Grandparents are not free babysitters - they should be paid

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Let's get things straight. Your parents don't owe you free babysitting.

If you ask your parents to babysit regularly then you should pay them. They don't have to help you out for nothing and if you think they do, then you're being selfish.

Of course, most grandparents will refuse the cash, but don't let that stop you – you must find other ways to show your appreciation.

Remember for many grandparents, they don't have a regular income. And for some, they have to watch every dollar to make ends meet. Not only are they giving you their time for free, they're also probably also forking out for travel costs, food and other incidentals along the way.

And let's be honest, they're also not getting any younger, so, driving in the dark, navigating the traffic, doing the school run, cleaning up after your children and going out into the extreme heat or cold can also impact on them.

Of course, you thank them for their help, and you should because according to finder.com.au, which analysed Australian Bureau of Statistics data, grandparents are collectively saving working families $2.29 billion in childcare fees every year.

But it comes at a cost.

Nickelodeon Australia's recent study found that one-third of all grandparents contributed to the costs of raising their grandchildren with retired grandparents spending the most per month on their grandchildren (an average of $402.40). Forty per cent of the 1,000 grandparents surveyed said they made financial sacrifices to care for their grandchildren and 20 per cent said it was a financial burden.

But still, according to comparison site Mozo, 98 per cent of grandparents charge no money for looking after grandchildren.

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I asked my own mum why she doesn't charge to look after our kids and she said she just wants to spend time with them. She loves them and wants to be a part of their day-to-day lives.

We're constantly trying to shove money in her bag to pay for petrol. And are always telling her not to bring treats with her, but she enjoys giving and relishes her time interacting with them.

So, we help her in other ways, mainly gardening. Where she used to enjoy pottering around in her garden, as she gets older – it gets harder for her.

Gardening might not be an option for you, but here's five other ways to say thank you:

1. Feed them 

You could cook up meals and pop them into freezer containers so they'll have delicious food to eat when they don't have the energy to cook.

2. Help out with odd jobs around the house

Fixing a leaking tap, painting a bathroom, replacing broken tiles in the kitchen or hanging some pictures - the list is endless.

3. Take them out on a special date

When was the last time you spent time with your parents without your children? Probably not for ages. Take the time to reconnect with them without the mad rush of doing the kid swap. A visit to the art gallery, the movies or lunch (your shout) is a lovely way to show them you care.

4. Clean their house 

Do a deal with them to exchange babysitting for cleaning. Either pay for a cleaner to visit their house monthly or pop on over and help them with the some of the trickier jobs – changing bed linen, cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the oven, mowing the lawn or vacuuming the house.

5. Run some errands

Take them to their doctor's appointments or pick up some groceries from the supermarket. Anything that can lend a hand.

And most importantly, remember to listen to and care for your parents. Take an active interest in their lives and interests. Ask them how their day's been, check-in with them regularly and let them know they're a big part of your family, not just a part-time child care worker at your disposal. Don't forget to remind them how much you all love them.