As an expat living in Australia my extended family are a very long plane ride away. A lot of mums will most likely relate to the feeling of being so far away from help, especially help in the form of free grandparent childcare. While it may not be possible to jump on a plane every couple of weeks for a night away at Nana’s and Papa’s house with a home cooked Sunday roast, Skype has made overseas babysitting completely possible. And we are living proof.
So how does it work?
Most of us already use Skype, a voice over IP system that allows you to have real time conversations with video over a network connection. Skype is available on your computer, mobile phone and tablet and comes with a number of different options and premium features. Skype is fantastic for work meetings, for catch ups with friends who are travelling and for FIFO families who may not see their partners every night after work.
Skype is also a fantastic babysitter.
I use Skype on a daily basis with my mum, who lives in Canada. I simply set it up on my iPad and give the iPad to my kids. They take “Nana” around the house, showing her different toys, reading books to her and interacting with her. They set Nana up on the floor beside them and play puzzles, make things with Playdoh and colour in their workbooks. My mum has a whole room full of stuffed animals, books and action figures that she uses on her end while my kids use their toys on their end. While my son may fly around the house with his Ironman action figure, Nana will be doing the same thing, just 3000 km away. It’s quite amazing to watch really.
Nana and Papa have been ‘present’ from Canada at all of the milestones. They have seen them blow out their candles, open their presents on Christmas morning and will often join us for lunch. They watched through Skype as my son got ready for his first day of school and when our daughter took her first steps.
And what do I do while Nana is babysitting my kids from Canada? I work. I clean. I cook dinner. I fold laundry. I obviously never leave the house, but I can actually get stuff done without my kids trying to ‘help’ or uttering the world’s worst phrase, “Mum, I’m bored.”
We all need a break every once and a while. Skype has been helping co-workers, friends and family members stay connected for several years now and without it, I would be completely lost.
Sure, to my children, their Nana lives in an iPad but the connection they have with her is incredible. For someone who only sees the kids in real life once or twice a year, my children have a very strong bond with their Skype Nana and seeing Nana on a regular basis is part of their routine. She has watched them grow up in front of a screen and, while we can all admit that too much screen time is bad for children, this type of screen time is something I not only rely on, but also relish.
Do you use Skype to connect with extended family not living close to you? Or perhaps you’re a Facetime or Google Hangouts fan? How does it work for you?