Grandparents Are Not Free Childcare Providers, Stop Feeling Guilty!

Pinterest Hidden Image

Should Grandparents Provide Childcare for Grandchildren?

Have you had the “talk” with your adult kids yet? You know the one… the talk where your kids ask you to provide free childcare because you are the grandparent? Don’t feel bad if your answer was a hearty “Hell No!!”

When Grandparents Are Childcare Providers Things Get Complicated Quickly

Newsflash: Grandparents are not obligated to provide childcare for their grandchildren

You are not alone. My personal opinion is that grandparents are not childcare providers. Apparently, I am not the only one that shares that belief!

Between the rising cost of daycare and millennial parents who don’t want to compromise their careers, more grandparents are agreeing to provide low-cost or even free daycare.

Searching Google, it seems that grandparents are divided on this issue. Some grandparents love the opportunity to help family. And others, like me, believe that grandparents are not childcare providers.

Grandparents Are Not Childcare Providers

Grandma Is Too Busy to Be the Babysitter

About five years ago, my adult married child and their spouse approached me about babysitting for my grandchild. There was no baby at that point, but they wanted to get a feel for my reaction. I remember looking across the coffee table at both of them and softly saying “Hell no.” Remembering the look on their faces, they were expecting a different answer!

Paying a Family Member for Childcare

Maybe Grandma Doesn’t Want to Work for Free

When they asked me that question, I did not even have to think, it was a solid “NO”! Like many moms, I raised my children with great intent, but I am NOT the woman who wants to run a daycare for anyone’s kids, including my grandchild. I understand the financial burdens that childcare places on a family. That was one of the main reasons I choose to stay at home with my children.

While grandparents generally have the best of intentions, regular full-time babysitting comes with a considerable amount of responsibility and therefore may not be an ideal arrangement. Before grandparents agree to such an arrangement, they should consider all the potential problems it could cause in the family.

But…Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Can Derail Your Career!

Having one parent stay at home is often the most cost-effective option for the family resources. Childcare costs can exceed the amount of an average paycheck. For most families, it’s not worth the cost and hassle of childcare arrangements.

Additionally, being a stay-at-home parent may potentially derail a career. Many women have experienced a significant loss in overall lifetime income when they made the choice to stay home with their children. Generations of women have been victims of financial inequity simply because they have chosen to become a mother.

Childcare Labor Has Always Been a Female Problem

There are no quick solutions for this ongoing disparity between women and the workplace. With so many emerging advocates for women and work, I believe that future generations will create more equitable solutions for women.

Every generation makes the best decision according to culture, customs, and finances. It is our job as grandparents to be supportive as they navigate the challenges of family and career. It is not our job to become the default childcare provider.

Grandparents and Childcare: Whose Problem Is It?

It is not our job to rescue our family from experiencing difficulty.

When we rescue people we are telling them that they don’t have what it takes to be in charge of their lives. We rob them of the growth that comes from struggle, and the joy that results from victory.

A co-dependent Grandma is an unhealthy grandma, no matter how many diapers she changes.

Reasons for Grandparents to Say NO to Providing Childcare

Step out of your granny guilt and consider these reasons to say no to grandparent childcare.

Do you really want to work for your kid? I mean, c’mon- think about it! Is it your midlife dream to function as an employee for your adult child? That means you vacation when they vacation, you work when they need you, and most often there is little to no pay when you work for family. Look closely at your adult kid and decide if you want them to be the boss of your life.

Be honest, is there a feeling of entitlement to your time as a grandparent? Some adult kids struggle with separating from their parents, and as a result, they feel entitled to your time, money, and energy. This is a boundary violation, and you must address it to have healthy interactions with your adult children.

Being the Babysitter Can Make Grandma Feel Resentment

Thanksgiving dinner will taste different. Dave Ramsey has a great saying about borrowing money from family, it makes Thanksgiving dinner taste different. The beautiful thing about family is that we support each other until we resent it.

Many families are unable to share feelings of resentment in a healthy way. Don’t set yourself up for resentment by agreeing to provide daycare. If you don’t want to provide childcare for your grandchild, share your boundaries early with your kids. Ideally, before you are approached about providing childcare.

Grandparents and Babysitting: Dealing With Guilt

Truthfully, grandparents should never feel guilty if they decide not to babysit full-time. Being a grandparent is a wonderful responsibility, and it’s understandable that some grandparents may not wish to take on the additional job of taking care of their grandchildren on a daily basis.

There can be both pros and cons to bringing in paid help or having family members step in for full-time hours, so it’s important for grandparents and parents alike to consider all the available options before making any decisions.

Face It Grandma, You Have to Follow Their Rules

Imagine yourself in the role of disciplining your grandchild. Can you picture it? Okay, now step back a bit further, and imagine the many ways that you could have conflict over disciplining your grandchild.

Parenting styles have changed over the decades and what worked for your parenting most likely won’t work for your kid’s parenting style. Is it worth having a HUGE conflict with your child in this area? Because most likely, a conflict will happen when you apply your discipline style to your grandchild.

Grandparents Are the Icing on the Family Cupcake

Think about it, who really wants to discipline their grandchild daily? Didn’t we do enough of that when we raised our kids? Grandparents are like icing on the family cupcake, fun, sweet, and with just enough colored sprinkles to make the cupcake exciting.

Grandparents Have Earned the Right To Retire From Childcare

Listen soldier, you fought your war. You raised your kids, you served your tour of duty. The house looked like a combat zone and some days you wanted to go AWOL, but you didn’t, you dug in and fought the parenting battle until they left your home. You earned your Mothering Medal of Honor, now it is up to your adult children to earn theirs.

But Wait, Some Grandmas Enjoy Providing Daycare

To be fair, I have one friend that provides free childcare for her grandchild. She loves it, but most days she is exhausted when he goes home to his parents. She made some life changes to help out her daughter, including closing her own small business and creating a daycare space in the basement for her grandchild.

Her biggest concern right now is that her daughter and son-in-law are planning on adding to the family and she has committed to watch the new sibling as well. I have encouraged her to keep that arrangement open-ended. She might just find out that two babies are more responsibility than she is willing to carry.

Healthy Behavior Is Caught, Not Taught

Each family has to make their own decision when it comes to arranging childcare. That responsibility falls squarely on the parents. The wonderful thing about having married kids is that they have a spouse to help them navigate life’s problems that arise from a growing family.

It is not up to you to rush in a rescue them from financial discomfort or difficult choices. Remember, you are being an unhealthy parent when you choose to step into their problem and fix it. Your adult children have what they need to solve their problems, including finding a childcare provider.


One of the greatest gifts you can give your grandchild is to have clear and healthy boundaries with their parents. You raised your children to function as independent, successful adults. Be supportive, but don’t be enmeshed in their life.

Say yes to watching your grandkids as often as you like, but make sure to create personal boundaries around any childcare requests. You raised your children to be competent and equipped for life’s difficulties. When we over-function for our adult kids, we prevent them from trusting their abilities to solve life’s problems.

Website | + posts

Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.

Similar Posts