We are discussing one of our favorite topics again this week – work-life balance. But, today, we look at this issue with a new and unique lens – grandparents and work-life balance. A lot of research has shown that having support as a working parent can help reduce conflict from work and family interfering with each other. And when people feel less conflict, they feel less stressed and more balanced. Thus, it may seem to reason that having grandparents involved should be a big win! However, the real story is more complicated than that. Today, we dig into new research on grandparents and work-life balance that helps us understand the nuance.
How Do Grandparents Help?
How many of you were lucky enough to have your grandparents take care of you from time to time? My grandparents lived in Poland but, when we visited or they visited us, they definitely did some childcare. I have fond memories of that. And, my parents were lucky to be able to have cheap childcare available whenever they came to stay for a few months at a time. Clearly, in my anecdotal experience, my grandparents were a massive help when they were available. Some of you may have similar anecdotal evidence.
The research does support that grandparents can help a great deal in reducing some work-family conflict for the parents. Namely, grandparents participating in childcare helps reduce how often parents feel like family interferes with their work. As employees experience less conflict between work and life, the happier they are in both domains. Generally speaking, grandparents caring for grandchildren to help support the working parents is a good thing.
When Do Grandparents Hurt Work-Life Balance?
Despite all the potential positives, sometimes, grandparents helping with childcare can be a bad thing. Grandparents are helpful when conflict with the parents is low. If there’s an above average amount of caregiving conflict, parents actually experience more work-life conflict. In other words, if parents and grandparents disagree a lot on how to raise kids, the experience isn’t great. Sometimes, parents and grandparents undermine each other, which not only creates conflict with the adults but can cause conflict with the children as well.
When this type of conflict is high, parents tend to feel more stressed out and the perception that their family interfering with work increases. Additionally, if working parents feel that conflict, they tend to decrease the amount of time grandparents care for the children. Then, they are back at square one without the support to help with childcare. Thus, it’s important for working parents and grandparents to keep their conflict at a minimum. It might be useful for the two sets of parents to sit down and agree on basic ground rules to set up the childcare situation for success!
In addition to keeping conflict low, working parents need to consider the grandparents a bit too when leveraging them for childcare. Not much is known yet as to how this impacts the grandparents. Many people are working later in life. Is providing grandparents with too many childcare duties hurting their work-life balance? Is it pressuring grandparents to exit the workforce earlier than they’d like? We don’t know a lot about these issues so tread lightly and stay in tune with how the grandparents are feeling about the arrangement.
Additionally, companies need to consider childcare broadly when thinking of how to support their employees. If you ask an employee to relocate away from family, can something be done to help provide affordable childcare in the new location? How about helping with childcare for the workforce in general? Some employees are not so lucky to be near grandparents or have grandparents that can provide affordable childcare (with minimal conflict).
And, when providing childcare benefits, don’t forget the child-free employees out there and others that might be providing care in different ways! Providing support to all employees is crucial to help them find balance and come to work productive and happy!