Caring for Grandchildren in Retirement

Over half of grandparents babysit on a regular basis

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While I attended a 4-day National Press Foundation conference for retirement writers last week, my husband’s parents graciously provided child care for my daughter. As it turned out, grandparents providing childcare was one of the many hot retirement topics I discussed with 18 other writers selected to participate in the conference. Some of the other writers with young children, like me, welcomed the help with child care. The confidence that comes from knowing that you left your offspring with someone you trust completely is immeasurable. The actual cost savings doesn’t hurt either. About 61 percent of grandparents babysit on a regular basis and 11 percent are primary caregivers, says Georgia Hope Witkin, a psychologist and contributing editor to Grandparents.com, who spoke at the NPF conference. Among the 11.3 million children younger than 5 whose mothers are employed, 30 percent are cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent during their mother’s working hours, according to the Census Bureau.

Many of the retirement writers who were grandparents seemed to relish every moment spent with their grandchildren or were actively encouraging their adult children to become parents. Some of the writers were even factoring where the grandchildren were living into their retirement plans. The most famous grandmother caretaker is, of course, Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama's mother who retired and at least temporarily moved to Washington to help care for her granddaughters. But some grandparents also feel that they already put in their time raising children and want to have fun in retirement.

There is some evidence that children benefit when grandparents are a part of their lives. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a paper is the November 2008 issue of Pediatrics indicating that having a grandmother watch a child is associated with a decreased risk of injury for the child. Witkin and her grandson, who calls her "GG" which is short for Grandma Georgia, are taking drum lessons together. She says when grandparents are involved in a child’s life, “They’re getting attention from more adults who are just fascinated by them and not distracted by work.”

Tell us, should grandparents help provide child care?