Saturday, September 25, 2010

Grandparents on Strike

Grandparents on Strike
Not in India. But the UGT ( General Workers Union) in Spain has asked grandparents to protest and go on a strike the coming Wednesday ( 29 September). Some have called it a ‘generational revolt’. Half of the grandparents’ population in Spain looks after their grandchildren on a daily basis. They take care of their daily needs, feed them, bathe them, take them to school, putting in atleast 8-9 hours of work each day

Spanish work culture has probably something to do with this trend.  Long lunch hours force the workers to stay back longer and employees are not allowed to leave before the boss leaves office.  Work hours thus get stretched. Child care is expensive. And parents are obvious choice for free child care.

It is a fact that the unpaid work of the senior population  in Spain has helped prop up the country’s economy. Children are free to pursue their careers.

 The UGT has urged Babysitter grandparents to say NO and not feel guilty about it.  It would be interesting to see what actually happens next week.

While it is tiring, most grandparents do enjoy having the children in their care. Doctors argue that this keeps the elders active and healthier and happier, but there will always be some for whom this is a burden.

My children missed having their grandmothers around, but the grandfathers made up for it. My father loved having my children at home with him during the day. Of course, there was someone to change the nappies. He was not too good when they were still babies. But as soon as they began to respond and gurgle and laugh at his little trick of sliding his spectacles down his nose, he would warm up to them. And when they showed signs of understanding the spoken word, he was at his best. Teaching them nursery rhymes, no not the simple Jack and Jill,  but longer ones like 'This is the House that Jack built..... and continously  talking or reading to them, pointing out flowers, flags, birds and animals. By the time my children were 3 and before they started school they could identify the flags of each country . Of course, it was done without pressure like only a grandparent can, and the children picked it up without any problem. It was not study, it was only fun.

The F-I-L on the other hand was great when it was nap time. He would put them across his lap and start singing carnatic songs. In the process, I picked up some songs too ( for someone who was only listened to English pop at that time, it was a surprise for me too). And all stories from Mahabharata to Three Musketeers were narrated as they grew older. Of course Rama was Raman and so on… And to this day, they are so good at Indian mythology.

This is the generation of the jetsetting grandparents. . They travel across continents. There are some who do admit it is tough as they grow older. The stress of travel, the lack of household help, the cold… but the love for both their children and the little ones keeps them going. And of course, the youngsters do throw in a visit to Niagara Falls or to the White House as perks!

I am not a grandparent yet.  I will wait ... am in no major hurry.  But I do peek into the childrens section at the bookstore and look at the colourful little books and dream of reading them to a little one sitting on my lap.  Of course, I am not thinking of nappy changing and bottle feeding.  I will worry about that later. It will take some time getting used to that again!  But going on a strike?  As a parent ....maybe, but as a grandparent... never.


  1. Such a delightful post ! I agree with you 100%. We are both the youngest in our respective families, and so my children were like dessert for all the sets of grandparents, who thought they were incomparably sweet, smart and theirs . Completely doted upon, they learned so many new things just being with them. I remember my dad driving an entire set of demanding grandchildren to a temple in Pune, because it had a picture there on an entire wall, of maruti tearing apart his chest to show Ram and Sita smiling from inside. And they used to believe everything.

    Between you and me, I dont think the Spanish Grandfolks will strike. Its just some stupid political thing.

  2. Well, isn't that something about those crazy work hours enforced upon the work(ed) force. And here I was thinking we had it so bad in the US with our work laws. I didn't know how happy I am, smiles. Child care is expensive everywhere, isn't it? But so many people here are forced to choose to go on Welfare because they have no one who can care for their children. Oftentimes, grandparents here are still of working age. There are no easy answers, but for those grandparents who love and cherish taking care of their grandchildren, both are deeply blessed.

  3. Interesting. But if the grandparents enjoy what they do,why should they be provoked to make a strike?Must be some jealous elements who do not have kids.As you rightly said, these kids will keep them alive and healthier.

    Having said this,they have a different set of values in Europe.They are too formal at many things.They give priority to their own interests in life and like to do what they love. One cannot force them.Their children usually live independent of them.
    I am sure if such a thing happens,it will reflect also on the relationship of these old people with their own children.

  4. That's something. The thought of grandparents going on a strike! I guess if it is seen more like a family affair than a chore, they could enjoy it more. And Parents also should treat the Grandparents with respect, love and care and not make them feel like 'free' babysitters!

    I'm lucky I have my parents staying very close to our apartment. My kids get to see them very often and adore them. My elder daughter gets off at their apartment when she's back from school. My mom would be bored to death if she's not around. Kids certainly add life to our lives, and I guess there's just no denying that!

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post :)

    This is the house that Jack built was my grandfather's fav too :) And my grandfather was my favourite! He used to tell me stories sitting on the uunjal (long wooden swing) - Ulysses, Mahabharata and Ramayana - what a wonderful memory he had and a great storyteller. Seeing him now brings tears to my eyes. He used to cycle to the club & play tennis at 70. When the doc advised him not to, he walked and played bridge. Later he read at home, solved crosswords, played patience... and now at 91 he can't see or hear

  6. Nice one. Grandparents enjoy being with their grandchildren. However, some parents take advantage of this and "dump" the kids on grandparents. They don't think grandparents have their own life too.

    In USA, I have seen many Indians bring their parents from India and treat them as unpaid servants.

  7. What do you mean,"go on strike as a parent...maybe"?


  8. UK - Grandparents spoil their grandchildren, and sometimes we ( their children) wonder why rules were different when we were young!
    Katy - you used the right words - love and cherish - that makes all the difference.
    Dr A. - Remember the time when summer took a toll on the elderly in France. Many youngsters did not want to cancel their vacations which they had planned in advance. It all depends on the relationship with the kids.
    RGB- Same story. My FIL would drop the kids at the bus stop in the morning and my dad would pick them up in the evening!
    Arundati - Your grandpa seemed a lot like my dad. Long walks, bridge, crossword puzzles!
    K (L)- since when did you become such a regular visitor here? Remember I said 'maybe' ...

  9. SG- A friend did mention how some people do bring in their parents and end up being very harsh on them.

  10. I am really impressed with your blog site.
    Will visit again later

  11. I missed out on my share of GP's attention when I was small, my children could partially enjoy it. I can't understand why there should be a protest for this. Some issues are so simple yet presented so complexly it spoils the charm of it.

    Great post, thought provoking.

  12. Nice perspective of a subject that comes up frequently nowadays.

    I am also not yet a grandmother- I wonder how I shall feel about this when the time comes?

    Attitudes are important- of parents as well as of the grandparents, I think.

  13. Grandparents have become the nerve centre of many a double income family households !!

    Its time we treat them with respect, love and care !

  14. Its a blessing if you get to play with your grandchild. Why would anyone want to go on strike because of it. Yes, if they are made to do all the work then its a different story. They need their rest too!

  15. I feel bad for the grandparents, actually. At this age taking care of grandchildren shouldn't be compulsory. Interesting post.

  16. I protest and will go on strike if you think you can escape the nappy changing duty as a grandparent!!!
    I loved my grand dads and I know you both will be fantastic grandparents too. I shall remember this post and make sure I don't take undue advantage of you later on. Although I cannot guarantee it :)

  17. I think while grandparents enjoy looking after grandkids,they also have health issues and should not be over burdened. When I visited the US in 2006 I was amazed to see the enthusiasm with which Chinese grandparents offer to baby sit their grandkids. The girl's parents come for the delivery and stay on for 4 to 5 months. the boy's parents come later. When the child is older they take him/her away to China so that their children may lead a tension free life!But whether they go on strike or not they too need a break once in a way.

  18. A very interesting subject, Radha! My children had 2 sets of old people as adopted grandparents on a daily basis (my neighbours!). The loved and spoiled them but taught them good manners and improved their intelligence via mythological stories! When we went on holidays to my mother's place (I was working too), she added spice to the mythological stories, she was very good at it! My sons are fortunate in that way, like yours, Radha!

    I too am not yet a grand parent, but waiting to be! Both of us will enjoy spoiling them! As far as the G.P. are reasonably healthy, it will be fun, I feel!

    Grand parents will not go on strike, it is just a juicy news for the media!

  19. BK Chowla.
    Indrani - Yes, why there should be any protest is unimagineable.
    Manju, Kavi, Jyothi - very true. Grandparents who are treated well, will love their job.
    Anonymous - Most grandparents do not think it compulsory. Like Manju says, it is the attitude. Of both the parents and the grandparents.
    Serendipity - we will review this later!
    Hip grandma - Health is very important. These days children have their kids much later in life, and grandparents are not young anymore.
    Sandhya - we have an adopted granddaughter too. We had such fun! And we still think of all those times even now.

  20. This is true even in India. When the kids are small, if the couple are working then grandparents are most wanted people. The moment kids grow old enough, the grandparents are burden.

  21. Your post reminded me of grandpa! :)
    Ah I miss him so much!
    He was the one who taught me the kannada language and learn to respect everything and everyone!
    He was so cool!!
    Of course, nobody made him do it. He enjoyed being with me and my brother whenever he could!
    My grandma and mom were the ones who told mythological stories and sung to me!
    Ah, those were the days :)

  22. What happened with the strike? :)

    I am hoping this trend do not catch up in the India. For the past three months, I survive because of the grandparents!

  23. Rajesh - I guess there will always be some who fall in that 'unfortunate category' - but hopefully most of the grandparents are happy old people.
    Girish - Such a nice comment about your grandparents
    Nona - I could also have had a tough time if it was not for the granddads who helped me when my kids were small.
    The strike - went on. Some did join, mostly to protest for -quote -

    "For a country in which half of all grandparents look after their grandchildren every day, a strike would disrupt the working lives of a significant proportion of the population and expose the extent to which this unpaid work is propping up the economy." Unquote - source - Barcelona Reporter.

    Whether it did any good, we do not know.


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