Half of parents ‘trapped’ into living near grandparents due to childcare costs - two mums share their stories

Many parents have no choice and have to live near grandparents

Grandfather hugging grandchildren
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Parents are finding themselves 'trapped' into living near grandparents as spiralling costs make childcare unaffordable. We speak to an expert about this difficult situation.

Parents asking how much does nursery cost and finding themselves shocked by the answer, are having to come up with more creative solutions to manage family life. Even parents requesting flexible working are struggling to effectively find the right balance and are turning to grandparents for help with childcare. Although one benefit of this is grandparents can claim childcare credit for their caring duties, families are finding themselves backed into positions they can't get out of because of it.  

New research from Zoopla found parents are forced to live near grandparents, making it a necessity rather than a choice. This results in 52% of parents feeling ‘trapped’ into this way of living, and unable to have their desired house in the area they'd like to be living in. Most of those backed into this lifestyle live less than five miles from their nearest grandparent, while a further 68% of UK parents have chosen to live within a 30 minute journey to also make childcare easier.

The research continues to suggest the average family receives 468 hours of free childcare a year from grandparents. Despite this saving them around £4,633.20 in costs, more than 36% of parents are still unable to afford professional childcare if they lost the support of grandparents. A third (29%) of parents want to buy their own home, but have to rent to stay near their source of free childcare.

Monika is a mother-of-one living in South-East London. She relies on grandparents for childcare for her 11-month-old daughter, despite the fact both her and her partner's parents live in Poland and France. She has already moved out of her preferred area to find a house big enough for grandparents to stay, and is even having to extend this home as space is still tight. 

Monika told us, "It’s relatively simple for my partner’s mother to travel over, as she can just take the Eurostar from Paris and she can cover it on her own. We are now undergoing a loft extension to the tune of £100k, in order to create two additional bedrooms for when our parents come to stay. Otherwise, our daughter currently sleeps in our room when the grandparents stay."

Monika (left) and Gina (right)

(Image credit: Zoopla)

"New research found parents are forced to live near grandparents, making it a necessity rather than a choice. This results in 52% of parents feeling ‘trapped’ into this way of living."

Gina is a mother-of-three including one-year-old twins, and has no grandparent support nearby as her family live in South Africa. She says "Balancing looking after all three children without extra family support is a real juggling act. One of us is constantly racing home from work to do school pick up - and we often see lots of grandparents at the school gates."

She adds "Date nights definitely don’t exist in our house at the moment - it can be £20 per hour for a babysitter and to get a night nurse for the twins for an evening we’ve been quoted £300 in the past! We tangibly miss not having our parents nearby on a daily basis. It’s sad not to have their grandparents physically here. If we moved back to South Africa, we would absolutely look to live near to my parents."

For anyone finding themselves in this 'parent trap', we spoke to Daniel Copley, consumer expert at Zoopla, for his perspective and advice. Daniel tells us "Before you begin to look for a place to live, it's important to do your research and be clear on what you need rather than want. Whether it's ensuring you stick to your budget, or uncovering how to make your money stretch further in more affordable areas, looking at our buying and selling 'how tos' and detailed area guides on Zoopla is a good place to start."

He concludes "It's important to be flexible and open to the idea that you might not know exactly where the ideal home is for you right now, and our AI powered experience can help to suggest locations or homes you simply may not have thought of yet. Lean in to the process and try to enjoy the experience."

It's not just childcare they're great at, grandparents are teaching grandchildren one important life lesson - they're also not spending money on rude grandchildren, proving grandparents aren't always as soft as people think. Relationships with older generations aren't always plain sailing, and grandparent fails might be more common than you'd think.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.