Grandparents and child care: Marilyn Stowe on BBC

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December 17, 2015

Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe spoke to Jonathan Vernon-Smith on BBC 3 Counties Radio’s JVS Show this morning about grandparents being used for child care.

Recent figures have shown that one in five grandparents dip into their own savings to help with child care. Mrs Stowe explained that looking after a child is hard for a parent and even more so for grandparents. Her sister relocated to the south of the country to help her own children look after the grandchildren, something that Marilyn was not sure that she could do herself.

Mrs Stowe also mentioned that, in some societies, regular care from grandparents is the norm but we generally live quite separately and people move away so it is harder.

Listen to Marilyn’s full interview here (interview starts at 01:12:00)

Transcript from Marilyn Stowe on BBC 3 Counties Radio

JVS:                   Jonathan Vernon-Smith

MJS:                  Marilyn Stowe

 

JVS:                    Marilyn Stowe is the Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law which has offices in St Albans, good morning to you, Marilyn.

MJS:                   Hello, good morning.

JVS:                    Good morning. What is your view on this then? Do you think it’s fair to rely on grandparents to provide child care?

MJS:                   I think they do. I am a family law blogger and we’ve got around 50,000 people reading the blog every month and a large proportion of those people are grandparents and they willingly provide time and money to help look after their grandchildren. They are very happy to do it, it’s very hard work, parents find it hard but grandparents who are older find it harder. We see problems as lawyers when the parents of the children split up and suddenly, from really being involved with the grandparents, some of them can find it stops overnight and it’s quite heart breaking actually.

JVS:                    And that brings us on to what is even worse than feeling your children are taking advantage of you in terms of providing child care but being abandoned and suddenly no longer have a role to play in your grandchild’s life that must be far worse.

MJS:                   Absolutely. We see lots of grandparents all over the country who not only look after grandchildren and willingly because they adore them but also provide financial support as well. Going back to work with one child is tough enough, going back to work with two is very, very difficult and the pressure is on parents to work, to earn money to pay for child care, to run their lives is enormous and I don’t think we should underestimate that. So grandparents’ support is often vital but it doesn’t stop a marriage braking down and when it does, really sadly the fall out can be with the grandparents.

JVS:                    I wonder how many times family fall outs occur from the issue of just asking grandparents to do the honours and look after.

MJS:                   Grandparents can perhaps say things they shouldn’t have said, they might make comments about the in-laws and it is never forgotten.

JVS:                    If I had children, I don’t have children but if I was on my own bringing up two children for example if money was really tight and I was struggling to keep a roof above my head for myself and children and I said to my dad for example who was retired, “could you really help me out by looking after the children for two days a week?” If he said, “well no I would really rather not” and I knew that during those two days all he was doing was playing golf, I think I’d be a bit frustrated to be honest. And I think I’d feel like, why aren’t you doing anything to help me, I need help and this is what families do. And I wonder how many families fall out over the issue of having to ask for child care if a grandparent refuses.

MJS:                   In some societies, grandparents looking after grandchildren is the norm. Everybody lives together; they don’t regard it as odd if a grandparent takes over the care of a child or an aunt, not the parent. But in our society we live quite separately usually from the rest of our family and sometime quite a long, long way away and sometimes if you ask someone to look after a child; they’re scared by that because they actually don’t know what to do. And somebody how has never been able to look after a child and doesn’t have a clue what it entails, I think it is not unreasonable to refuse. My sister for example moved down south to be with her children so she could help look after the grandchildren because both of her children have got professional jobs, they both wanted to go back to work and they couldn’t cope. So she has very willingly taken on that job, however, if somebody asked me to do that, I am not sure if I would be able to do it because I am not the I am not the earth mother type that she is.

JVS:                    Marilyn, thank you very much. Marilyn Stowe is the Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law which has an office in St Albans.