreed in advance. Communication, talking things through and learning from each other is crucial. As with an employed nanny, if there is any friction, it’s important to discuss it before it becomes a big deal.”

Once the job is underway the benefits are obvious; your children’s relationship with their grandparents will be vastly enhanced; granny will love your children almost as much as you do; she’ll probably be more flexible about hours and sickness than regular childcare and she’ll look after your child in a familiar environment. Current research also shows that kids who have grown up with a lot of input from grandparents are more adjusted and well-rounded than those who’ve missed out.

However some people aren’t able to or choose not to keep it in the family, preferring to keep the relationship professional. Local resident, Jo Hagger employs a nanny-share with a neighbour to look after her little boy.

“I wanted a nanny share so Sam could have a play-buddy,” she explains. “It’s comforting knowing it’s a professional relationship as I don’t have to worry about offending or being oversensitive when it comes to his feeding, sleeping, playing etc. Also I can ask for extra hours or baby-sitting without feeling guilty – it makes practical stuff seem more straightforward.”

So how do you know if granny will make the grade? The consensus it seems, is that a nurturing, caring nature combined with a genuine enthusiasm and enjoyment of the situation is key. It’s not going to work if granny sees nannying as a big favour.

Of course, the final bonus of employing granny is that your hubby is very unlikely to run off with her, so you can return to work in the knowledge that your baby will be the only one doing the snuggling while you are away!

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