This study employs the concept of structured ambivalence to analyse the effect of grandchild care on quality of life (QoL) in different cultural contexts. We define structured ambivalence as the contradiction between behaviour and cultural norms. The analysis is based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe with 14 countries in the sample. We focus on grandparents aged 50 and over with at least one grandchild 12 years old or younger (n = 12,740). In countries with high grandparent obligations, grandparents who did not look after their grandchildren reported a lower quality of life. Compliance with such grandparental obligations (e.g. providing grandchild care in a country with high grandparent obligations) was found to increase the QoL of grandparents. Family policy should consider family practices that better match the realities of current grandparents’ lives in order to reduce structured ambivalence and increase the QoL of grandparents.