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    « Stylin' grandsons | Main | One-word Wednesday: Training »

    Grandparents and childcare: Long-distance grandmas can do it, too

    I must say, I'm one fortunate long-distance grandma. My good fortune—despite the bad fortune of my only two grandsons living 815 miles away—lies in the fact that I get to visit Bubby and Mac at their desert home in just a few weeks.


    I just visited them in December.

    And in October.

    And in August.

    Plus, they visited me and the rest of our mountain-dwelling family in June.

    And there were a few times I visited the desert in the early months of the year, as well.

    Do I have megabucks that allow me to keep my calendar marked with travel dates to see my grandsons, all to keep my heart from breaking over living so far away from them.

    Not at all. In fact, this past year has been particularly challenging for me, in terms of finances.

    It's been a good year for my daughter and son-in-law, though. Good in terms of finances because Megan went back to full-time work, and Preston is rocking the financial-advising world. Which translates to a good year for me because all their time committed to work means they need someone to babysit my grandsons.

    Bubby and Mac do have their daily childcare needs met by an in-home provider—at their home—thanks to their great Aunt Katie, Preston's aunt. She watches Mac every day and Bubby every day that he's not at his two-mornings-a-week preschool. There are times, though, that Megan and Preston need the boys covered for 24/7 stints Aunt Katie can't cover.

    And that's where I come in.

    The reason I get to see my adorable grandsons far more often than the average grandma-bear might get to see her grandbears is because I come in pretty handy as a fill-in childcare provider. On Megan and Preston's dime.

    As working parents, Megan and Preston have daycare built into their budget. And if anyone reading this knows anything about childcare costs nowadays, it ain't cheap. Gramma, though, does come cheap. At least not any more expensive to fly me there for a week and back home again than the cost typically paid for a week's worth of childcare.

    A week of childcare with built-in Gramma time for the boys, all for one low price of plane fare.

    Who wins in that scenario? All of us! I win. My grandsons win. Megan and Preston win.

    As I added dates for my upcoming desert trip to my new 2013 calendar, I considered how grateful and how lucky I am, and thought that maybe other long-distance grandmas could be just as lucky, if only they took a chance and asked the parents of their grandkids to consider a similar arrangement.

    Long-distance grandmas: Ask! Ask if you can help out with childcare for your grandchildren. And ask if they'll foot the bill to fly you to their home to do just that. Then you and your loved ones can win, too.

    I'm definitely not the only grandma to do this. In fact, many years before I reached grandma status, I learned a former boss of mine had retired when her first grandbaby arrived and was traveling from Colorado to Chicago on alternating weeks to help cover childcare. Childcare is expensive; the manner in which parents now handle the juggling of it is far different from what we may remember from our own days of raising children while being employed.

    Of course there are a few caveats:

    • Some childcare arrangements require the parents to pay for days the child won't be attending, so don't be offended if your offer of services is turned down for financial reasons.
    • It's likely only economically advantageous if you cover the childcare for a week. This could be for a week jam-packed with appointments and events for Mom and Dad, who wouldn't be leaving town, just busy. (I've covered such times). Or it could be a week in which Mom and Dad need to be out of town, be it for a conference or possibly even a regular ol' kid-free vacation for the parents. (I've covered even more of those times.)
    • And it's likely only comparable to the cost of their regular childcare if reasonable airfare can be arranged.
    • Also likely: The arrangement requires the traveling grandma to be self-employed or retired...or willing to use her paid time off from her regular job for the childcare stint.
    • A week as the sole childcare provider can be exhausting, especially for long-distance grandmas who don't care for kids often.

    The bottom line: Childcare is a huge expense for families with young children, and that expense may be a bit more palatable if they can fit in some grandma time for the grandkids on that same tab, too.

    It's worth asking. Trust me.

    Today's question:

    What was your childcare arrangement when your kids were young?

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    Reader Comments (8)

    What a practical and perfect way to see your Grandsons!

    Lisa, I'd like to give kudos to you and all long distance Grandparents. Due to an extremely busy holiday season work schedule, I went nearly 3 weeks without seeing my local Grandkids and I missed them terribly. I can't (and don't want to) imagine their physical absence on a regular basis. Perhaps it's whatever you become accustomed to?

    In terms of childcare 'back in the day'... I was a working Mom and it would take me pages and pages to write about childcare arrangements. However, I owe much to some fabulous caregivers...kudos to them, too!

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNonnieKelly

    You really are one lucky long distance Grandma -- if being long distance can ever be lucky. I'm so glad for you that you get to see them on a very regular basis. And who knows -- maybe 2013 will be a great (financial) year and you will get to see them even more. My fingers are crossed for you.

    Childcare back in the day.... Jenna's father (NOT Grampy) chose to sit on the couch everyday while I worked 70+ hours a week so child care wasn't an issue. Maybe that is part of why she has chosen to be a stay at home Mom? I am thrilled to add that Amara has never had a non Grandma babysitter except for the one time she stayed at her aunt's. They were thinking about getting pregnant and wanted to see what 24 hours with a toddler would be like. They have 2 children now so it must have gone OK!

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Kc

    As a working Mom of young children, seems like every day brought a trauma of one kind or another, in my memory.There were some sitters who were good and dependable, some who weren't.

    I'm just glad that you get to spend as much time with your boys as you do; give them hugs and kisses from me, so they know an old great-grandmother loves them, too.

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

    Such a good idea for long-distance grandparents! When my kids were growing up, they attended the day care center on base (we were Air Force). I don't know how those places are now, but back then they were wonderful. Both my sons bonded with the staff and enjoying being there. It was a godsend for me and their father.

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerri Sonoda

    you are a good grandma. I stayed home with my kids. For those days when I did volunteer work or I had errands to run the kids grandmothers stepped in for me. Hooray for grandmothers!

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkelley

    I was a working mom and so was my mom. I had to rely on in-home daycares for my two kids. Out of all the daycares my kids went to (and there were quite a few) I've only had one bad experience and like NonnieKelly....kudos to those caregivers! I am semi-retired so any chance I get to help out my granddaughter....I'm available.

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie E.

    I was lucky and thrifty. I stayed home with my four kids when they were growing up. We ate a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole and had hand me down nursery items from a cousin - but it was all so worth it. One summer my mom & dad came in their RV and took my daughters with them for the summer. The girls still remember that summer and really got to bond and see fun places - and it was all a bit more exciting because Mom & Dad weren't there. You're right with your situation with those adorable grandsons - everybody wins! I'll bet you enjoyed penciling in those dates on your 2013 calendar, Lisa.

    January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

    Good ideas, Lisa! I've pitched in a couple of times when my grown kids needed back-up. I don't mind making the 6 hr drive to L.A. on occasion--but those cross-country jaunts are harder to manage. I'm not at my best after taking a red-eye!

    When my kids were small, both of their grandmothers worked or traveled or had too many other obligations (or health restrictions, in the case of my mother) to do much babysitting. When I was working, I brought the kids to daycare centers or in-home care. I went back to grad school with two little ones, and the campus childcare center was amazing--and inexpensive! The kids were well-cared for and it was close to campus--great for those early morning classes!

    January 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRisa
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