April 14, 2004
Hello Gran and Grandad Poppins and hello Mr and Mrs Chips

How do you get free child care if both Dad and Mum are working full time? Answer: Granny and Grandpa.

A bit tough, perhaps, on the more youthful grandparents who had been looking forward to spending their retirement and private pension plans on Swan Hellenic cruises or bingo. But there is a bright side. Far from being a burden on family resources, grannies can now look forward to being viewed as an asset. Good God, with childcare costs reaching £200 a week in central London, what prudent professional woman wouldn't consider bringing in her mother, or indeed her father, to do the same work at no cost at all?

It's one of those beautiful occasions when self-interest, family affection and natural sentiment coincide. At least the grandparents who are complaining about exploitation are being used as nature intended. A scientific study recently demonstrated what we all knew, which is that daughters tend to have more children when their mothers are on hand to take care of them. In return for the hard graft, the grannies get a genetic advantage in the Darwinian scheme of things.

There's no way Europe's ageing population is going to be able to just lounge around and do nothing, or go Swanning off in its entirety on Hellenic cruises. They'll have to make themselves useful. Personally I think that oldies have a great future also, in addition to being underpaid child-minders, as underpaid school teachers.

Here's my plan. The oldies teach, but unlike regular paid-with-real-money type teachers, they won't have to teach any kid who doesn't want to learn and won't behave. In exchange, the oldie-teachers will get paid some pocket money and won't be abandoned in Dickensian oldie-homes. I really think that might work. For the educated ones, I mean.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:34 PM
Category: Parents and childrenThis and that