Getting Grandparents to Help with Childcare

One family looks at the traditional arrangement a little bit differently.

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Hiring a nanny or signing a child up for day care often costs more than most people earn. So when grandparents are interested in helping out, parents are usually extremely grateful. John Robbins, author of The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in An Age of Less (as well as the bestseller Diet for a New America), recently described to me how his own family views the arrangement a little bit differently.

Ever since his twin grandchildren were born with special needs nine years ago, he and his wife, Deo, have been helping his son and daughter-in-law with their care. Here’s how he describes it:

I’m sure that raising twins is a handful and a half in the first place, but River and Bodhi were born two and a half months premature and have had many special needs. We’ve all heard the expression that it takes a village to raise a child. In this kind of situation, I sometimes think we need two villages.

But with four “parents” involved, we seek to provide the little guys with as much undivided attention and unconditional love as we can. Deo and I both love playing with the twins, and Deo, in particular, puts in a terrific number of hours, for which Michele and Ocean are tremendously grateful.

One day, Michele was reflecting on how thankful she felt to Deo and me, and how glad she is that we are here. Thinking about the huge number of hours that Deo devotes to the twins, Michele told her, “I can’t believe how much money you’re saving us in child care.”

Deo shot me a quick smile that spoke volumes about how she didn’t want Michele to feel indebted, and how greatly she enjoys taking care of the little fellows. Then she turned to Michele and said, “That’s one way to look at it. But do you have any idea how much it would cost if we had to go out and rent grandchildren?”

I love that story. It illustrates Robbins’ larger thesis, which is that we should define the “good life” in terms of joy, creativity, and love, instead of money. My complete interview with Robbins will be posted next week.

See 8 Ways to Find Affordable Child Care