Across Australia today thousands of grandparents have been put to work. But they won’t earn a cent for their efforts.
They’re looking after their grandkids while their own kids are at the office. They’re helping the next generation of Mums and Dads to pay the bills, contribute to the mortgage and continue with their careers. According to the Council on the Ageing, around 10 to 20% of over 65-year-olds are putting in unpaid childcare hours, amounting to a massive $90 million a year in NSW alone.
Those providing childcare typically contribute around 12 hours a week but for some, it’s a part-time or even full-time job.
Plenty of these Nans and Pas enjoy the hours they put in (most of the time) but that doesn’t change the fact its work, and it’s work that’s contributing to our economy by allowing parents to get to their own, paid, places of work.
From “Nanna and Pop’s unpaid labour keeping the economy ticking” by Angela Priestley in Women’s Agenda, and thanks to Hendo for the link.
I recently cleared my calendar for nearly a month, deleting it all: work, meetings, appointments, dinners, movies, and even workouts at the gym. It felt at once liberating and luxurious, and a little bit scary. I had done this a few times before, twice for much longer times when our sons were born and once for a sad, open-ended time when my father was dying.
This would be a happy time. Our son and daughter-in-law had arranged to bring their first-born across the country for two separate two-week visits. They would both have work; could I take care of Jack?..
.. So, that history established, you can imagine that I was very interested to time-travel and try out modern life with children. Here’s what I learned, in three parts: the sociologically interesting, the surprising, and the highly improved.
Dads. I should have seen this one coming. There was no missing the appearance of more young dads with kids at the playgrounds, in the grocery stores, on mid-day outings, or the announcements of paternal leave and dads’ support groups over the last generation. But old habits die hard, and when I was laying in supplies for the baby visit, I unthinkingly asked our son to ask our daughter-in-law what size diapers and what kind of bottles I should get. Without missing a beat, he replied, “Size 3 Pampers Swaddlers and Medela bottles.”
My first reaction was: a misstep by me. My second reaction was: He’s a good dad. Later, I even indulged the idea that maybe something about our sons’ own upbringing had rubbed off on them. My husband, a writer, has primarily worked from home. He saw, heard, and, to a much greater degree than most fathers of our generation, was part of the everyday scramble of life with kids. The lucky break of the workstyle of his profession allowed a participation in and empathetic appreciation of family life that is, I think, a version of what many young families aim toward today. Something has changed demonstrably in the functioning of modern young two-parent families: Both parents are there in the elemental sense of the word. Finally.
From “How the ‘Having It All’ Debate Has Changed Over the Last Thirty Years” by Deborah Fallows in The Atlantic, and thanks to John for the link.