The days of grandparent childcare are numbered as millennials feel 'frustrated' with parents too busy to look after grandkids (and it's bad news for nursery costs)

Busy grandparents are adding to millennials' childcare concerns - and apparently it's a 'common struggle'

A grandfather playing with a young girl on the floor
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Grandparents are less available for childcare help than previous generations, and it's leaving millennial parents feeling abandoned.

For many parents, childcare is an ongoing concern. Places with nurseries and childminders get booked up fast, leaving few options left, and it's an extra expense too. The average childcare costs in the UK are unaffordable for some, and while everyone qualifies for 15 hours free childcare, this isn't enough for many parents. 

Some lean on their parents for help, but for others, this isn't an option. This might be because they don't live close to family, or it could stem from difficult relationships, where having a child has left parents needing to build a relationship with estranged grandparents. But even those who get on well with their parents have been struggling when it comes to childcare.

More and more millennials are feeling 'abandoned' by parents who've chosen to travel during retirement, making them unavailable to help with raising their grandkids. Meanwhile, millennial parents are feeling more isolated, as they're less likely to be tied to churches or community groups than previous generations, as outlined by a report on Business Insider.

Leslie Dobson, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, recently told the publication, "It is a really common struggle. You have children, and it feels even more like an abandonment that they've chosen their life over meeting their grandchildren and building these relationships."

A close up of a grandmother holding a baby

(Image credit: Getty Images)

She went on to explain that she and her sisters have experienced the same problem with their father, Ted, who recently left California and moved to Mexico in his retirement. 

But Ted said that despite making time to visit his family, it was their busy schedules and not his that meant he didn't get to spend as much time with his grandchildren as he'd hoped. 

He added that he'd supported his children financially throughout their lives and that they now all have nannies and other luxuries that make their lives more comfortable than he was at their age. 

However, studies suggest that millennials aren't better off than their boomer parents, with recent research from the University of Cambridge finding that millennials were more likely to have debt and less likely to own a home by age 35. 

Meanwhile, it looks like boomers are becoming grandparents later in life than previous generations. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the average age of parents has been steadily increasing since the 70s, with the standardised mean age in 2021 reaching 30.9 years for mothers and 33.7 years for fathers. This is almost a four-year age increase since 40 years prior when the average ages were 27 and 30 for mothers and fathers respectively. 

A grandfather chasing after a young boy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Business Insider suggests that the prospect of chasing after grandchildren has likely become less and less appealing for a rapidly ageing boomer population.

And, in addition to this, millennials and boomers have fundamentally different ideas when it comes to parenting. Psychologist Leslie Dobson said, "If you ask a millennial, the boomers are overly harsh and not good at parenting the younger children. And millennials are very aware of what could potentially be traumatizing, what is not gentle parenting."

But despite this, millennials still want a trusted person to help raise their family - 'it takes a village' is a saying for a reason. Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Centre on American Life, a nonprofit, said, "What millennials want is regular, stable, consistent support, in terms of emotional support. Childcare is super expensive in a way that it has never been, and it feels more necessary than ever because of workplace demands. So I think that is a lot of the frustration."

Worried about childcare? We've shared nine expert tips to reduce your childcare costs, and here's how to find out if you qualify for help with childcare costs too. You might also want to find out what wrap around care is

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.