Diary of A Modern Gran | Granny Does A Four Day Week

Lady running after pram Illustration: Istockphoto

My daughter has had to make up some hours at work from last week so I’m on Granny duty from Monday to Thursday this week! I’m writing this on Wednesday and am already on my knees…

So, by the way, is my friend Fiona from granny group who is doing an extra day and night on top of her usual stint. We’ve just been swapping notes. It’s good to know I’m not the only one!

Don’t get me wrong, I really love looking after the children. But four days on the trot is tricky. It’s not just the exhaustion of getting up at 6:15am and coming home at 7pm. It’s also the challenge of fitting in the rest of life – including my work and husband!

I have to say, however, that this week has had more than its fair share of humorous moments. For a start, the children have had to come along to things that I’d already organised for my normal “off” days because I simply couldn’t cancel them.

The first diary conflict comes on Monday. For some reason, I have to have developed some weird problem with my eyes which sounds like Bohemian cysts but is actually far less glamorous.

As a result, I had an urgent appointment with an eye consultant thirty miles away which meant I had to rope in my husband for support. The plan was that little George – who usually yells blue murder if he goes to anyone apart from me, Mummy and Daddy – would be asleep in the car by the time we got there and my husband would sit with him.

Of course, nothing goes to plan in granny world!

George remained resolutely wide-awake all through the journey. I had to go in to the appointment alone because the consultant needed to do some rather fiddly stuff which wouldn’t be possible with a toddler wriggling on my knees!

So I left them with Grandad outside in the car with a sense of foreboding. Mind you, little Rose seemed happy enough because I’d lent her my iPad. (And yes, I disapproved of toddlers having those as well before I became a granny. But there are times when it comes in useful.)

I hardly heard what the consultant said. I just had visions of George screaming. But when I got out, he was beaming, sitting on my husband’s knee. To my amazement, he was watching my husband’s phone. Now my other half is extremely fussy about his personal possessions! No one is allowed to touch his stuff – including me. So for George to be clutching the phone in his sticky little hand is a big deal.

“Look,” says my husband. “I managed to load a video of Little Red Tractor. He loves it!”

In fact he was so pleased, that he forgot to ask me how the eye examination went . (Apparently I just have to keep plodding on with the Bohemian cyst treatment and they should at some point sort themselves out. At least, I think that’s what the advice was but as I said, my mind wasn’t on it.)

Nailing it…

On to Tuesday. Now I know this might sound rather self-indulgent, but ever since I’ve been lucky enough to get published, I’ve made sure I have my nails done regularly. This started when I became acutely aware of how awful my hands looked during book signings. No more! I have gel nails every fortnight.

But our local salon is permanently booked up. Appointments are made months in advance. And they couldn’t change the one I had made for what was meant to have been a non-granny day.

So yes, I called on my husband again! Both children were full of beans and raring to go. So I pack the essentials – little Rose’s favourite comic and George’s favourite tractor book. They sat next to me when I had my nails done and had a fabulous time. My grandson ended up on my knee trying to help the manicurist while Rose peeled stickers out of her comic. “Look at Grandad’s face,” she giggles. He is covered with mini guitars, stars and moon shapes. So was his precious phone. And so – oh dear – is that new tray of nail shapes which is on display. “Don’t worry,” said my manicurist kindly. “I’m sure we can peel them off.”

On to Wednesday! Every three years, the ladies of our town are called to the NHS mobile breast screening van which comes to the big car park by the sea front.

Luckily Rose is at nursery today but what can I do with George? He can’t come in with me. So I call on my husband again! (So much for retirement!)

There’s just one problem. His car isn’t working so we devise a complicated arrangement in which I going to playgroup in the morning before coming back and meeting him outside the van so he can get into my car to babysit and I can go and get checked.

It might all sound terribly trivial but trust me, it was stressful. Then again, that’s life isn’t it? When you analyse things that make you uptight, it’s always the small ones. Or rather an accumulation of them.

Right now, I’m sitting in the car with George who is fast sleep after the breast screening. I can’t move him into the house (I believe the technical term is ‘transference’) or he’ll wake up. So I’m using the opportunity to write this column.

Oh no! A message has just popped up to say that my phone battery is running low. I search in  my bag for the charger but discover that one of the prongs has disappeared. That explains the bit of metal I found on the kitchen floor yesterday and threw away in case George swallowed it.

So I ring my husband to ask him to bring his charger over. “Sorry,” he texts. “I can’t find it anywhere.”

I’m beginning to panic…

What shall we do if we have an emergency? The handset from my daughter’s landline handset also seems to have disappeared. My daughter will worry. I usually send her some reassuring WhatsApp’s by now to let her know how we are doing along with funny pictures. She might think something has happened…

Hang on a minute!  I brought up three children without a mobile – they’d only just started to come in for domestic use back then. And my own  mother wouldn’t even have known what one was.

So I’ve made a decision. We are going to go mobile-free for a week. That means no Peter Rabbit or Little Red Tractor videos, no WhatsApp progress reports to the parents and no “help” phone calls to my husband.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Meanwhile, next week, I only have to do one day! That’s because I’ve got pressing work events so have got “time off for good behaviour” from my daughter. I’m really excited as I am going up to London to hear an actress record my new novel as an Audible book. I’ve also been asked to record my author foreword for the book!

Two days later, I’m speaking at the Bristol Crime Festival about my books. It’s all part of my other life. And I’m not the only granny to have one. My other friends include artists, shopkeepers, accountants and childminders. Somehow, we manage to juggle it all with looking after our grandchildren as well. I think the two complement each other.

There’s just one problem. I’m really going to miss the children.

“Can I come too?” asks Rose when I explain I won’t be around.

I kneel down to give her a big hug. “One day,” I promise. “When you are older.”

“Can you Skype us?” she pleads.

“Of course,” I say. Oops! It looks like I’ve broken that technology promise already…

Details about Jane's latest book, I Looked Away

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Allison Hay

I joined the My Weekly team nine years ago, and I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazine. I manage the digital content for the brand, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters. I also work for Your Best Ever Christmas - perfect as it's my favourite time of year!