When babysitting your grandkids is not the retirement plan

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant. First published on Over Sixty [Link: www.oversixty.com.au]

You’re retiring, or maybe you’re about to cut down to part-time hours and you can smell freedom in the air. You have the schedule for a pilates studio on your fridge, a list of restaurants to try, and a couple ideas for that abandoned corner of your garden. At last you have time to do all of those things you’ve always wanted to do.

And then the phone rings. “Mum, now that you’re not working, it would be great if you could look after [grandchild] on a Friday…” And your heart sinks. You love your grandchild to bits, but a regular baby-sitting gig is not part of your plan.

While this is the perfect scenario for many people approaching retirement, it’s important to recognise that it’s not for everyone.

Image: grandparents walking with grandchildren

What happens if your family has other ideas for your life after work, e.g. caring for grandchildren, or they have assumptions about what you can and can't (or shouldn't!) do in retirement. Do you acquiesce and abandon your dreams or do you recognise the value of your time and dreams and decide to ‘just go for it’?

The trouble with choosing to pursue your own path is the huge amount of guilt this can bring up, particularly for women. You feel that you should be there for your children and grandchildren. You know that your support will make their life easier as they have demanding jobs and because the cost of living and day care is expensive. Or perhaps you convince yourself that you do have the time and energy because, well, you’re not working anymore. But the risk that goes with this is that you start to feel resentful because you’re not being true to your dreams.

Broaching this with adult children, however, can be a tricky thing to do. It brings up conflicting emotions including love, guilt, joy, fear and obligation and the last thing you want to do is make a loved one feel bad.

In recognition of this, the following provides tips for sharing your retirement ideals with your family in a positive way:

  • Make an uninterrupted time to talk. While it might be an easy time to catch your children, try to avoid the early evening ‘witching hour’ when feeding and bathing can create mayhem
  • Share your goals. Rather than assuming your family know what will be important to you, let them know what you would like to get out of retirement, particularly while you are active and have good health
  • Articulate your concerns or fears. Let them know, for example, that you worry about being able to keep up with your energetic grandchild, or that you risk letting them down in the longer term when you decide to go travelling and can’t do that regular Tuesday ‘gig’
  • Listen to what it is that your adult children are seeking and see if you can come up with alternate options together (it doesn’t always have to be one thing or the other)
  • Let your family know that you love and care for them unconditionally. Not being able to provide regular baby-sitting duties does not mean that you love them any less

As the saying goes, you first have to look after yourself before you can look after others and this applies especially in retirement. However uncomfortable it may seem initially, have the conversation in order to understand and align both your and your family’s expectations, and then give yourself permission to follow your dreams in retirement!

In planning for a holiday we always think “we need to go there” and “we should see that” but when Day One of our holiday arrives, we draw a blank…What were all of those things we were going to enjoy? In the busyness of life they’ve slipped our mind.

Don’t let this happen to your retirement. Download the My Retirement Planner and start capturing those ideas and inspiration so that you’re ready to step into retirement with gusto!



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