Summer Holidays Childcare Challenge: Grandparents travel more than 80 miles a week to look after grand-daughter

As part of the Post’s Childcare Challenge series, Natalie Walker looks at the increasing demand on grandparents to take on childcare.

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When Emma and John Hughes made plans for childcare for their three-year-old daughter Sienna, both sets of grandparents were delighted to step in - even if it did mean travelling more than 80 miles each week.

Emma, 34, works full time at Radisson Hotel Group, based in Manchester, working from home four days a week and John is a project manager for Mott MacDonald.

They live in Altrincham but their parents travel from Much Hoole and Tarleton to provide extra care and help reduce what would have been a £1,200 monthly nursery bill.

Emma, who grew up in Much Hoole, said: “When I first returned to work mum and dad did Monday to Wednesday, staying overnight Monday and the following week, my mother-in-law Margaret did Tuesday and Wednesday. But now Margaret looks after her other grand-daughter Izzy on a Thursday, so now she does one day a week.

“John and I take off alternate Mondays so we have one-to-one time with Sienna, which we really enjoy. We go out trampolining, go to farms and soft play centres.

“Sienna then goes to nursery near where we live Thursday and Friday, which is £60 a day. From November she will go three days a week and we will receive 30 hours free from January. John and I each have childcare vouchers with work.

“It doesn’t cover full contributions, but it does help.

“It is amazing to have help from both our parents. It is also great for Sienna too as she has time with us, time with her grandparents and she goes to nursery so she has different people teaching her different things and taking her to different places.”

Although both sets of grandparents love spending time with their grand-daughter, Emma admitted it must be tiring for them.

He added: “We have been doing this for three years. Margaret is 60 but my parents are in their 70s. Sienna is on the move and is more demanding.

“My mum and dad didn’t have any parent support when they had my and my brother so they were very keen to have that relationship with the grand-daughter.

“We wanted them to enjoy their retirement but they wanted to get involved.

“If we did not have their support we would have to put Sienna in nursery full time which would be £1,200 a month, so there wouldn’t be much point going to work. It would then be a massive pressure on John’s wage to cover our mortgage and expenses.

“But I do feel I don’t have enough time with Sienna. Although I work from home, I don’t have her as it is a distraction for both of us.”

Margaret Hughes revealed she can spend up to an hour in her car, driving from Tarleton to Altrincham, once a week, to help her son and daughter-in-law.

The 60-year-old said: “I look after Sienna on a Wednesday, so I travel up on Tuesday night, stay over and then leave Wednesday evening. I also look after my other grand-daughter, 15-month-old Izzy, on a Thursday. She lives in Bury but I don’t stay over.

“I retired from Hutton Grammar School where I worked as a PSHE careers co-ordinator last July but I had been part time and looking after Sienna for three years.

“When I was planning my retirement I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do. My husband still works three days a week.

“We do want to travel and go away but we can’t be as spontaneous. We have to plan.

“We still get away but only at two or three days at a time. When my husband completely finishes we will take longer breaks but by then Sienna will be in school.

“I did look forward to having more free time but I have a tremendous relationship with both my grand-daughters.

“I really want to support both my sons and their children. When I had my children I used a childminder but it didn’t cost as much back then.

“Both sets of parents work full time and a huge amount of income would go on nursery fees so it makes sense to help.

“It is a pleasure for me to look after my grand-daughters, but a necessity. Couples face so many costs and if they want a decent lifestyle they both need to work.

“Support from grandparents is the logical answer for most people. For me - and other grandparents - there can be the added cost of petrol to consider, but I don’t mind as I love spending time with my grand-daughters.

“There may come a day when I can’t do it, but for now it is fine and I am happy to do it.”