I became a mom at 20 and a grandmother at 50.
In between, I was fortunate enough to earn a few other titles and a decent amount of money. So, it wasn’t long after my daughter’s pregnancy announcement on Mother’s Day, 2017, that I started contemplating this new title and next life chapter.
After months of conversations, and calculations—and a few tears and glasses of wine—I inked my new deal.
In February 2018 I left full-time employment, to be my grandchild’s caregiver. This meant leaving behind a stellar compensation package and further career advancements while gaining intangible benefits instead.
Since making this change there have been more conversations, tears, and glasses of wine, but I still believe it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. Here’s why.
Family is one of our most important assets.
Kids can be expensive, and daycare costs are budget killers. Watching my granddaughter instead of her attending a daycare center is indeed saving my daughter money, but I also view it as an investment in my family.
My daughter and son-in-law are as grateful for the peace of mind they feel knowing their daughter is cared for by a loved one, as they are for the dollar savings. I’m thankful for the time to develop a bond with my grandchild.
Like money in an investment account, the more you put in early on, the more it can compound and grow.
I’ve rushed through most of my first fifty years on this planet, wishing for the next thing to check off on my list of accomplishments.
In doing so, I was often not present in my family’s daily life. Oh, I was there, I just wasn’t always present. I wasn’t relishing the moments. Instead, I was planning the next.
Today, I’m working on enjoying every smile, giggle, and adventurous moment my granddaughter provides; even the cries, messy feedings, and emerging stubbornness.
She’s keeping me young, and I’m becoming a better me.
Spent any time with a young child lately? Up, down, touch the ground. It’s one of the most exhausting—yet energizing—experiences we can have in later life.
While I’ve attempted to stay physically active all my life, caring for and keeping up with my granddaughter has quickly reminded me I’m not thirty anymore. But each week as she learns new things, I relearn some too, and we both grow stronger and wiser.
Childlike curiosity, creativity, and independence is something we often lose as adults, replaced by responsibility, conformity, and comparison.
Instead of managing project budgets and egos, I’m embracing my inner child again.
Managing the process
There’s no getting around it: the first question is whether this will work for you financially.
Yes, daycare is expensive. But sacrificing your income so your child can keep more of theirs is short-sighted. Saving them money on childcare now could result in them having to kick in cash for your adult care later.
In our case, luckily, money is saved in our retirement accounts, emergency funds sit in a money market and low-risk investment accounts, a mortgage is our only debt, and my husband remains gainfully employed.
Assuming the math makes sense, make sure to do the following before you embark on this journey:
Discuss the logistics up front. You and your adult child will need to consider what happens if you’re sick, want to take a vacation, or need time off from watching your grandchild for other reasons.
Let your child set the rules. This is work, albeit unpaid, and you still have a boss. Make sure to ask about—and follow—your son or daughter’s systems, rules and schedules.
Make a plan for relaxation. Instead of worrying about impressing management and clients, you’re back to worrying about keeping a tiny human alive and unhurt. And that can be stressful. Be sure to take time for yourself.
In the same vein, learn to say no. Have I mentioned that children are exhausting? Don’t take on extra hours of childcare in the evenings and weekends unless you’ve really got the stamina and free time.
Keep your outside life. As with any career, it’s essential to have an identity outside of your ‘provider position.’ You could still be fired or laid-off. Well, not really—you’ll always be Grandma (or Grandpa)—but at some point, your services as daily childcare provider may be reduced or eliminated.
While the role of stay-at-home grandma isn’t always easy and doesn’t pad any financial accounts, the benefits are priceless. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.