This is because we’re all having kids too late. The average age of first time grandparents is currently 63, but this is also rising steadily.
More than half of first-time mothers are now over 30, with the number having first babies over 35 soaring to the highest on record. If our babies also wait longer to have babies, it means we’re unlikely to become grandparents until our 70s, by which time various ailments may limit any heavy-duty childcare we wish to offer.
Dame Esther Rantzen, who recently revealed she has lung cancer, has openly rued the fact she is an older grandmother due to not having children until the age of 37.
It dawns on me that her sense of sadness around being unlikely to see her beloved grandchildren grow up or get married, will probably be shared by most of my generation.
It would have been similar in eras gone by when people had children in their late teens and early twenties, but life expectancies were much shorter than they are now. These days Dame Esther, in her early eighties, is probably surrounded by peers with much older grandchildren up to all sorts of exciting things, so she knows what she is missing.
Never before have the conditions for long and loving grandparent relationships been so bountiful, but of course, individual situations will never be perfect.
Not everyone has children or grandchildren in their lives. But those who are benefitting from ideal intergenerational set-ups should cherish what they have, for it is not something to be taken for granted.
Though my husband and I are both blessed with lovely parents who’ve become wonderfully supportive grandparents, none live near enough to provide on-tap childcare. But we live near a brilliant nursery which, thankfully, we can afford to send our son to so we can do our jobs.
Not everyone is so lucky. It shouldn’t be this way, but many of our peers would be unable to work without the free childcare provided by grandparents living locally.
So yes, being a grandparent is widely regarded as one of the greatest joys of modern life, and this alone should make us want to preserve it. But enabling their help to continue is more than just something we want as a society.
It’s a service we desperately need because childcare is so expensive (£100-a-day in my area, in case you wondered). This army of five million grandparent carers is, for now, propping up our economy, but we need to ask ourselves, what happens when they’re gone? Who on earth will look after the kids?
And before you say the parents (and by that you’ll mean the mother), please look at the cost of renting or owning a family home in pretty much any major city, and tell me with a straight face that it’s doable on one person’s salary.
The way I see it, the Government will soon face a choice: Either pay sixty-somethings state pensions so they can afford to keep looking after their grandchildren for free, or properly subsidise the cost of childcare so everyone can afford it.
It’s not overly dramatic to suggest that if nothing is done, having a family will become the next “luxury” ordinary people can no longer afford.