Like most new parents, Sheryl R. loved the idea of having her son's grandparents babysit — until the day she really needed their help. Then, she says, she was surprised by their reluctance, and the fact that is has continued: "Every time I call they ask: ‘can't you find someone else?'" She's started to wonder if she's in the wrong for expecting their help.
The good ‘ole days, when grandparents were on call to babysit for their grandchildren, seem to be over. Many Circle of Moms members find that navigating how and when your parents or in-laws should watch your baby can be complicated. Here they share some of the emotional and logistical issues that pop up when the grandparental units babysit, and also offer some advice on avoiding common pitfalls.
When Grandparents are Rusty at Childcare
Offers from the grandparents to go out and spend some alone time with your spouse away from the baby sound really tempting, except when grandma suggests she's a tad nervous about revisiting life on the baby front, offers Morgan B.: "I am 25 years old and my first daughter is eight weeks. My mom keeps pressing me to go out with the hubby for dinner or to a movie so she can babysit. Before she was born I thought I would have no problems leaving her with my parents, they did ok with me. But I find my mom seems a little nervous with Addilynn, I know it's been 25 years since she's had to care for a baby, but the way she holds her and moves her around constantly makes me nervous."
When Grandparents Want Payment
Of course you pay babysitters and nannies, but whether or not to pay the grandparents is a touchy subject, and Circle of Moms members say it's best confronted in a straightfroward manner. While Christy S. says her MIL expects payment ("My kids' grandmother said she will not watch my kids unless if I pay her"), Mary O. finds that terrible. "That's what grandmas are for. To babysit for free." Dia F. also nixes the idea of paying grandparents for babysitting. "I do not think any grandparent should be charging to watch their grandchildren," she says. "I think that is just crazy. But my in-laws complain when they have to watch my children. So maybe it is just the whole age group, because we are in a recession."
How to Make it Work
If you do manage to get past your nervousness and to reach an understanding about payment, or if neither are issues to begin with, there's often still another minefield to negotiate: the babystitting itself. Here's what Circle of Moms members advise.
1. Let the Small Stuff Slide
When you are handing the care of your baby over to your parents, you have to expect that they will do some things differently than you, Circle of Moms members point out. It can be uber upsetting, but Margi M. suggests you pick your battles. If a grandparent adds an extra ounce of water to the bottle it is not a crisis, she points out. On the other hand, different ways of handling discipline could be a concern. "My parents and my in-laws don't follow the same routines we use for eldest son, but I have learned to pick my battles," she says. "I also try to keep the lines of communication open and let the small stuff slide."
2. Remember You're the Boss
Yes, they were your parents and earlier in life, they were the people in control of you. But when it comes to taking care of your children, the tables are turned. "I just don't want to seem like I don't appreciate them," says Jeanette T. "I am very happy my kids have loving grandparents who want to be involved in their lives but I am the mom, not them. It is important to make that clear."
3. Communicate Expectations Clearly
Grandparents are well-meaning and often strive to alleviate your stress as new parents, which sometimes lead them to withhold certain details. It's best to address this issue upfront and let them know that you want to know everything that happened — the good, the bad and the ugly, says Christine W. "They need to tell you when you child was sick. But from their perspective, they probably don't want to worry you. I think getting things out in the open is better than bottling things up inside, especially with family. It's better to clear things out of the way before they start adding up. Things like food, sleep, and different type of disciplining are things that should definitely be spoken about openly with your in-laws when they are babysitting your kids. They need to understand you, and how you want to raise your kids."
4. Know When to Give Up
No matter how hard you try, sometimes there are just too many issues with the in-laws or your own parents, and having them babysit is just not worth the stress. As Collen S. shares, "My mother-in-law is not allowed to watch our children right now because she doesn't listen and doesn't pay attention. When my son turned one, she came over to visit and he wanted to go up on the couch and stand. She put him on the couch and within less than a minute, she forgot he was on the couch and walked away to come into the dining room to tell me some story about her friend. How do you forget? My son could have fallen off and broken his neck. I told her she can't watch him."
What rules do you have for when the grandparents babysit?
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