Local grandparents-turned-nannies talk about family child care
By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer
“This is just pure enjoyment. All we do is have fun and play all day long, and make sure they are happy. I think they make us better people, I really do. It’s the best of both worlds.” — Kathy Frantz, on watching her grandchildren Penelope, pictured, and Oliver with her husband, Bob Fuchs.
Families with two working parents, like many in today’s day and age, are increasingly turning to their own parents to help care for their kids.
Hiring a nanny or sending a child to day care can cost more than some people make, so when a grandparent is free and willing to provide some help, parents — and their children — are happy to reap the benefits of such a generous offer.
According to numbers the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2008, relatives regularly provide child care to almost half of preschoolers, and among children younger than 5 whose mothers work, 30 percent were cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent.
Kathy Frantz and Bob Fuchs, of Rochester Hills, were beginning to ease into retirement when their first grandchild, Oliver Frantz, was born. With a little more free time on their hands, they gladly offered to help with child care, and they were thrilled to add their second grandchild, Penelope Frantz, to the mix when she was born 18 months later.
“We made it clear that we wanted to see these children and be involved with these children, and have them know us,” Fuchs said. “We never felt that it was what was expected of us; we always felt that it was what we wanted to do.”
These days, they watch their 3-year-old grandson on Mondays and their 2-year-old granddaughter on Tuesdays — a schedule that was designed to provide each child with some special one-on-one-time with “Bubbie” and “Bob,” as they are affectionately known. The kids’ other grandparents watch them on opposing Mondays and Tuesdays, and preschool and a nanny help fill the void the rest of the workweek. The couple also acts as a baby sitter as needed, if the kids’ parents are traveling or have something special planned.
Frantz said the couple really treasures the time they spend with their grandkids — a day once a week that they relish playing with and providing tender love and care for Oliver and Penelope.
“This is just pure enjoyment. All we do is have fun and play all day long, and make sure they are happy. I think they make us better people, I really do. It’s the best of both worlds,” she said.
“On Tuesday afternoon, after we put all the toys away and it looks like they haven’t been here, I’d say within a half hour we already miss them and can’t wait for them to come back,” Fuchs said. “Just as they’re really important in our lives, I think we’ve become important in their lives, too.”
When Megan Masson, of Rochester Hills, went back to work three months after giving birth to her twin boys, she took comfort in knowing that every Wednesday they would be cared for by someone who loves them just as much as she does — her mother, Sandy Unsworth, often with the help of her father, Rob Unsworth.
“The first day I went back was actually a Wednesday, so it was really helpful that she was there. I had no worries whatsoever,” Masson said. “Every Wednesday, she comes to my house in the morning, so I don’t have to get them ready at all — which is a huge help for me — and she stays until I get home.”
Sandy Unsworth, of Birmingham, has been caring for her grandkids during her one day off from her day job for nearly six years now. It started with her eldest daughter’s son and grew to include his brother two years later.
“I work for an orthodontist, and we’re closed on Wednesdays, so I had a day off to offer,” Sandy Unsworth said. “I’m not there every day. I would if I could, and I had to be, but I don’t mind giving up my day off. I enjoy it.”
After the twins were born, “Nana” — as the boys call her — transitioned to watching her middle daughter’s 4 1/2-month-old twins, Bennett and Broden Masson, every Wednesday. She also watches the kids sporadically on Fridays, if she has a half-day. A nanny watches the twins the rest of the workweek.
“It’s a huge help that she is able to watch them,” Masson said. “It’s kind of funny because when my sister and I have the same events, like a wedding or something, we kind of fight over who can get to mom first. She’s great, and it’s a huge cost savings for us.”
Sandy Unsworth said she was happy to offer child care to her two girls because she loves them and her grandkids. She plans to provide them same service to her son, when the time comes.
“You want to help your kids out with day care and whatever else you can do to help them out, plus I just love being with my grandkids and building that relationship — that bond that you get from watching them from infancy until when they can start to talk and walk,” she said. “It’s just an awesome experience, being a grandmother and being close. … It’s a relationship that you can’t even describe. It’s just fabulous.”