Ask Audrey: 'My daughter wants me to stop travelling to take care of her kids'

Audrey Griffen

Audrey is a mother to a 15-year-old and has just welcomed a newborn. She probably should have taken into account who she was marrying (Osher Günsberg) much earlier, as she’s far more comfortable behind the camera as a freelance hair and makeup artist, than a TV host’s wife who doesn’t know how to work her angles for any on-camera duties.

Audrey loves to cook, decorate cakes, gardening, DIY and is very handy with a flat-pack, few of which you would pay her to do for you, but she’d happily give it a shot for free.

Audrey Griffen gives advice to one woman who's daughter is hoping to use her for free childcare five days a week. Photo: Supplied

Hi Audrey,

I’m a 54-year-old mother-of-two and grandmother-of-three, who has been looking forward to retiring and traveling the world for years now.

It seems I was foolish to think this would be the case, as last night, my daughter asked (or more told) me if I would take care of my two youngest grandchildren from next January, which she says would save her thousands of dollars a year in childcare costs.

Initially I thought she meant one or two days a week, but after I said yes, she forwarded me on a typical example of her five-day working roster, which includes weekends.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am excited to spend more time bonding with my precious grandchildren who are the lights of my life. I just can’t help but feel like if I do this, I will be moving from one full-time job to another.

How should I broach the subject with my daughter?

This woman had planned to travel after retirement, but her daughter had different ideas. Photo: Getty

Hi Ms Free Childcare,

You seem to have been placed in a position where you will have to choose between your needs and your daughter’s. While there are some very positive aspects to you taking over the childcare of your grandchildren, are you emotionally and financially able to do that now?

Before getting too carried away with finding a way to broach the subject with your daughter, it might help to work out what your timeline is for the travels and adventures you had planned for yourself upon retirement.

If there’s no rush, perhaps you could commit to a year of helping out and set a limit for how long you’d be able to be the main childcare provider for your daughter. If you’ve got some plans in the pipeline already, then you should stick to them.

We adult kids have a tendency to think our parents are always going to be there to help out, especially with their grandchildren (Hi Mum and Dad!), and it’s easy to take them for granted while we set off on our own parenting path.

Surely they don’t have plans for themselves? Not after all these decades of dedicating their finances and lives to us children?

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it on more than one occasion. As a single mum, I know I couldn’t have raised Georgia at the same time as developing a career without their help.

Even now, as they stand by waiting to welcome the latest addition to the family, they are adjusting their own lives to help their kids and grandkids.

The thing that I find so valuable and that brings me great joy though, is watching them making plans to travel to places they didn’t have the opportunity (or the funds) to go to while they were younger and raising their family.

Both of them retired a few years ago and suddenly they were off.

The tap to unlimited childcare and support was turned down low while they jaunted off to different continents, finally able to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

It took me a while to get my head around it, and I missed my daily check-ins with them, but I feel like I did a lot of growing myself during these times. Sometimes you need to be thrown in the deep end to grow, rather than taking the easy route and picking up the phone to ask for advice or just handing over the hard bits to the people who’ve already had their turn managing the work/kids juggle.

When it comes to the conversation that you’ll need to have with your daughter, try not to approach it with a guilty heart. You will be there to help her, and help her immensely (childcare is ridiculously expensive), but you have your needs too, and there’s no reason that you both can’t benefit from this situation.

I find that the “compliment sandwich” method of broaching difficult subjects is the best place to start. This is where you sandwich some “bad news” between two slices of “good news”.

She loves the idea of spending time with her grandchildren, but is worried about taking it on as a full-time job. Photo: Getty

Let your daughter know that you’re really happy that you’ll be able to help out with the kids, and that your imminent retirement allows some time for that.

Follow that with your travel plans and how many days a week that you will be available (be strong and try not to be wishy-washy with this, if you’re definitely wanting to take time for yourself, being unclear with your time boundaries will lead to them being breached).

Top all of that news off with some plans of the things you’d like to do with your grandchildren and how much you look forward to being able to help her out.

Good luck! Remember you’re also entitled to enjoy your life, and that by not being completely available to your daughter is not a selfish act, but will help her to find the right balance for herself and your grandchildren.

After all, it’s our roles as parents to teach our kids to “adult”, and by continuing to save the day for them prevents that.

All the very best and happy travels!

Audrey x

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