In an ideal world, my wife and I would quit our jobs and spend as much time as we could with our kid. In the real world, we’ve got bills to pay. This means we need to work. This means we need to outsource a significant proportion of our son’s childcare. And this means he spends around two-and-a-half days of every week with his grandparents.
At this point, some of you will be grumbling about how lucky my wife and I are to have parents who are a) alive, b) close by and c) willing and able to help with the childcare. We are lucky. But we took the decision to buy a house near my wife’s parents, so there is an element of us making our own luck.
Rise of the grandparent
Also, we are far from alone. According to an article in The Independent, the number of grandparents claiming the state pension boost for looking after grandchildren has surged in recent times, and according to the visual evidence from my eyes, old ‘uns spend a lot of time ferrying young ‘uns around our neighbourhood.
I’m serious. Any time I take the bubster to a toddler class or the local play park, we’re met by a gang of septuagenarian singers and 60-something swing pushers. All are smiling, all are laughing and all have incredibly close bonds with their grandsons and/or granddaughters. It’s great to witness, but, with mum or dad nowhere to be seen, it also poses the question: are grandparents the new parents?
The decision-making process
Instinctively, I want to scream: “No! What a preposterous question. My wife and I do the hard, overnight yards, our son’s with us for a greater percentage of the week and we make the final decisions, so we’re in charge. They are just very loving and helpful babysitters. Do you hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME!!!!?”
But when I give my reactions a chance to calm down, I realise that in the last few months alone, my wife’s parents have taken our son to baby classes, accompanied him to the doctor, given us the odd night off and played an important role in the planning and implementation of our little one’s new eating, sleeping and pooping routines (spoiler alert: toilet training coming soon).
This isn’t just babysitting and it’s way more than traditional grandparenting, so how should they be branded? New Parents? Co-Parents? Assistant Parents? Deputy Parents? Executive Assistants to the Parental CEOs?
The natural hierarchy
In our case – although I’m power crazy and love the idea of being described as a Parental CEO – it feels like Deputy Parenting is the right terminology. I say this, because “New Parents” suggests my wife and I are out of the picture and her parents are in complete control; “Co-Parents” is already used to describe ex-partners who share the duties of raising a child; and “Assistant Parents” seems to underplay my in-laws’ role a little. Plus, the dictionary definition of deputy is: “a person who is appointed to undertake the duties of a superior in the superior’s absence” and, when I think about it, that is exactly what my wife’s parents do for us.
So here’s to our Deputy Parents and all the other super-involved grandparents like them. We modern parents may get angry when you let our kid oversleep. We may not give you the plan for the week before 11pm on Sunday night. And we might not orate our gratitude as often as we should. But we go to bed every night knowing that we could not do this thing without you. So thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you some more.
Got that? Great, now let’s discuss why you let my son eat cake this morning…