Insight: May 30

This week Insight hears from grandparents, parents and grandchildren on the highs and lows of grandparents looking after the kids.

Grandparents are now the most popular form of child care in Australia. They are busily babysitting nearly half of Australia’s young children.

But how much should be expected of grandparents when it comes to raising the kids?

Ngarrindjeri great-grandmother Maxine Risk-Sumner looks after her grandchildren and great-grandchildren whenever required. Being part of the stolen generation, she sees her greatest role as providing guidance for their future.

“I never got to know my parents, or my grandparents, so it was important to me that when my grandchildren came along they knew their culture, identity, and the language we use,” Maxine tells Jenny Brockie on this week’s episode of Insight.

Elizabeth Vescio, 61, retired five years ago so she could help look after her four grandchildren. She says it keeps her young.

Balancing child care costs and full-time work led Meetu and Ritesh Rajput to convince Ritesh’s parents to fly from India to Canberra to look after their two children.

For grandparents Virender and Rekha Rajput, both in their sixties, it’s provided an opportunity to pass their language and culture onto their grandchildren, but at a cost.

“We left our social life behind. Here we have a language problem… here our social life is looking after our grandchildren,” says Virender.

When it comes to grandparents pitching in, not everyone agrees about discipline and parenting methods. When Suganya Chandra asked her parents and parents-in-law for help, there were unexpected clashes over daily issues, like getting her older son ready for school, and the use of nappies.

For others, the stakes of looking after their grandchildren are much higher. There’s a growing army of grandparents taking over full-time caring roles of their grandkids.

Charlotte, 15, has been raised by her single grandfather John, 67, since she was a toddler. Together, they’ve navigated anxiety and depression, and now the awkwardness of dating. John insists any suitors ride their push-bike to his hobby farm to have a chat before taking his granddaughter out.

Deb, 61, was planning to live in America with her new girlfriend when she became a stay-at-home, single grandmother raising her three grandchildren under the age of 6.

“I always told my daughter I wanted lots of grandchildren, but I never, ever thought for a moment that I was going to be bringing them up!” she says.

Deb has used all her superannuation to keep her mortgage going and raise her grandchildren, but worries about her employment prospects when she has to go back to work to build up her superannuation again.

Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS.

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