The gran sacrifice: all for love

Mother love: it's taken for granted
Mother love: it's taken for granted
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“Grandma, we love you,” warbled the angelic kids in St Winifred’s School Choir.

If you’re old enough to remember the 1980 single that held the No.1 slot for 11 weeks, you’re probably now a grandma yourself - and rushed off your feet.

For 32 years on, there’s still no one quite like grandma for stopping entire families going under. She is the all- essential family lynch-pin in the double dip recession.

The squeezed middle - cash-strapped mums and dads either hunting for jobs, or so stressed by working long hours to cover gaps left in a skeleton staff; they’re having it hard. But their struggle is having a huge impact on grandmothers, the recession’s stretched middle. And heaven help us if their elastic snaps.

A Gransnet survey of the pressures felt by grandparents aged over 50 has found they are pulled between their own busy lives and caring for relatives at both ends of the spectrum. Three quarters act as unpaid childminders for their grandkids and over a third as unpaid carers for their elderly parents. And a quarter are still holding down a job.

There is nothing new in this; women have always been the family’s glue. For centuries grandmothers have looked after their children’s children free gratis - and middle-aged daughters have dutifully looked after their ailing elderly parents. It’s how society functions. The ageing matriarch accepts her role as piggy in the middle.

But now we’re finding out how worried and vulnerable they feel. The gransnet survey has done a marvellous thing; it’s allowed them to say what love and guilt prevent them telling their families.

Fewer than a fifth said they felt secure and confident about the future.

Over half are affected by the recession. Many revealed the sacrifices they have made; of having to give up their jobs or take retirement to be available for family caring. Half are worrying about money, yet they give it away to their hard-up children or grandchildren.

Most love looking after their grandkids, but a third shut up and put up for fear of being called selfish and unnatural.

We know we’re not fair to them, but still we take as if it’s our birthright. It’s time we respected their need to enjoy later life.

Selfishly, it’s in our own interest to ensure they’re happy and well; after all, one day we will be looking after them.