Don't Mind Me: Will we ever see a ‘granny grant’?

Celia Holman Lee


Celia Holman Lee

Don't Mind Me: Will we ever see a ‘granny grant’?

A granny grant for minding the grandchildren won't solve the childcare problem in this country but Patricia says she would sure like to see the money in her hand

SHUCKS! Just when I thought I might go and age gracefully and embrace my wrinkles and pigment-depleted locks, it looks as if the proposed ‘Granny Grant’ is dead in the water. Worse still, it has become the subject of endless mirth among the ruling classes and the know-all media.

I was listening to a pre-Budget radio interview on Monday with finance Minister, Paschal Donoghue, when the issue of the said ‘Granny Grant’ for child care was raised by the interviewer. Paschal went into his usual pre-Budget spin about listening to all suggestions before coming to a decision, but the interviewer cut him off and asked him straight out: “Is it something you would entertain. Or is it something you find entertaining?”

Hilarious! Unless you were a granny and couldn’t see the joke! In fairness to the Minister, he didn’t see it either, or at least had the good grace or political savvy – I don’t know which - to remain every bit as unamused as Queen Victoria in her day.

Now, it’s not the money that bothers me so much – although with an extra €1,000 a year for minding my grandchildren for ten hours a week, I might even have been able to cruise off into the sunset – it’s the bemusement and downright cynicism that greeted Shane Ross’s very worthwhile proposal when it was first mooted early in the summer. That reaction very quickly descended into an unseemly fit of the giggles and finally into hostility towards Minister Ross, whose intentions I believe were honourable, well-meaning and desirable. Mind you, I’m no great fan of Minister Ross a lot of the time, but I certainly was with him on this one.

I remember doing a ‘Highland Fling’ around the kitchen the day I first read about the grant proposal in the papers. “Are you not thrilled?” I asked a fellow granny who called in the middle of my over-the-top display of exultation, with two toddlers en tow, both hell-bent on pulling the dog by the tail. “Maybe I will be, when I see it,” she replied with admirable restraint.

As I said, it wasn’t about the money, so much as the appreciation. I get lots of appreciation and numerous gifts from my daughter and son-in-law for minding their three small children every Friday and saving them a full day of expensive crèche fees. I don’t get any appreciation at all from society in general, apart from the odd observation that I must be going soft in the head to have taken on such an onerous responsibility in my declining years. But I love my grandchildren dearly, and Friday has become my favourite day of the week. I can’t say I’d score high in childcare. The eldest, who started school last week, won’t eat her dinner if she suspects even a hint of broccoli contamination. Sometimes in an effort to promote healthy eating and being a firm believer in the properties of brassicas, I’m forced, mea culpa, to bargain with jelly babies. “You’ll turn into a jelly baby yet,” I warned her last week. “I wouldn’t really mind,” she gaily replied,” but I’d hate to turn into a broccoli.”

The ‘Granny Grant” if it materialised – and who knows, it still might – would not change any of that, but it certainly would change the ‘Granny’ image. We’d have a defined role in society which we could fill if we liked, or decline if we didn’t like it. We’d no longer have to create a cool granny image by vying with younger people for glamour and unfurrowed complexions and we’d save the HSE a fortune, for believe you me, the elixir for many age related infirmities is nothing more complicated than having a purpose with a bit of recognition.

Government child care policy, according the Paschal Donoghue seems to be geared more towards diverting more cash to the professional providers – the child care industry. Good luck to them. They probably know better than I do how to get a kid to eat her broccoli without bribing her with jellies. I only hope that, whatever about the impact on childcare costs for families, that the thousands of highly qualified employees working for those providers around the country will see a decent slice of that cash in their currently less than enticing pay packets. I’d be happy to sacrifice the Granny Grant for that.

*Finally, to end on a different note altogether, let us hope that President Trump – now that he has decided to take up that long-standing invitation to visit this country, and the Mid-West in particular – won’t leave with the impression that the Irish Cead Mile Failte is nothing more than fake news. We have become a bit selective of late with our hundred thousand welcomes, and I, personally, feel that we did break some of the basic rules of hospitality during the visit of Pope Francis.

But whatever about the demands of protocol, let’s also ditch the increasingly tiresome flow of populist rhetoric while the US President is here. We all respect the right to protest, but why did the Taoiseach have to express surprise when he heard he was coming? He asked him, didn’t he? The thing is we’re not that important on the world stage to be able to dispense with good manners and civilised niceties willy-nilly according to our prejudices and still expect world leaders to visit us. As my mother used to say: “be nice to everybody in your own house”.