Children who are looked after by their grandparents rather than attending private nurseries develop better and are more emotionally secure, according to recent research.

Love and trust were cited as the two main motivators for parents who choose to have their children’s grandparents provide childcare whilst they work.

Although the study found that children attending nursery showed an increased readiness for school by age five on those who were cared for by grandparents, the difference was notably small.

I find this research both interesting and infuriating. Both my children have attended private nursery since they were under 10 months old. Personal circumstances dictated that the support of both sets of grandparents in caring for our children whilst we worked would not be readily available (three are still in active employment and one suffers ill health.) Nor, however, was this an option we proactively wanted to choose. Being fortunate enough to have the financial scope to use a private nursery was a factor, but more important than that, other elements were key to our decision.

For us, nursery offered many things: interaction with other children in an environment outside the home; developing and enabling a sense of independence; and the opportunity to undertake activities and early learning less likely to come from being with grandparents.

Our daughter started school last August and she didn’t know any of her classmates ahead of day 1. She took with her the confidence to strike up a conversation and build quick friendships with her fellow primary 1s, an eagerness to build on the learning experiences she had at nursery and a sense of independence that I truly don’t believe she would have had if her early years had been spent with a grandparent.

I’m also a firm believer that when the time comes for my parents and in-laws to retire, then that’s their time to enjoy the things they have been working hard all their lives for. I would see being the primary childcarer for grandchildren whilst parents work as something of a bind.

The times our children spend with their grandparents are full-on fun – there’s baking, crafting, outdoor play, reading and games, but by the end of even just a day’s visit, my parents and in-laws are exhausted. I do not think that they could do it full time even if circumstances allowed.

Our youngest still attends nursery, shortly due to move into the pre-school area, and he loves his time there. He has strong relationships with the nursery nurses, all of whom I trust to care for my child. But equally our children are in no doubt as to how loved they are by their grandparents – they just don’t have to be looked after by them every day to know that.

I think our children get the best of both with our arrangements, and I’m certain that my mum and dad breathe a massive sigh of relief when they finally wave us all off on our merry way after a noisy and energy-packed Saturday morning visit!

Do you use your parents to support your working or are other childcare options more suited to your family? What were your drivers for your childcare options?

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