What do the retirees do?

I’m always curious what the retirees do in different countries.  Obviously it’s related to the culture.

When I stayed in China for over 3 months, the Google was not available there.  For any China-related search, I used Baidu, the Chinese search engine.

One day, I asked Baidu: “What do the retirees in China do?”  The results were very surprising.  The top result showed about the previous Chinese presidents and prime ministers, what they are doing right now.  I know they are retired.  But come on, I don’t care what they are doing.  I want to know about the ordinary citizen retirees.  Unfortunately the search results showed pretty much nothing, except some shallow chat sessions.

I talked to my friend in Beijing.  She said to me: “Let me tell you what they are doing: they are babysitting their grandkids.”  For many of the retirees there (not for all, of course), that’s probably a true statement.

While living in my mom’s village, I got chance talking to my childhood friends, cousins, and some of the neighbors.  Yes, after retiring from the regular jobs, they (I mean most of them) became the baby sitters for the grandkids.

Usually the grandkids are living in another place.  That means the retirees have to leave their own home, move in, and live day in and day out with their kid, and grandkids.  That’s a full-time job of live-in nanny, cook, and house maid, without any pay.

Why can’t send the grandkids to the day care?  Oh, parents don’t trust the strangers.  The best caretakers are the grandparents, as both the young parents have to work.

How long will this honorary duty last for those grandparents?  It depends.  At minimum, it’s 2-3 years; at maximum, there is no end.  Sometimes, the grandkids are already in the primary school.  Grandparents still have to walk them to the school and pick them up.  The trip could be twice daily, if the school doesn’t provide lunch.

Are the grandparents willing to be the babysitter?  Do they enjoy doing that?  The answer is no, and no.  But they told me that, they don’t have a choice.  It’s more an obligation, or pressure from the kids and the society.  Everyone is doing that, how can you be the exception?

Living under the same roof with the kid, grandkids is not easy for everyone who is involved.  That’s not an ideal retirement life for retirees, I feel.  If you are looking for a way to test your patience, that’s probably the right place.

Everyone knows the challenges, but everyone is brave enough to embrace it.  The truth is that, being a babysitter could be more challenging than the previously regular job.  For a job, at least you can walk away for the evenings and weekends, and get a nice break.

I admire those grandparents who sacrificed their golden years to help the kids and grandkids.  They are the heroes.  Definitely they deserve tons of credit.

Is it really grandparents’ obligation to babysit the grandkids?  I’m not that sure.  The answer is probably no.  But, sometimes it is so hard to say No, especially to the loved ones.

When you are working full-time, you can always say: “I like to, but I don’t have time to help you.”  That’s a valid excuse.  But, after retirement, you got tons of time at hand.  What can you say?  “Sorry, but I don’t want to help you.”  It’s hard to say those words.

Fortunately I’m not at that tough spot yet.  And I’m not that anxious to get there either.  But as a parent, that’s a question I’ll have to answer sooner or later, if being asked.

Do you want to know what I have been doing since retirement?  Please check it out:

Dear readers, in your country, what do the retirees do?

Would you be willing to babysit your grandkids full time after retirement?  Why?

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14 Responses

  1. Hi Helen, Without any children, it’s unlikely we will have any grandchildren. I really wouldn’t want to baby sit full time would be my guess. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, yeah, babysitting grandkids full-time is a tough job. It would be nice to see them once a while. As a friend of mine described it this way: “It’s good to see them come, and good to see them go.”

  2. Joe says:

    I wouldn’t mind babysitting the grandchildren part-time. I’m not sure if I will be able to handle it full-time, though. That’s a lot of work. Also, it’d be much easier if you have your own living space. Sharing a home is pretty difficult for everyone.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, you are still very good if you could babysit the grandkids part-time. I don’t know if I have that patience. Definitely it’s a lot of work. Right, living with the kid, kid-in-law, and grandkids in one house is super hard. It requires a ton to get along with each other, if it’s possible.

  3. Caroline says:

    Hi Helen,
    Right now I host a family Sunday dinner every week and it includes my step grandchildren, and I can tell you I am very happy when they leave (2 & 4). It’s probably because they are not mine but , no matter how much I love kids, I don’t envision myself watching my own grand kids full time in retirement. I feel like I have done my time:) Maybe I am just being selfish.
    Cheers . Caroline

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, I definitely see your point. Babysitting grandkids means a lot of responsibilities, not only just hard work. For step grandkids, that adds another layer of complexity. Sometimes I feel life is so complicated, and could mess up our priority. We got to enjoy our freedom while we still can.

  4. I don’t have kids, but if I did, I wouldn’t be willing to babysit full time. My mom’s beau watches his grandkids a couple of times a week, which I think is a good balance. It helps his kids out and allows for some bonding time. But he’s retired and it’s not his job to raise any more kids. Conversely, his ex-wife watches them most days, and it’s not great for her health. So I think he has the right idea.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Abigail, thank you for sharing your story. Yeah, watching grandkids a couple of times a week is probably not too stressful. I’m glad to hear your mom’s beau got a good balance. That’s not easy to do.

      Many times, grandparents thought they could do it full time. At the end, they didn’t have their own life, and became resentful for the time they lost and the related conflicts.

  5. Tammy says:

    Hi Helen. I just found your blog, listed on RetireBy40 as one of Joe’s favorites. I am also a female engineer and I plan to retire this year at the age of 50. I look forward to catching up on all your previous posts! Tammy

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tammy, thank you. I’m so happy for you. Congrats for reaching the early retirement milestone! That’s huge. Many people dream about this day, but usually it won’t come until they are in their late 60s or early 70s. You made it at the age of 50! Enjoy the freedom.

  6. GYM says:

    My mom told me that she won’t do it regularly (babysit) but she seems to like it on the occasion for a few hours.
    My mother in law LOVES to babysit our toddler. She’s not tired and when she doesn’t have it she feels ‘purposeless’ or gets kind of down/sad.
    I think it is very ingrained in Chinese culture to take care of grandkids and kids take care of grandparents when they are frail.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, yeah, each person feels differently, and it’s also related to the culture. That’s cool your mother-in-law loves to babysit your kid. Hopefully that helps you folks to get a little bit break once a while.

      I’m more kind of like to have my own life. I don’t know how much I want to get involved with babysitting grandkids when the time comes. The thing is, my thought could change over time, too. We’ll see.

  7. Rico says:


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