The modern grandparent guide to work-life balance

Plus, our top 12 activities that will keep the little ones entertained during the school holidays.


The bond between grandparents and their grandchildren is hard to deny. Traditionally for many grandparents, they get to watch the little one’s personality develop, celebrate their milestones and introduce them to the sweeter side of life (hello, biscuit tin) – all without the responsibility of raising them. However, in recent times the tables have begun to turn and for various reasons, gran and gramps have become more involved in the day-to-day care of the kids than ever before.  

So, what exactly is the role of a new-age nan and pa?  

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, grandparents have always played an important role in family life, but over the last twenty years, many have had increased responsibility for their grandchildren. In a lot of cases, they also act as unofficial daycare.  

While spending time with the grandbabies certainly is special, it tends to become a juggling act when thrown in with the school pick-up and drop-off, zipping them to training, music lessons and everything else in between. And with the retirement age on the push-back, these everyday tasks are made even more tricky as many people are still working. 

It’s been a hot topic of conversation lately, so much so that various novels have been penned on the modern-day role of a grandparent. New Age Nanas: Being a Grandmother in the 21st Century by Melburnian author Doreen Rosenthal and author Susan Moore, presents the views of over 1000 modern Australian grandmothers in easy-to-digest vignettes. The book describes their day-to-day lives and shares advice on how to manage the evolving role.  

While there is no right-or-wrong when it comes to caring for the g-kids, there are certainly ways you can balance out the work-caregiver-leisure ratios.  

The first tip? Let your loved ones know in advance of your plans for the week. That way they’ll work around you and not rely on checking in for daycare last-minute.  

Secondly, be open with your employer about babysitting expectations. Could you carry out some tasks from home? Could your little one join you and help with daily duties? This could also be a great way to teach them responsibility.  

Also, if your grandchildren’s parents are desperate for the kids to be looked after and you have prior commitments, you could help them organise an alternative. Aunty Karen doesn’t work Tuesdays, could you help to work out an arrangement?   

Interestingly in the UK, there were conversations around parents transferring some of their paid leave to grandparents and grandparents receiving paid leave in a similar vein to maternity leave, however there is no legislation to reflect this, and the same can be said for Australians. It does, however, shine a light on the growing trend of the evolving role of the modern grandparent. 

While there is no black and white answer in the new-age nanna debate, there is one common thread that strings everyone together, despite if you sit in one camp or the other; which is that the bond between grandparents and grandchild is special. With school holidays on the horizon, we’ve come up with 12 engaging and exciting ideas to keep both the little ones and you entertained.  

  1. A day trip to a museum. Whether you’re a city dweller or live in a smaller pocket of Australia there’s a historic museum in many-a-town and it’s a great learning experience for the littlies  

  2. Hold a DIY cooking class and give them a little recipe book of your favourites to keep. Or if they’re older, book into a real cooking class 

  3. Build a little boat to float on the local lake, for a cool bonding experience for grandad and the kids 

  4. Drop into Vinnies and pick up some donated clothes and create a dress-up basket 

  5. Build a herb garden together. They’ll love to watch the progress of their little plant babies and you can use them later in your cooking 

  6. Write a story together. Jump on the computer and get them started with an exciting tale then ask them to finish it. Who knows what they’ll imagine up! 

  7. Who says treasure hunts are reserved for Easter. Hide some ‘treasure’ around the yard and give them a basket to collect their bounty  

  8. Netflix and chill. Children’s movies can be surprisingly witty if given the chance. Toast some popcorn, grab some cushions and get comfy for a cosy night-in 

  9. Spoil the family. Kids love nothing more than creating cards, drawing pictures and writing notes to their loved ones. Make a list of the people they can make one for and lay out some paper, crayons and stickers  

  10. Catch public transport for a ‘local tour’ of your town. If you live in a bigger city, a ferry ride is extra exciting  

  11. If the grandkids are little girls – set up a hairdressing station with hair clips, bows and brushes and let them ‘style your locks’. You’ll have a good giggle seeing what they come up with. Note: unsuitable for grandpas who are lacking in the hair department 

  12. When the weather warms up, create a ‘Seaworld’ in your backyard. Pick up a few seashell pools and a slip ‘n’ slide from your local cheap shop and watch their faces light up.