I owe my parents and my in-laws a huge debt of gratitude - at least £12,000 per year to be exact.
For the last two-and-a-half years, since I returned to work full time after my maternity leave, my retired dad and and my retired mum-in-law have shared childcare for my three-year-old daughter.
It’s not so bad now that she’s in nursery five half-days a week, but for the last two years they’ve each cared for her two full days a week, rotating the third between them. And these were not short days, usually starting at 8am and rarely ending before 5.30pm. In that time, they made and fed her breakfast, lunch and snacks, changed endless nappies, and took her on days out - paying for entry to play areas and attractions. They have done this without ever taking a penny from my husband and myself. You don’t have to tell me how lucky we are; we know.
Without this help - which is most definitely above and beyond the call of duty - I would not have been able to go back to work. If we’d have had to find £12,000 a year to pay for childcare, there wouldn’t have been any point.
Which is why I wasn’t too surprised to learn this week that 15 per cent of UK grandparents regularly provide free childcare for their grandchildren, as a way of offering financial support to their kids. It’s just one of the many creative ways that the ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’ is finding to help ease the financial burden facing their children in 2017.
Apparently six in ten parents now also make a financial contribution towards helping their children buy their first home, though only five per cent can afford to pay the full deposit. And 61 per cent of parents help out financially through other means, including allowing them to live at home rent-free and, you guessed it, free childcare.
According to Post Office Money, who carried out the survey, parental financial assistance can halve the time it takes for millennials to save for a deposit, as most can only manage to save 7 per cent of their income.
The report, which was compiled using data from Opinium Research and the Office for National Statistics, shows that parents of UK millennials have an average financial wealth of £52,746. If they choose to assist their child’s home purchase, on average they can afford to use 35 per cent of this wealth - equivalent to £18,396, which is a third of the average deposit for a first-time buyer in the UK.
81 per cent of the parents surveyed said they were more than happy to provide financial support if they could. And seven per cent admitted feeling guilty about their inability to chip in.
So just when does the feeling of parental reponsibility end? Should parents be feeling this pressure to hand over thousands of pounds from their own hard-earned wages to their fully-grown children, to help pay for homes and cars and weddings? Isn’t it enough that they spent the first 18 years doing so?
The truth is, it’s never going to be a tidy answer. Clearly there should be no obligation, but - as anyone who has had a child knows - there’s very little we wouldn’t do for our kids. If a parent can afford to chip in, and they’re happy to do so, as long as it’s appreciated, I think that’s fantastic. I lived at home into my twenties, and never paid board - but I’ve always understood the value of money. And I was utterly touched the day my parents handed my then-fiance and I a cheque to help towards the wedding we were planning. And I certainly know I will pay my parent’s and in-law’s kindness forward to Imogen, when she’s older.
The report from Post Office Money revealed that 66 per cent of those who’d received financial help from their parents were grateful as they felt more financially secure as a result. 32 per cent said they felt indebted to their parents, and 43 per cent said they wouldn’t have been able to purchase a home without their parents assistance. 20 per cent even reported that it had had a positive impact on their relationship with their parents.
But what about those who can’t afford to help? Fear not, in my experience, money is always outweighed by gestures of love. A close friend of mine grew up with a mum and dad who worked incredibly hard and always made just enough to get by. They showered their children with love and family time and, when she got married a few years ago, her parents worked overtime and holiday shifts to be able to contribute something - just because they wanted to. My friend was more touched by the love in their gesture than she would have been had they been able to casually pay for the whole thing.
In the end, I’m so grateful for all the help my family has been able to give me over the years - but that extends way beyond the monetary.
I’ll never forget the entire weekend my family and friends gave up to help us move house when I was eight months pregnant. I had the wives of my husband’s closest pals - who I didn’t know too well at that point - cleaning out and stocking kitchen cupboards, while the men in my life made countless trips back-and-forth in their cars, and the women unpacked clothes and hung pictures and turned the house into a home before my eyes. I loved them all for it.
I love my mum for booking a week off work to spend with me and my new baby, because I was nervous when my husband went back to work after his paternity leave. I love my mum-in-law for inviting us over for a home-cooked dinner in the middle of a busy working week. To me, these gestures are worth millions.