One of the many perks of retirement is the chance to spend more time with family. Some retirees even decide to move in order to be closer to children and grandchildren, downsizing their home along the way.
While there’s nothing like the pleasure of being able to watch your grandchildren grow up, retired grandparents may find that their families are eager to take advantage of all the freedom you have now. To prevent any familial rifts or resentments from creeping in, it’s important to make sure that you’re balancing your family’s needs with your own. After all, you’ve spent decades working toward retirement - you should be able to enjoy it on your own terms.
Here are a few guidelines to help you balance family and self during retirement.
Set clear boundaries and expectations.
If you’ve already planned on contributing to your grandchildren’s childcare, talk with their parents about what you’re willing to do. Keep in mind that they might have very different expectations than you do, which is why it’s so important to have this discussion.
This is especially important when grandchildren are very young, and need more constant caregiving. Do you want babysitting to become essentially a full-time job, coming over in the mornings and leaving after parents return from work? If so, do you expect some kind of payment?
Maybe you’d like to pick up the kids from school on certain days, or take them to their after-school activities. Maybe you’d rather be seen as an emergency backup, in cases where a nanny is sick or a child has to stay home from school.
Whatever your preferences may be, talk to the parents openly and honestly about how you envision your role as a caregiver for your grandchildren so that everyone can be on the same page.
Remember that babysitting and retirement activities are not mutually exclusive.
Babysitting doesn’t mean you have to sit at home all day playing board games and making lunches. If the children are old enough, take them along for the ride - whatever that ride may be.
If you volunteer somewhere that’s child-friendly, talk to your grandchildren about what you do and ask if they’d like to accompany you. You may be surprised at how eagerly they jump into these opportunities to help out.
If one of your retirement goals is to devote more time to a hobby, share it with your grandchild. Spending quality time together will enrich both of your lives, and strengthen your relationship. You may even spark a lifelong interest in carpentry, or tennis, or whatever it is you’re passionate about.
Make self-care one of your priorities.
If you retire only to start filling every second of your time with more obligations, however pleasant, you may find that retirement isn’t the relaxing time it’s supposed to be.
And while having some kind of structure or schedule is actually a good thing in retirement because it can prevent you from getting bored or losing a sense of purpose - you don’t want to overdo it. Make caring for yourself a top priority. That could mean scheduling uninterrupted blocks of time to catch up on your reading, signing up to audit a college class, or anything else that lets you unwind and pursue something that’s important to you.
Dump the guilt.
Many grandparents, especially grandmothers, feel obligated to help care for grandchildren once they have the time to be able to do so. They spent years raising their own children, so it can feel natural to continue caring for their children’s children.
However, if changing diapers and shuttling kids to basketball practice turns out not to be how you want to spend your retirement years, that’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad grandparent.
If it makes you feel guilty, there are plenty of ways you can still help out while preserving your time for yourself. You could offer to help find a great babysitter or nanny, or to help cover childcare expenses. You could cook dinner for the family one night a week or month - then you not only get to see your family on a regular basis, but you give the parents a night off from cooking.
Retirement is a time to be enjoyed, not suffered through. To read more about how to make your retirement the best it can be, read our post “3 Signs Retirement is Stressing You Out - and What to Do About It.”