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Friday 1 August 2014

I'm a granny, not a nanny!

THIS year, at the age of 51, I heard the wonderful news that I would be a granny.

A bit like when I discovered I would be a first-time mum, I started to look around me, seeing lots of other women with baby bumps, or babies in buggies, or tiny tots by their side. Now 27 years on I looked around me again, only this time I looked at grandmothers.

At the shops, walking in the park, away on holidays, I began to realise that many, many grannies had now become the woman out with the baby buggy, with the tiny tots by their side.

I started to ask myself why and it didn't take long to come up with an answer. More and more families need both parents working to keep a roof over their heads and the cost of childcare is enormous, especially if you happen to be lucky enough to have more than one child.

Tough

It's simply not economically viable for a great many women to become stay-at-home-mums or pay full-time childcare. So this is where grandmothers come in. Or is it? I wondered if the role of grandmother has changed into full-time nanny?

It was a question which as a debut grandmother I had to be clear about. Could I see myself in this role of full-time child-minder, a nanny?

After all, I had spent 20 years raising children, loving the role of being a parent, through good times and tough times, and at no point would I have swapped my life for anyone else's, but did I look on being a grandparent in a similar way?

Funnily enough, even before there were any mutterings of grandchildren, myself and my husband had a discussion with our then teenage daughters in which we stressed that while we would always be there for them, as prospective grandparents we didn't see our roles as full-time child-minders. Obviously it was something which was on my mind! And with the arrival of my gorgeous first granddaughter Caitríona, the answer for me has remained a definitive 'no'.

I want to be a granny, not a nanny.

Now before some of you shout out in horror, I would like to say I would do almost anything to help my children. If they needed me, I would be there. But there is a difference between necessity and choice.

And, yes, I know a great many women love minding their grandchildren on a full-time basis, my own mother certainly enjoyed minding her grandchildren, others juggle to help out wherever and whenever they can, but given the choice, which luckily I have, it's not my chosen path.

Caitríona, our granddaughter, is six months old now.

She is the most beautiful person on this earth. Every time I see her, I get amazed all over again.

I think how absolutely lucky we are as a family to have her in our lives.

I dream every now and then of the future. I imagine conversations Caitríona and I might have as she emerges from babyhood to toddler, child, teenager, and adult.

I see us perhaps sitting at the kitchen table, chatting about everything and nothing, hoping she can talk to me in a way that is different to how she might talk to her parents, with a generation between us, as grandchild and granny.

But one of the delights of becoming a granny is that this time round, I can simply enjoy my grandchild without the fears, responsibilities and hard bloody work that goes with one's own children.

No doubt I've given the role of granny a lot of thought in recent months because, as well as becoming a first-time granny, I've also become a first-time novelist.

At the age of 45, having raised my family, working for years within a family business, and also at times working full-time outside the home, I went back to writing, something I had loved in my teens and early 20s.



Thriller

My first book, Red Ribbons, a psychological crime thriller, was published this year and has been nominated for the Bord Gais Book Awards.

I think I'm an example of how the world is ever changing and how more and more people are living longer, working longer, and embarking on a new career or adventure in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.

We look a lot younger, too, live a healthier life and are pushing out the boundaries of perceived social norms.

And one of those norms is how we perceive grannies. There was a time if you heard the word 'grandmother' you'd visualise someone with grey hair and a semi-perm, dressed conservatively and let's face it, looking old.

But that is not the case any more.

Yes, I adore being a granny, wouldn't change it for the world and will be right there the second I'm needed. But as long as it's clear that I'm the granny and not the nanny!

Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips, published by Hachette Books, is shortlisted for TV3 Ireland AM Best Crime Novel of the Year 2012 in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards

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