One Day is Enough, Five is Too Many

Grandchildren are a wonderful gift but there are, apparently, limits to this bliss as Australian researchers from the Women’s Healthy Aging Project discovered.

With so many two-income families relying on grandparents to reduce childcare costs and provide the assurance of a safe environment it’s not uncommon for grandchildren to spend one, two or more days with grandparents as parents bring home the bacon. It turns out that the Australian research provides both sides with ammunition that should keep the child care arrangements in check.

186 women between the ages of 57 and 68 took a series of tests that showed those who looked after grandchildren one day each week outperformed women who looked after the grandkids more often. In fact, that one day per week was credited with keeping the grandmothers sharp and at a lower risk for neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Furthermore, the closer the relationship between grandparent and grandchild the less apt either generation is to develop symptoms of depression. Several studies have shown that grandparents who are engaged with their families are more engaged with society in general.

You’d think that with such stellar results a case could be made for having the grandkids spend even more time with Grandma and Grandpa. Don’t start spending those childcare savings just yet. As it turns out, babysitting the grandkids five or more days each week is taxing in more ways than you might imagine. A whole week of babysitting puts Grandma and Grandpa at increased risk of developing cognition disorders and, even worse, a study out of Case Western Reserve University found that grandparents who have their grandchildren full-time need help in order to avoid depression.

The news is worse when the grandchildren actually move into their grandparent’s house. Grandma‘s depression is likely to worsen while Grandpa is likely to spend more time at the neighbourhood watering hole.

The best balance for everyone is clearly going to involve open discussion and having alternate childcare arrangements in place for at least half of each week. If all else fails, send the grandchildren to the bar with Grandpa. They won’t exactly be misplaced and Grandma can have a break.