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Confessions of a working mother: The debt that we all owe to grandparents

I lost all my family to the lure of the great outdoors over the weekend as the tent went up and the sleeping bags came out.

The fantastic weather saw my three children and the biggest child of all, my husband, have their first camping adventure of the season — in the back garden.

I must admit as I went out to say goodnight to them part of me thought “if you can’t beat join ‘em” but my bed was too close and too alluring so I tucked them all in and headed for my close-by home comforts.

As I headed inside on my own I had one of those moments that happens to all parents (well I hope it does) at some stage when I thought — how did I suddenly become a mum to three maturing boys at six, eight and 10; how did that happen?

Sometimes this just happens and your heart feels like it is going to burst as you realise the enormity of parenting but also the speed with which it whizzes you by.

I started to think about the amount of support and help I have had in getting them thus far. (Being in the house on your own in the silence obviously gives you a lot of contemplating time).

I think this was semi instigated by an item on the news last week about the increasing role of grandparents in the upbringing of modern families that struck a real chord with me as well as serving to infuriate me somewhat.

The item was discussing this increasing role but also the conflict that can arise due to difference of opinion of parenting methods.

It doesn’t take Super Nanny to realise that different generations are going to differ in their outlook on how things should be done.

But as mums were being interviewed and giving off about how granny spoils wee Jimmy and gives into his every whim or feeds him too many sweets or fusses too much over what he has to eat while the parents are off working, I wanted to scream at the television that they should be grateful they have young and active grandparents who are willing to help. It frustrates me that parents who have never had to pay for a day’s childcare in their working lives often take it for granted.

My mum took ill when Jesse who is now 10, was just 10 months old. She passed away when he was just a year and from that point until this year when I have scaled back my work commitments to try to work around the boys, we have always paid for childcare and it is an expensive business.

However my recent illness and subsequent surgery found we were in need of childcare as I couldn’t drive or do the school runs for several weeks — a quick straw poll of local nurseries revealed afterschool care was going to cost us £200 a week to have the three of them collected from school and looked after until Tom got back from work.

This just wasn’t a viable option for us — so what did we do? Call on reliable and dependable grandparents. I’ve said before in this column that I hate asking Tom’s parents for childcare as with eight grandchildren I feel it isn’t fair to ask them to single some out and help them more than others.

However this was one of those needs must situations when we didn’t have much choice. My in-laws were wonderful during my enforced confinement. Not only did they pick up and look after the boys for several weeks — they also helped out with homeworks and ensured we were all fed and watered during this time.

Did they do it to my exacting standards? No they didn’t! But that’s because they did it much better — the boys came home to home-made pancakes every day, had lots of treats and proper dinners and yes, were spoilt rotten.

But is that not the beauty of having grandparents? And for one I am ever grateful for the help and support they provided.

Now that I am back driving again normal services are set to be resumed and I know the boys are disappointed they won’t be going to nanny’s for pancakes every day.

Instead, it will be back to the homework task master and back to fish fingers and waffles for tea.

So in the quiet at the weekend — I realised that we have got this far because when we have needed it we have always had help and support and that is something I hope I never take for granted.

Belfast Telegraph