Even those who don’t have family support are recognising the value of help from older generations.
National babysitting service NannyGranny, which links “retired mums” with nannying jobs all over Australia, is fielding increasing ads for personal assistants to help with household management for around $25 to $35 an hour.
“Older generations are a hidden goldmine of capability, experience and work ethic,” says NannyGranny co-founder Paige Kilburn.
“We call them household CEOs – they’re ambitious and have a real sense of purpose. They’ve raised their own families and are deeply skilled and have mastered domestic care.”
Kilburn, who leans gratefully on her own NannyGranny Maree, 61, for help with her two children William, 11, and Maddie, nine, says working families are seeking help with everything from ironing to light gardening.
“The NannyGranny might be there from 3pm to 6pm [helping out] so that parents can have some higher quality connection time with their kids,” she says.
Kilburn believes the benefit of paying a retiree from outside your family is that you can utilise their experience without accidentally burdening a relative. “I think an unintended outcome from women becoming so empowered is that they’re desperately needing help, and they turn to their mums,” Kilburn says. “I would never ask for support from Maree without considering how I would pay her.”
This kind of support from outside the family also means grandparents aren’t responsible for disciplining children during their time together. “It means you can allow the grandparents to be playful and serve ice cream for dinner,” she says. “When you’re a grandparent who is part of ongoing childcare, you can lose some of those freedoms.”
Many hands make light work
Danielle Dobson, from Thirroul in NSW, couldn’t imagine life as a single parent of three teenage sons without the help of her “guardian angel” Manny, who started as their cleaner 15 years ago and soon became an essential part of the family.
“I did some further study about 14 years ago and asked if Manny could look after my boys – she became like a grandparent to them,” Dobson recalls.
“She still comes on Wednesdays, and it’s my favourite day of the week because I feel like I’ve been cared for. Older people are so [domestically] skilled – it’s part of their coding, and they have a lot to offer [younger] generations, not just in terms of practical help but in storytelling and connection.”
But it’s not just Manny making life a little easier. When Dobson, author of Breaking The Gender Code, travels on speaking tours, her parents drive up from Melbourne to run the household. She often returns to decluttered teenage bedrooms and immaculately folded washing.
“My mum [shows support] in a very practical way – she will do the washing and shopping and find gadgets for me. When she’s around, the house just hums,” she says. “It means I can 100 percent focus on my work without also [carrying] the mental and emotional load that I usually have 24/7.”
How to get the help you need
With Parenting Research Centre research showing three quarters of parents turn to family first for support raising children, it’s clear that working parents understand the incredible capabilities of older generations. But the challenge is ensuring everybody’s on the same page and feels appreciated.
If you’re going to seek help from family, Derek McCormack, Raising Children Network director, says you’ve got to have regular open conversations when everyone is calm.
“Ask what they enjoy doing. One person might like lawn mowing or helping with housework – different grandparents will have different availabilities or tasks they’re well-suited to,” he says.
“Have the conversation early about what’s reasonable and what everyone could expect in terms of help, and then be ready to have it again when things feel like they’re shifting [such as] if their needs change or the child develops.”
Revell makes sure she pours her dad a cuppa every few months to check if he’s still happy cooking for them and that she’s transferring enough money.
“We’ve put the budget up twice this year already [due to rising grocery costs],” she says.
“He says he loves that he’s got something to do, and he gets to see us regularly.”
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