Apr 27 2012
By Brian McIver
MEET the hidden army of heroes who keep Scotland’s families and workforces ticking over – the real supergrans.
Full-time childcare in some parts of Scotland costs up to £12,000 a year.
The fragile economy means parents often have to work as many hours as they can.
And it is becoming the job of granny, and grandad, to pick up the slack.
In Scotland, a third of all parents use grandparents as the main source of childcare, while two-thirds report using the older generation as some part of their childcare plan.
While it has always been traditional for families to stick together and play a part in looking after young kids, according to parenting charities increasing costs have forced the old guard back into the front line like never before.
Clare Simpson, project manager for Parenting Across Scotland, the umbrella body who represent children’s groups, said: “People are working later in life so it’s more difficult for grandparents to provide care the way they would like to.
“According to other organisations we speak to, it’s a bit of a push for grandparents to look after kids and have their own life as well.
“The main benefits for the family are the money saved and the fact they are in the care of somebody who knows and loves the child.
“But on the downside, while grandparents do a great job, the evidence shows that by the age of three there is already a gap in educational attainment among disadvantaged children, and structured childcare education at that age can iron out that gap.
“If the government intervened to make sure childcare was more affordable and easier to access, it would do a lot to help the grandparents that do so much to help already.”
Satwat Rehman is the director of campaign group One Parent Families Scotland, and she said family support means a lot for lone parents.
“They have said they wouldn’t be able to go back to work if there was not a grandparent there to help,” she said.
“They are an invaluable support for lone parents.
“But we need flexible childcare infrastructure to help them all.
“One of the services we provide is Childcare at Home, with registered childcarers helping out in the parents’ home in mornings and evenings, and whenever they are needed.”
SUPERGRAN IS A REAL HEROINE
LUCY and Ian Haughey know they and their three boys would be lost without the help of supergran Pat.
The hard-working 59-year-old from Glasgow works a four-day week in a car dealership, and on Fridays looks after her youngest grandson all day.
Pat is delighted she gets to help her family save £50 a week in the childcare they would otherwise have to shell out for that extra day.
But for her, the best part of the arrangement is that she gets to spend time with Rufus, who is 20 months old.
Mum Lucy, 31, is trying to grow her start-up social enterprise business, which offers financial advice to the vulnerable and disadvantaged, while Ian is a financial adviser.
They balance their work shifts to take some of the childcare duties.
Rufus is with a child minder one day and then spends Friday with Pat, who also collects his older brothers Charlie, five, and Sonny, eight, from school.
Pat said: “I volunteered to help because times are tough and you’ve got to do whatever you can to help your kids.
“I love it, it’s the highlight of my week, waiting for him to arrive at my door. I could almost cry with excitement sometimes, he’s my wee pal. We have a great time playing and I like to teach him things.
“He’s a very happy, clever wee boy. I would never dream to ask for any money, and I’m just delighted to get to see him.
“A lot of grandparents are helping out these days. It’s nice to see the little ones and help when you can.”
Lucy’s older boys, who are from a previous relationship, still have a strong bond with Pat and Lucy says she is an invaluable help.
She added: “Pat is brilliant. She calls my two older kids her grandchildren, too, and is great looking after everyone.
“There are real problems for mid-range families like us who are employed but on a low income, who can’t afford private childcare – which is the only option for us.
“Pat is amazing, she is a real star.”
STILL FEELING THE GUILT OF BEING A WORKING MUM – by Joan Burnie
I USED to lug around the guilt, which, like a long black shadow, trails behind working mums.
But the world moved on, my kids managed to grow up OK, so why, years later, am I STILL feeling guilty?
Easy. I’m a working gran, which means I do an awful lot less child minding than others.
And when I say child minding, I mean full on – not a little light baby sitting while the wee ones are asleep.
I am talking about grans – and grandpas too – who spend two, three and, in one case I know, five days a week, looking after the kids so their parents can work.
Most of them are happy to do so because grandkids, as you get older, are as much of a bonus as any pension. They do it out of love but it’s not always their choice. It’s wished upon many because, with the highest nursery fees in Europe, they have to help.
That is why, at a time they’re maybe thinking of taking it a little easier, they find themselves flung back into the world of colic, nappies and nose wiping. In short, it’s a stark economic necessity, which has turned so many into being more nanny than granny. But I can’t do that, at least not on a regular basis, which is where the guilt comes in.
Having been that working mum myself, I understand the sheer gut-wrenching panic felt when you have to work but a child is unwell or it’s one of those wretched in-service days teachers seem to have every other week. That’s when I drop everything.
That’s when I behave like a real gran.