As a father of three young children, I’ve come to rely on my parents for occasional babysitting help. My wife and I try to get out on date nights every few weeks, and it’s been so nice having my parents watch the kids for a few hours so we can enjoy some couple’s time.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed my parents are starting to show their age more and more. My dad’s arthritis makes it hard for him to keep up with my energetic preschooler, and my mom has had some health issues that limit her mobility.
As much as they want to spend time with their grandkids, babysitting is becoming more challenging.
Just last weekend, we had made plans for my parents to watch the kids Saturday night. But earlier that day my dad threw out his back and my mom wasn’t feeling well.
While disappointing, it wasn’t entirely surprising. I know my parents are getting older and can’t provide childcare like they used to.
As grandparents age, chances are good that others are finding themselves in similar situations.
Babysitting help from parents and in-laws becomes less reliable over time. In this blog post, I’ll share 10 alternatives for childcare when grandparents are too old to babysit reliably.
There are creative solutions that allow us to still get occasional nights out while ensuring the kids are well cared for and grandparents don’t overexert themselves.
Here are 10 alternatives for childcare that worked for us when grandparents were too old to reliably babysit, along with examples:
a. Hired a babysitter
Our neighbor’s 16-year-old daughter started babysitting for us on date nights. She’s responsible and the kids love her. I looked into other professional babysitting services and was impressed with the training and experience many of the sitters had. After interviewing a few, I found a great babysitter I really liked.
The kids took to her right away. Though it’s not the same as having family watch them, I’m relieved to have found a capable, trustworthy babysitter to care for my children when needed.
b. Swapped with other parents
There was a time when a friend mentioned she swapped babysitting with other parents from our kids’ school. What a great idea! I spoke to a few dads and moms I knew and we worked out a schedule where we would each watch all the kids one night a week.
It’s been wonderful having these other parents I trust to watch my children. The kids have fun with their friends while we (parents) get a much-needed break. Swapping babysitting duties has been a lifesaver now that my grandparents can no longer help out.
c. Used church drop-in care
Our church offers drop-in childcare on Wednesday nights which allows us to attend a networking event.
There was a time when paying for a regular babysitter was out of our budget. Luckily, I learned our church offers drop-in care several evenings a week for parishioners. The staff and volunteers who watch the kids are always so loving and attentive to them.
And the cost is very affordable compared to other sitters. The kids actually have a great time playing with other kids while I get a much-needed break.
I’m so thankful our church provides this service, allowing me to have reliable, safe childcare now that my grandparents are too old to babysit anymore. It’s been a real blessing.
d. Did friend sleepovers
I had the idea to set up friend sleepovers for my daughter. She loves having friends over for the night. I’ll coordinate with other parents from her school and take turns having kids over for sleepovers and pizza parties.
The girls entertain themselves, which gives me a much-needed break. And they have so much fun together.
Setting up frequent friend sleepovers has been a godsend now that my aging grandparents can no longer babysit. The girls get to bond, and I don’t have to worry about childcare. It works for everyone.
e. Hired a college student
My neighbor suggested looking into hiring a local college student. I posted an ad on the university job board and got several promising responses. After interviewing a few students, I found a responsible, energetic young woman who my kids immediately took a liking to.
She’s been wonderful with them, keeping them engaged in activities and on a set routine. And her rates are so much less than professional sitters since she’s eager for extra money.
Hiring a vetted, accountable college student has been a perfect solution now that my grandparents are too old to babysit anymore. Both my kids and I are happy.
f. Tried a nanny-share
A nanny seemed like the best option but was too expensive on my own. Then a friend mentioned she was also looking for care for her baby. We decided to try a nanny share where we would split the cost.
It’s been amazing having our nanny look after the kids together! She keeps them engaged and meets all their needs. And sharing the cost has made it affordable. I’m so glad we found this solution now that my grandparents are too old to pitch in.
The kids love our nanny and I have peace of mind knowing they are in good hands while I’m at work. Our nanny share has been the perfect arrangement.
g. Asked niece to babysit
I remember my teenage niece loved babysitting and is CPR certified. I approached her about watching the kids a couple evenings a week and she was thrilled. She plays with them, gets them dinner, handles the bedtime routines, and keeps the house tidy.
The kids adore her and I can rest easy knowing they’re in good hands. Asking my capable niece to babysit has been such a relief now that my aging grandparents are unable to do it anymore. The kids still get family care and I have peace of mind. It’s the perfect setup.
h. Used an after-school babysitter
A friend recommended the local high school babysitting service that employs responsible teens. I signed my daughter up and now a nice girl watches her for a couple of hours after school until I’m off work. They do homework, have a snack, and play games until I get home.
My daughter loves spending time with her babysitter and I don’t have to worry about rushing home anymore. Using this after-school sitter service has been a perfect solution now that my aging grandparents can’t babysit anymore. Both my daughter and I are happy.
i. Hired mother’s helper
A friend told me about hiring mother’s helpers – responsible teens that assist you in caring for your kids. I interviewed a few local high school students and found a lovely girl who comes over after school several days a week.
She plays with the toddlers, makes them snacks, and keeps them engaged while I cook dinner and catch up on chores. She’s an extra pair of hands when I need it most.
Having this affordable mother’s helper a few days a week has been a lifesaver now that my grandparents can no longer babysit. I can get things done and know my toddlers are in good hands.
j. Postponed date nights
As my aging parents are no longer able to watch my kids, my wife and I made adjustments. We relied on them for our regular Friday date nights out.
At first, I was upset that we’d have to give up our cherished alone time while we figured out childcare. But we’ve learned to postpone date nights until we found an affordable babysitter.
Though it’s a sacrifice, focusing on family time on weekends and getting to bed early has brought us closer. We try to sneak in a lunch date occasionally.
Postponing regular date nights has been an adjustment, but knowing my grandparents’ limits and priorities have shifted has helped me adapt. Family comes first.
When Grandparents Become Less Able to Babysit
As much as I appreciated all those years my parents babysat for us, there were increasing signs it was time for them to retire from those duties.
At first it was little things, like my mom forgetting the kids’ schedules or my dad falling asleep earlier. But then it became more obvious they couldn’t handle the rigors of caring for young kids anymore.
The big wake-up call was when I came home early one day to find my dad had forgotten to pick up my daughter from school.
Here are 10 signs I noticed that made me realize my aging parents could no longer safely solo babysit:
- Forgetfulness about details like schedules and food allergies
- Limited energy and stamina – kids wore them out quickly
- Difficulty handling rambunctious or defiant behavior
- Slow reaction time – couldn’t keep up with a busy toddler
- Hearing loss – couldn’t monitor kids well or follow instructions
- Falling asleep unexpectedly
- Forgetting to pick up or drop off kids
- Letting kids eat junk foods or watch too much TV
- Household accidents – knocked over lamps, tripped on toys
- Taking longer to recover from common illnesses
It was hard coming to terms with the fact my parents had reached an age where babysitting was no longer safe or realistic.
But transitioning them into retirement from those responsibilities and finding alternative care options like a part-time nanny has been better for everyone. The grandkids still visit often for playtime and spoiling.
5 Risks of having an Old Grandparent babysit
Though my aging parents were willing caregivers, I realized having them continue babysitting my young kids posed too many risks.
Here are 10 concerns I had:
- Limited energy – My mom could only handle a few hours before needing to rest, leaving my energetic toddler unsupervised.
- Forgetfulness – My dad would forget key details like food allergies and emergency contacts. This could lead to dangerous mistakes.
- Physical frailty – My mom had trouble lifting or carrying my infant safely without falling. And she struggled to get down on the floor and keep up.
- Medical responsiveness – With my dad’s chronic health issues, I worried if he could respond appropriately if a child had an accident or emergency.
- Hearing issues – My mom couldn’t hear cries from another room or listen in on kids playing unsupervised outside.
- Medication side effects – Both my parents took medications that caused drowsiness, slowing their reactions.
- No CPR training – Neither had kept up with pediatric first aid and CPR training, concerning if an emergency occurred.
- Household risks – Clutter and hazards like slippery rugs posed risks my parents didn’t notice due to declining vision and mobility.
- Difficulty handling behaviors – My parents got overwhelmed and frustrated more easily when kids were defiant or hyperactive.
- Isolation – Being alone with young kids made it hard for my parents to get help if they fell or got hurt themselves.
Do grandparents who babysit live longer?
A new study has found that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren tend to live longer than those who don’t.
The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, looked at a group of nearly 1,500 people over the age of 70. The findings suggest that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren have a 33% lower risk of dying over a 10-year period than those who don’t.
The study abstract notes that the trend was most pronounced for grandparents who were primary caregivers for their grandchildren. The study’s authors say it is not yet clear whether the health benefits they found are directly linked to the care of grandchildren.