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The Grandparent Trap
Family Family
The Grandparent Trap
July 11, 2018
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Family Family
The Grandparent Trap
July 11, 2018
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I considered writing this feature anonymously because in all the potential minefields of parenting, this is where I’m most fearful of causing offence. However, there’s not one mum I’ve raised this topic with who hasn’t rolled her eyes in complete agreement and jumped to tell me of her personal trials, so clearly it’s something that affects us all. I’m talking about grandparents as free childcare. We need them, they make our working lives possible and our kids adore them but I put it to you that the opportunity cost, is our sanity.

When I leave my daughter with her grandparents I am entirely confident she’ll be both safe and happy which as a parent is the childcare jackpot. However, I also know she’ll be returned to me filthy, exhausted from missing her nap and on a pronounced sugar high. This I find nigh on impossible to navigate because I’m both immensely grateful of their efforts, whilst enraged at their blatant disregard for all routine and house rules. To round it off, my mother can’t resist handing my daughter back with a, “Don’t worry, mummy’s here now so you can go back to eating kale and chia seeds” always with the accompanying smirk. Yep that’s me, the criminal that feeds my kid a nutrient-rich diet.

“Don’t worry, mummy’s here now so you can go back to eating kale and chia seeds”

I try to temper my enquiries of “Why has my daughter tried ketchup at just eight months old, Mum?” “Did you think about the fact she might have a shellfish allergy before feeding her the prawns, Dad?” “Anyone want to volunteer why she’s suddenly started drinking cereal from the bowl or learnt the word pudding?!” And it only starts with food. A friend who has a strict no-branded clothing rule for her kids told me she came home to her toddler in lurid pink Peppa Pig pyjamas and her mother with a defiant look on her face, just waiting to be challenged. I’ve also learned that any noisy, flashing, battery-operated, horribly obnoxious toy in friends’ houses is inevitably a product of grandparent gifting.

Usually we wouldn’t put up with this nonsense but we’re all too aware that we’re sitting in glass houses, staring into a gift horse’s mouth, about to bite the hand that’s fed us for most of our collective lives. When someone is helping you out, it’s super hard to criticise the way they go about it but this is about your child and how you want to raise them. Mum, Dad, we need to talk. I brought biscuits…

1. Be a united front. Agree with your partner what you’re willing to let slide and what needs to be respected.
2. Don’t write a list of do’s and don’ts. It doesn’t go down well (guess how we learned that one?)
3. Explain why. This isn’t an affront on how they raised you, but with every little bend of the rules they’re undermining the structure of your household.
4. Consistency is key. We’d all expect grandparents to be more lenient, but this is about regularity and boundaries.
5. Breathe and pick your battles. Your child has come back to you happy and in one piece. Is an ice lolly worth having to find a qualified childminder?

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