Grannies or Nannies? Germany Considers Family Leave for Grandparents

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Antje Asmus, researcher at the German Association for Single Parents, agrees. "Grandparents should choose whether to look after their grandchildren, rather than having to bow to social pressure," she says. Mixed Reactions from Parents

But what do the families themselves think? A range of Berlin parents interviewed by SPIEGEL ONLINE gave mixed responses to the plan. Fred, a single father of a nine-year-old daughter who describes himself as a "weekend dad," thinks state support for grandparents is a good idea. "The first three years of a child's life are the most important," he says. "Nothing can replace family relationships."

Anita, whose son is one-and-a-half, says she would "definitely" make use of such a program if her parents lived close by. "My son is much calmer after being cared for by his grandparents than by strangers," she says. "I really notice the difference when I pick him up."

But her friend Katrin disagrees. "For me, this represents a step backwards," she says. "Especially if the grandparents don't get any money."

Of course, not every family has grandparents on hand to offer childcare support. With increasing mobility, many couples now live far away from their families.

Flieder, the child in the Friedrichshain playground, is one of the lucky ones, having a grandmother with time to look after her. Her family feels that a range of options is best when it comes to looking after children. "Childcare is primarily the responsibility of the family," says Flieder's grandmother Irene, as her granddaughter puts the finishing touches to her sandcastle. "But," adds her daughter, handing Flieder a chocolate rice cake, "the state must do its part too."

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