Michael Whitehead (Manager, Ryde Family Support Service, facilitates a grandparent carer support group): It’s essential for grandparents to look after themselves because if they’re not in good health, then how are they going to look after their grandchildren?
Margaret (raising one grandchild): If I am in a good healthy state and a good mental state, it will be beneficial to him. If I let myself go to pieces, then I’m not going to be very good for him. I’m not going to let that happen.
Freda (raising one grandchild): I make sure I do a lot of self-care. I have time out for myself. I always allow for myself to do something. And Nikia knows that. So we have this connection where I say ‘I need to have time away to get myself together’, because I work and look after her, I really need to do something for myself.
Rae (raising 2 grandchildren): Raising 2 young kids is a big job and they’re full of energy – definitely full of energy, into everything, and it takes a bit out of you.
Michael: One of the problems that grandparents have is they’re no longer young, and at the end of the day looking after grandchildren, they’re probably exhausted. And then the same thing starts again, you know: the next day you’ve got to get the kids to school, and there may be very little time for yourself.
Rae: It’s a bit hard. I’ve put on a lot of weight. I think it’s from having half her milkshakes [laughs]. So you don’t spend as much time worrying about some of the things you should be worrying about – your eating and the likes – but it’s worth it.
Michael: We’ve had dietitians come and talk to the grandparents. We recommend that they get some exercise – make the time to do that, and to exercise.
Margaret: I’m a diabetic, type 2. I take my medication, I exercise, I run around like a chook with no head all the time. I keep myself involved with tutoring people in Christian Community Aid. I do whatever’s necessary. I volunteer at the school. I probably volunteer too much, I think, but I keep myself active.
Rae: Well, I tenpin bowl, I get involved with the grandparents group. I’m involved with the church, the Baptist Church that runs the grandparents group. And just get involved with the kids and the things they do. We go out, we do a bit of shopping, we go out on the train sometimes.
Margaret: I sit and watch TV and I do my crafts at home. I do give myself some time. And every other Saturday I’ll be with my daughter. I’ll go shopping, we go for coffee, and we just do girly things together.
Freda: My sister sometimes takes her for the weekend, and I’ll do whatever I need to do. And if [my granddaughter] needs to have time out from me, she does that as well. She’ll go with her cousins and stay with them. It’s worked out pretty good.
Margaret: The school also gave me respite in as much as when it was school holidays, there would be 2 days each week of the school holidays where he was going to vacation care. And the school actually funded that. So he got to go on excursions and he got to spend time with other children. So he wasn’t stuck with his Nan for the whole of the school holidays.