Grandma the Babysitter: Grandparents as Caregivers

grandparents-as-caregiversWe’ve talked about childcare pros and cons, but we’ve never directly talked about childcare with family as caregivers — and I keep seeing stories about how grandparents move to New York to help raise their grandkids — so I thought we’d discuss. There are obvious pros — love! money! — but the logistics strike me as something that may need a bit of finessing, particularly if we’re talking about in-laws.

For example: childcare is inherently a “shift” type of job (you’re on, I’m off), but when people aren’t being paid it can be difficult to have that initial discussion to create the routine. Another con:  if you’re working with a third party like a nanny, there is no dispute that Stuff Happens Your Way — there should be none with family, and yet (especially with in-laws), it can feel a little like biting the hand that feeds you to make too much of a fuss if small rules aren’t followed. Third, the place of care can become an issue too — one girlfriend I knew had a mother who wanted her to travel, with her baby, for about 60 minutes each way (think Brooklyn to the UWS) so her mother could watch the baby in her own apartment three days a week. A super generous, amazing offer — but a PITA no matter whose place of care was chosen.

So ladies, let’s hear it — do you rely on grandparents or other family members for some or all of your childcare? How formal is your arrangement — and how did you go about discussing some of the touchier subjects? Did you (or family members) move to make such an arrangement possible? 

Pictured: H around 2 months old, having already outgrown a winter hat knit by one of my MIL’s friends. All rights reserved. 

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Comments

  1. We have a full-time nanny, but we use grandparents (my in-laws) for back-up care and for babysitting when DH and I are both unavailable for an evening or part of the weekend. We don’t have any formal arrangement with the grandparents, just text them when we need help, and DS usually ends up at their place about once per week. Unless we need them for a very short time (an hour or two while we run errands), my in-laws prefer to watch DS at their house, but they live close to us, and our nanny is willing to drop DS off there. My in-laws are generally pretty good about following the rules, although FIL is a little reluctant to put DS down and let him sleep, so it disrupts the schedule a bit. But so far, that hasn’t been an issue beyond DS being a little cranky when we pick him up.

  2. My mother cared for my niece from the ages of 3 months to 18 months while my sister was working full time. My sister was thrilled to have free daycare. But watching their power struggles, arguments, and deteriorating relationship was an excellent reminder that nothing in life is free.

    • Philanthropy Girl says:

      My mother cared for my nephew while my sister (a nurse) worked weekend night shifts and my BIL worked odd shift hours. She still watches him often, although my sister is on maternity leave at the moment and my BIL has been switched to a 9-5 type position with limited OT. I’ve seen the power struggles, and heard my sister’s rants about the guilt trips for not doing things the way my mom thinks they should be done. I’ve heard the confessions from my mom that she doesn’t always follow the rules, and the “don’t tell your sister, but…”

      Had it been me, it would have destroyed our relationship. My mom and sister seem to have a relationship that weathers the arguments and power struggles better. It has worked for her, but when I hear my mom say things like “when Nana’s in charge, we play by Nana’s rules” it really bothers me.

      DH is a SAHD, so we don’t need regular child care. My mom does come to stay with our son when we have busy weekends and I don’t mind the rule bending for a short weekend. I get enough guilt trips without my mom being involved in full time care. I couldn’t do it long term unless I had to.

  3. Great topic. My mom watched my son full-time for 3 months, before he got a seat in an infant daycare. She flew across the country and stayed with us for those months, and her help was absolutely indispensable and so appreciated. (She also stayed with us for several months while I was on maternity leave and cared for my son then as well). In total, she lived with us for a total of 8 months helping with my children (and cooking, and cleaning and everything else). G-d bless her.

    I know not all grandparents will do this, but culturally, this is the norm for South Asians grandparents and thank goodness for that. When/if I become a grandparent, I hope that I can be as much help as my mom has been for my family. I also believe that my children have benefited immensely from having their grandmother with them for so long.

    I’m also lucky in that I have a very close relationship with my mom and she respects my approach for raising my kids (the only thing she doesn’t agree with is CIO, but I had no expectations that she would participate in that). I think it would be very difficult for grandparents to do childcare on a more permanent basis if you both didn’t see eye to eye on crucial issues.

    By the way, I read that NY times article a few weeks ago and it really hit close to home , probably because I could definitely see my mom moving permanently in with us longer term. I was saddened by all of the hate in the comments section though. No one should force grandparents to be a nanny to their grandkids. But if they WANT to (and are healthy and financially in a position to move), why the heck not? Immigrant families have been doing this for ages and it’s a win-win for all involved, and my own experience attests to this.

  4. Another big issue is time off.

    My ILs offered to watch my daughter, but once I explained the need for reliable care every single workday from 7am to 6pm, they were a lot less excited. I don’t want my daughter carted along to doctor appointments, so they would have needed to schedule those on weekends or other odd hours, and wouldn’t be able to help out elderly relatives/friends. Also vacations would need to be scheduled and okayed way in advance, which was a sticking point now that they’re retired. Just thinking through all the “restrictions” they would have because I would be relying on them, they respectfully withdrew their offer and I didn’t have to get into any of the power struggle issues.

    • Same thing happened with my ILs. They offered to watch DS 1-2 days per week, with the idea that we would put him in daycare part-time. When we emphasized that we would need reliable care those days, and they started to see what that would be like, they withdrew the offer. It was for the best I think.

  5. I am my mother’s only child. When I became pregnant, almost immediately she offered to be his caregiver. When my husband mentioned that fact to his mom, she wanted to be part of it, too. And now, we find ourselves in this incredibly lucky and amazing situation. Each month, my mom comes up to NY on the bus from VA. She stays with us for a whole week and watches our son. For another week, my MIL does the same thing, also all the way from VA. And then for the remaining two weeks per month, we have hired a nanny who was looking for a part-time gig.

    Yes, I know, we are unbelievably lucky.

    We haven’t had any power struggles, arguments, or relationship issues. Neither grandma wants to stop, although our son is now two and a half, and they have been doing this since he was 3 months old. I keep checking in with them but they say that they are thrilled to do it, and look so forward to their trip every month. Obviously we pay for the bus and all food. Mostly they do the cooking, despite my insistence that I can make dinner when I get home.

    There’s only two downsides that I can think of.
    1) It gets a little annoying having to live with *any* other person for an extended period. They are both wonderful women and so it’s nothing that anybody is doing wrong. It’s just that sometimes you want to sit on your couch and fart in peace.
    2) TTC again has been a bit of a challenge if I am ovulating during a week when a grandma is here with us. We don’t have a spare bedroom for them, so they are on a pullout couch (an extremely comfortable one, I am not a monster) in our large living room. It’s a perfectly comfortable arrangement, but they don’t have a door. And the living room shares a wall with our bedroom. So…

    • Legally Brunette says:

      This is an amazing arrangement. Good for you! I am actually more surprised that you were able to find a nanny willing to work just 2 weeks in a month. Awesome.

  6. Get ready for a novel and thanks for posting this topic as it is something I struggle with. My mother watches our daughter for free two days a week and it has been both a blessing and curse! Ultimately it is free daycare with my mother primarily, but also my Dad and sister at times with people who absolutely adore my little girl, so of course we are grateful! We don’t have to worry about dropping her off earlier than usual or picking her up late if something happens to come up. I do send food, but now that she is eating table food my mom supplements and gets her to try things I probably wouldn’t, etc. There are so many pros BUT there are also so many cons and I have posted about some of them on here before. Hubby doesn’t love it – bottom line is his parents would not have the energy or ability quite frankly to care for her, but they do feel left out and like she has a much better relationship with my parents and that is just the truth. Also, my entire extended family feels like they can visit anytime the baby is at my mom’s, so aunts, uncles and cousins on my side see the baby more than hubby’s side. They completely spoil her and when she was little walked her around to get her to sleep, etc and started (bad) habits she didn’t have before. They put on way too much t.v. and have since she was three months old (like the entire PBS lineup, I think thinking it was a good thing for her). They bust out old toys from when my sister and I were growing up and I hate that. And maybe it’s just my relationship with my parents but I feel like I can’t really say anything about these things that bother me, but I certainly would to a nanny or to my daycare. My mother also demands that she watch the baby at her house which I understand, but it just makes it much more hectic and difficult in mornings and also expensive to buy multiple things, etc. for her to have at her house. I also feel like she might be a bit behind the other daycare kids b/c she is not there every day, but that is probably in my head.

    It breaks my heart when my daughter doesn’t want to leave there at the end of the day to go home with us and then it breaks my heart a little bit more that I feel jealous of my own mother. At some point when she gets older I want to transition her to five days at daycare and I think that will cause hurt feelings.

    Sooooooo sometimes I wish that I had done daycare from the start five days a week to have avoided a lot of these problems and feelings but at the end of the day it is saving us money, is very generous of my parents and my daughter gets the benefit of having a great relationship with them, so I can’t really complain about much. I just wish I had a better attitude about it and I do try to work on it myself, but I honestly feel like I would enjoy my parents as grandparents and parents more if they didn’t watch my daughter, but she will enjoy them more as grandparents because they do, if that makes any sense.

  7. Amelia Bedelia says:

    My family has done the grandparent as caregiver thing and so far it is working out really well, though there are always cons. My parents live essentially next door in a place my husband and I purchased. They watch our kiddo three days a week, and also probably one night every two weeks or so when H and I have plans. in addition to watching bebe, my mother cooks usually two nights a week and does a load or two of laundry about once a month. it. is. fabulous. I love that bebe is so close to them, and that they are right here with us and that, of course, we have help when others struggle. It’s worked out so well for business trips, too. H and I both need to travel at the same time? no problem – parentals watch the bebe.

    It isn’t “free” for us because we pay for their living, but I still think we come out ahead on the cost front. And it works out especially well because my mother and I have similar “values” on how to raise the kid (i.e., more regimented with rules and schedule. And my mother has the type of personality that she will accept “orders” from us on how to do things – even if she doesn’t always agree (i.e., don’t put anythign in the crib with bebe, even though my mother thinks it is fine; let her play in the mud, even though my mother thinks it is dirty). It is wonderful. I know that this would not work if my inlaws were the caretakers. First, I have markedly different views from my MIL. Second, she does NOT take direction well and just does thing her own way.

    There are still some cons that must be considered:
    1. my mother spends All. Her. Time. playing with bebe. Upside is my 15 month old knows her colours and is pretty advanced at a lot of things. downside is she expects to be entertained all day!
    2. my father holds her too much and does the “come to granddad” when she cries bit
    3. my husband sometimes feels he can’t complain about anything because he is greatful they are watchinig her. so, he complains to me and not alwasy nicely.
    4. it is easy to fall into the role of “expecting” things and get annoyed when they aren’t done. So, we have to be VERY careful not to take advantage of them.
    5. they are always there. this is hard sometimes. not because of them, but because we just like to be alone. And sometimes we want to experience our kid and fun times on our own and not include the granddparents in everything.
    6. husband’s parents aren’t as close to kiddo.

    those are all VERY minor (even petty) things and overall, I love, love our arrangement. Just make sure you think through the GPs paretning style and make sure you can live with it. And make sure they know that keeping your kiddo as part of the routine means they are no longer retired!

    • That sounds wonderful and like it works for you – my only comment is what does it say about childcare costs these days that you feel you still come out ahead although you pay for your parents’ living?!!!

      • Amelia Bedelia says:

        I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        The thing is, we only needed part-time daycare, but NO facility in our city offered it! So, we would have paid full-time for only three days a week.
        ick.

    • We have a very similar situation as far as the exact same pros and “petty” cons (without any kind of payment/subsidy). My parents live in our neighborhood and keep our daughter while I work 4 days a week. They are both retired, don’t need the money, and love the time with her. My mom had the same situation when we were little, and my grandparents kept my brother and I. And actually, my great grandmother lived with my mom’s family and I believe provided some care too.

      It has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. My mom is very open to suggestions and corrections, and they both even took some of the safety and newborn care classes with us before baby was born. It amazes me how much energy my mom has with her. I know on my Friday SAHM day I am exhausted, and I asked her about it once and the reply was that the time energized her. I do try to be conscientious about not taking advantage of the situation, ie always calling to make sure it’s ok if I am late, and not assuming that it’s fine. I also try to pick my battles as far as things I’d like done differently, or mention things in conversation rather than a big sit down talk about what they are doing wrong. I can give specific instructions and trust that they are being followed, and all of her routines are exactly in order. It doesn’t always go that was at Mothers Day Out. I know they want the best for her as much as I do, and I could not ask for a better situation.

      As another commenter noted, one drawback is their vacation and travel time. My parents love to travel, and we try to make it workable for them as much as possible. Our daughter goes to a 5 hour Mother’s Day Out program on Wednesday so my mom can still do her volunteer time which also helps if we need to fill in some childcare. I have an aunt in town who can watch her as a one off, and a couple backup babysitters. My husband also works from home a couple times a week and he can fill in in a pinch. So far this has only happens a few times, but the trips were one after the other so it seemed like we were a bit scrambled through September.

      I know I’m extremely lucky and I try to be constantly thankful for the gift they are giving us. I can see how it would not work for every family, but it has been immensely positive for us.

  8. Farrley says:

    My husband suggested having his mom be our son’s nanny early on, and I had some reservations, mostly around power struggle concerns and whether she’d be energetic enough to keep up with him as he grew. We have ended up using her for two days, and then have a nanny the remainder of the week. She’s definitely willing to do more, but I feel like this balance is working for us. We pay her, though less than what the nanny gets (at MIL’s request). She has said she doesn’t need payment, but given that she travels to our house and works on our timetable, I think that not paying her at all would feel a bit out of balance (but that’s just me for our situation–YMMV!).

    The good things are the lower cost, knowing that he’s with a loving family member who would never hurt him, and seeing the bond between them. When he’s sick, for example, I can leave for work knowing he’ll be really comforted–with the nanny, I worry a little more (even though she’s great) about loss of patience, frustration with a really fussy kid, etc. The bad things are feeling like sometimes I just want to come home and have the house to ourselves, yet it feels rude to rush her out. Sometimes she stays for dinner. It also feels weird to me to ask her to do the housework tasks like tidying up the kitchen. And it gives her a window into the family dynamic that sometimes you’d like to keep private–like the house is a particularly bad mess or DH and I are not getting along especially well one morning:)

  9. Becca says:

    My mom has watched my 10-month old son ever since I returned to work. We do pay her and buy any baby supplies she needs (diapers, wipes, baby food, etc.), but it still comes out to less than it would to put him in daycare. The arrangement has worked very well so far. My son gets plenty of one on one attention, and my mom is respectful of any limits we set. We had a few issues during a span of a few weeks where my husband and I both had a busy schedule and had some later evenings, but we managed to work that out. The main thing we try to watch out for in that regard is not to take advantage of my parents’ generosity. If we were using daycare, we would be vigilant about not being late to pick up, and we try to give my parents the same courtesy.

  10. My MIL watches the kids whenever our au pair can’t (like right this minute while the au pair is on vacation). She lives 20 min away and it’s seriously a godsend. She says all the time what a delight it is to watch them and she’s set up part of her house as a play area (which allowed her to buy each and every toy that caught her fancy — the kids have quite the set-up there). It works because she’s extremely honest about what she is and isn’t willing to do. She retired last year and is very much enjoying her freedom so she’ll tell us when she has plans, but is also available almost any time if we really really need her. She also is extremely considerate of our rules and of the fact that these are our babies, not hers. Even though I’m okay with the rules being a little more relaxed at grandma’s house, she’s determined to follow whatever we decide since we’re the parents. Seriously, she’s amazing.

  11. I don’t have children yet. I want my parents and in-laws take turns to stay with us till the child is at least two years old. It is very common in the culture that I come from and that is the arrangement I am most comfortable with. I am very sure that my parents and in-laws will also want the same.

  12. Anonymous says:

    My mother-in-law watched my older son (now almost age 3.5) since he was 6 weeks old for two days a week. Now that we have two kids, she watches one on Thursday, and the other on Friday – so, both boys get 1 day a week with Grandma, and 4 days a week at daycare.

    Pros: Especially my older son has a wonderfully close relationship with Grandma. It makes my heart light up to watch him yell “Grandma!!!!!” and throw his arms around her every time he sees her. I would put up with a lot to preserve that relationship for my sons …

    THAT SAID:

    Cons:
    – Our practices have 2 offices 30 miles away, one of which is in my hometown. My regular workplace is in our far off location, but I very frequently see clients in the hometown office. Carting the kids to and from Grandma’s means no local appointments on Thursdays or Fridays, since I can’t very well expect a 1- or 3-year-old to sit through an hour’s appointment. It also means we have to make alternative arrangements for child transport if I have court on Thursdays or Fridays. Even after 3 years, it’s still difficult for staff to remember “No out-of-office appointments for her late or early on two days of the week,” and inconvenient for me and my clients.

    – “Grandma’s house = Grandma’s rules” does not sit well with me … I’ve tried to be very judicious with my requests, restricting them to safety and health concerns (no blankets in infants’ cribs, one snack per day) and naptime routines (naptime is at X time, Y number of naps a day) to keep consistent with my sons’ daycare and what my husband and I do on the weekends. AND YET. My MIL was a stay-at-home mom, and doesn’t have the ability to understand why maintaining a child’s schedule is crucial for working parents. She is not a good listener, and comes from a culture that is not comfortable with confrontation or conflict in any form. She pretty much does as she pleases. To make life more complicated, I am the only person who does pickup/dropoff at her house, so it’s awkward and unwieldy to have my husband have childcare conversations with her. I have had an independent sit-down with her twice in three years, explaining calmly that if my requests aren’t working for her, could she please communicate that to me so we can work together on finding a solution. Things improve temporarily, but then it’s back to “whatever Grandma wants, Grandma gets.”

    I adore our daycare and while I appreciate the cost savings, life would be easier if I simply took my kids there full-time.

    But, I’ve decided that the delight my sons and MIL get from her childcare is worth the hassle, which will only be temporary (infancy until 4K), but I think my relationship with my MIL has suffered. We’re two people with two VERY different communication styles, and having to work together to complete a task (childcare) brings up a deep personality conflict we could otherwise avoid completely. My (reasonable, I think) need/desire for information about my kids clashes with an entitled attitude she’s verbalized as “I don’t know anybody else who has to do what their kids say when it comes to their grandchildren.” I also don’t want to be characterized as “that witch who took away Grandma’s grandchildren”.

    My advice to anybody considering having parents/in-laws watch their children is to evaluate your ability to have an honest, open conversation with them. Sit down in advance and lay out the ground rules, and talk about how you will handle it if problems should arise from either side. Perhaps agree to have periodic (quarterly, annual) conversations about how childcare is going, and to evaluate whether to continue. Make sure that the spouse whose parent will be doing the childcare can be an integral part of these conversations (our rule is: “Your parents’ crazy, you deal with it. My parents’ crazy, I deal with it.”) If either the parents or grandparents aren’t going to be capable of any of those things, pull the plug – not worth the hassle.

    • Anonymous says:

      To be clear, I previously had a great relationship with my MIL, and now we have a delightful time outside the childcare context. Day to day is pretty calm as well, although it certainly takes a toll on my blood pressure :)

  13. Anonymous says:

    My parents have watched our kids two days a week for most of the last six years. The remainder has been a mix of stay at home parent and daycare. Overall, it’s been very positive for our family.

    Pros:
    – Free
    – No daycare morning/evening rush, lunches to pack, etc.
    – My parents prep dinner most days and/or help in the morning. They take out our trash, fold laundry, etc.
    – Psychologically easier to leave kiddos when it’s their grandparents. It’s someone they are supposed to spend time with anyway, right?
    – Great to see the strong bond between my kids and their grandparents. Not something I had.
    – My parents love it. The kids love it.

    Cons:
    – Since it’s free and it’s family, we don’t (can’t?) dictate like we do with paid caregivers. The amount of screen time and junk food that my kids get from my parents would have had a nanny fired.
    – Struggles with inequality with siblings. Think situations like when my sibling asks for one-off care because of illness, travel, etc that causes my parents to cancel on us and require us to take a day off of work.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll add that the ultimate success of a grandparent caregiver relationship depends on your relationship with your parents and how you view their caregiving capabilities.

      I (and my husband) have a great relationship with my parents, so the occasional spat or friction passes easily, and I generally view their child-raising to be inline with my own (although they spoil like grandparents, we agree on the big stuff).

      However, if you are tense with your parents during just an afternoon visit and/or have concerns about their ability to provide care (due to health/disability or preferences/mindset), then it will be a disaster.

  14. Lorelai Gilmore says:

    I read these stories and just marvel. I always thought my parents and in-laws were really into kids – and we even moved to be closer to my parents – but both of my parents are still working and one of my in-laws is still working, with retirement barely a glimpse on the horizon. I just can’t even imagine what it would be like to have this much family support. What a gift.

  15. Rachel says:

    My mom was a full-time professional nanny before I got pregnant, so she quit her job to be *my* nanny after I had my son. It may sound nuts to some people, but my husband and I actually just purchased a larger home so that she could live with us. She has pretty clear hours, but has been absolutely amazing with helping with weekends or nights as needed. While the care is “free,” we do pay for her living expenses and contribute to a private savings/retirement account on her behalf. We have definitely had some debates over the nuances of raising a child, but she is always willing to defer if it’s a big deal – and we’re willing to defer if it’s not. It really does work for us – and I can’t imagine trying to do this without her.

  16. Babyweight says:

    My parents pick my child up from elementary school most days. (They live 2 blocks from her school and about a mile from our house.) When they can’t, she goes to after school care on a drop-in basis. Works for everyone! It saves us about $400 a month.

  17. My parents and in-laws are older (well into their 70s), so my opinion of childcare via grandparents is formed by my own experiences. We’ve never used them full time, but have used them for hours or even days at a time. It was fine when my kids were babies and immobile, but as they got older, it just didn’t seem workable to have them do anything full time. Both of my kids were busy, and they needed movement and stimulation almost any time they were awake. My parents and in-laws just didn’t have the energy to do this and they would often just plop them in front of the T.V. when they got tired. I get that it’s the only option for some but I was grateful to be able to put my kids in a full-time daycare/preschool center where they could run around with other kids pretty much all day.

  18. Meg Murry says:

    My mother watched my older son 1 day a week at her house, and it generally worked out well. She was a little lax on rules, but was willing to meet us partway most of the time (offering a limited amount of watered down juice, for instance, when we do none at home, driving kiddo around to get him to sleep, etc). My MIL has summers off, and was watching the kids 1-2 days a week, but I wasn’t really working, because my kids know how to play her to get anything they want. After some talks, she decided she’d rather be once in a while fun grandma, because skipping nap and having ice cream for lunch once a month with grandma is one thing – doing it 2x a week every week is recipe for disaster.

  19. Katherine says:

    We moved from another city to my hometown when our son was born. It made sense, as hubby had just finished his studies and all his family is overseas anyway. I was sure I would find a new job in my hometown at the end of my mat leave (and I did).

    As I’m an only child, and very close to my parents, they convinced us to live with them. The idea was that we would become one big family. Hubby was skeptical, but agreed. Well – it was rocky from the start, but we thought we would figure things out eventually. I stayed home until 13 months with the baby, then my mom cared for him full-time until 18 months, and since then (he’s 2.5 now), my parents have been picking him up from daycare early (at ~4pm) and caring for him until we came home around 6:30. Have to admit that it worked out great for my son! He loves the relationship with his grandparents; he gets extra outdoors time compared to what he would get at daycare; and they engage him in all kinds of developmental activities (better than the general play with cars and dinos that they do at daycare after 4pm).

    It’s been a bit of a nightmare for the family, though. No privacy for hubby and me. (Parents at least have the family/computer room they can close, plus they can talk in their bedroom. We can’t talk much in the bedroom, as our son sleeps with us.) No personal life. Constant tension between hubby and parents. Hubby and I felt run-down because we spend most of our evenings packing lunches for everybody for the next day. Whatever free time there was, my parents expected that we would spend it together – on things like movies, teatime, etc. Hubby wanted to spend this precious free time on “his own” stuff (like personal emails, enhancing his skills – as his job is in an area that is new to him). Parents were bitter that he didn’t want to become part of the family.

    We talked about leaving a few times, but agreed that staying would be best for our son. Then last month, hubby said he couldn’t take it anymore, so I agreed that we would move. Once I told my parents, all hell broke loose. They came up with all sorts of reasons why our son would be best cared for by them, rather than by hubby, why he is a horrible person (he’s been somewhat rude with them a few times, but so have they, and he doesn’t share all of their beliefs about lifestyle generally, and maybe he’s not as smart as we though he was, despite a PhD, and not very creative (nothing _objectively_ major), why if I leave with him life will be horrible for me (I’ll have a bad relationship with parents because he made me leave, and because of that, a bad relationship with him), why they think he doesn’t love me and I don’t love him (ok, so we need to work more on our marriage, – our love has been strained lately, but we want to work on it, and that requires a chance for us to talk in private one-on-one, and not just while brushing teeth).

    I won’t say how the story ended, because it hasn’t yet. But I will say that many-many tears have been shed.

    Grandparents can be great caregivers, but everything has a price. Mine think they are better caregivers for my son that we, his parents, are. And they may be right. Does that mean I should sacrifice my chance at marital happiness so that my son has more exposure to engaging activities, creativity, interesting work (my dad is quite a handyman)?

    Thank you for listening.

  20. Katherine says:

    We moved from another city to my hometown when our son was born. It made sense, as hubby had just finished his studies and all his family is overseas anyway. I was sure I would find a new job in my hometown at the end of my mat leave (and I did).

    As I’m an only child, and very close to my parents, they convinced us to live with them. The idea was that we would become one big family. Hubby was skeptical, but agreed. Well – it was rocky from the start, but we thought we would figure things out eventually. I stayed home until 13 months with the baby, then my mom cared for him full-time until 18 months, and since then (he’s 2.5 now), my parents have been picking him up from daycare early (at ~4pm) and caring for him until we came home around 6:30. Have to admit that it worked out great for my son! He loves the relationship with his grandparents; he gets extra outdoors time compared to what he would get at daycare; and they engage him in all kinds of developmental activities (better than the general play with cars and dinos that they do at daycare after 4pm).

    It’s been a bit of a nightmare for the family, though. No privacy for hubby and me. (Parents at least have the family/computer room they can close, plus they can talk in their bedroom. We can’t talk much in the bedroom, as our son sleeps with us.) No personal life. Constant tension between hubby and parents. Hubby and I felt run-down because we spend most of our evenings packing lunches for everybody for the next day. Whatever free time there was, my parents expected that we would spend it together – on things like movies, teatime, etc. Hubby wanted to spend this precious free time on “his own” stuff (like personal emails, enhancing his skills – as his job is in an area that is new to him). Parents were bitter that he didn’t want to become part of the family.

    We talked about leaving a few times, but agreed that staying would be best for our son. Then last month, hubby said he couldn’t take it anymore, so I agreed that we would move. Once I told my parents, all hell broke loose. They came up with all sorts of reasons why our son would be best cared for by them, rather than by hubby, why he is a horrible person (he’s been somewhat rude with them a few times, but so have they, and he doesn’t share all of their beliefs about lifestyle generally, and maybe he’s not as smart as we though he was, despite a PhD, and not very creative (nothing _objectively_ major), why if I leave with him life will be horrible for me (I’ll have a bad relationship with parents because he made me leave, and because of that, a bad relationship with him), why they think he doesn’t love me and I don’t love him (ok, so we need to work more on our marriage, – our love has been strained lately, but we want to work on it, and that requires a chance for us to talk in private one-on-one, and not just while brushing teeth).

    I won’t say how the story ended, because it hasn’t yet. But I will say that many-many tears have been shed. For now, my son and I are with my parents, and hubby is setting up in an apartment.

    Grandparents can be great caregivers, but everything has a price. Mine think they are better caregivers for my son that we, his parents, are. And they may be right. Does that mean I should sacrifice my chance at marital happiness so that my son has more exposure to engaging activities, creativity, interesting work (my dad is quite a handyman)?

    Thank you for listening.

  21. We moved cities to make this possible. My mom did our childcare full-time for a year, and then asked to go down to 3 days a week once we had our second child (with 2 kids it is more tiring and harder for her to get her own personal errands and appointments done, so she likes the days off to do that). I feel like it is the luckiest gift in the world. The relationship with the grandparent is obviously critical here, but it works so so so well for us. In addition to saving money, my mom gets to build an incredible bond with my kids. I actually also like the balance… I don’t always agree with my mom’s approaches, but I think that can be healthy. The older my kids get, the more I realize a lot of things are out of my control anyway, and differences in parenting approaches can be really healthy. I hope she can continue to help us out as long as she is healthy and able. It also gives me incredible ease as a working mom, I feel a lot more comfortable with her in charge.

  22. Angela says:

    This story is old, but I’ll comment anyways. I have two kids, one is almost 3 and my youngest is 9 months. My oldest is in full time care at a center and has been since he was 9 weeks old. It has been great. The care is reliable and enriching. He knows things that I’m certain he would have never been exposed to had I stayed home with him. They have a great outdoor playground and an indoor gym, the meals are relatively healthy, and he has opportunities throughout the day to read, sing, dance, and paint/crafts.

    My youngest has been staying with my parents since she was 9 weeks old. The care is free and both of my parents who are 65 watch her. This has been a blessing because she has not gotten sick one time and I know she is getting the full time care, love and attention an infant truly needs. However, now that she is getting older I feel like it’s getting to be a bit much for my parents. I never expected them to watch her and they would never expect money, we just pay them in “gifts” and indulge them with gifts cards to restaurants, favorite treats, etc. to help. My Mom wants to watch my daughter until she is 2 or so, but we will probably put her in daycare around 15 months. I just don’t see how grandparents can keep up with little ones who are into everything. Maybe I worry too much about my parents’ well being, but I truly wish for them to have an enjoyable retirement and I believe they shouldn’t be burdened with watching my children.

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