In a heartwarming turn of events, one in two Australians would kindly give their pensioner parents a break from stale bread and dripping, and pay them to come on holiday … to look after the grandchildren. Think of them as the au pairs with grey hairs.
A recent survey of 1076 Australian parents was commissioned by HotelsCombined.com.au, a hotel price comparison platform, and is essentially a marketing ploy to boost occupancy rates, even if it’s just the surcharge for nan and grandad to sleep on the pull-out bed in the kids’ room.
The survey also found that 39 per cent of parents wouldn’t trust a hired babysitter. Especially in Mexico! Yes, the survey looked at what parts of the world babysitters are the least trustworthy.
So, if you and the missus want to get any time alone with the shrimp cocktail while abroad, turn your old folk into round-the-clock employees!
The Fair Work Commission isn’t involved yet, so there’s been no talk of an award wage or uniforms being provided. It seems likely that, as it goes in the hospitality industry, grandma and grandpa will have to smile and curtsy in the hope of scoring a handsome tip.
Amid all the packing of matching suitcases, what do family psychologists think?
“I would suggest buyer beware,” says Deakin University School of Psychology Associate Professor Gery Karantzas, who has a research interest in close interpersonal relationships (romantic and filial) and family caregiving.
“Holidays are about families sharing quality time together,” he tells The New Daily. “This concept of paying the grandparents … it risks dehumanising them because it’s treating them as a means to an end. In the purest sense.”
Families are “complex systems”, says Dr Karantzas, and it may be a win-win situation, where “the reason why the grandparents help out … the primary goal is to have quality time with grandchildren”.
He added that if it was well-intentioned to help out the grandparents financially, there would need to be a process “where the family has clear and explicit conversations to keep any conflict of interest and unequal power relationships in check. Then it’s not likely to be so perverse”.
Lyn Bender is a psychologist and social commentator. She says: “It asks the question about what function money has in our relationships.
“Are we paying for love? And do we feel entitled when we pay for something?”
That’s right. Will gramps and nanna be allowed toilet breaks? Will their pay be docked if they eat a second helping at breakfast instead of tipping the kids into the pool?
Ms Bender, a grandmother of three, said she’d take the offer of a trip to be with her grandchildren. But she wouldn’t put in an invoice. She says if there is money to be given, “it should be given in love, and free of conditions”.
“I’d say, ‘It would be great if you paid my electricity bill’. If I needed it. But they would get my obedience anyway. I’d think it a great thing to be away with my grandkids.”
Ms Bender was also sympathetic to people’s reluctance to hire babysitters.
“Will a professional babysitter understand the children? The children might feel insecure, they want a babysitter who can reassure them.”
And there’s no one more reassuring person than granny.