Today, families often live miles apart and working mothers are forced to call on nannies to provide the flexible, customized care that years ago only women in the community could be counted on and trusted to provide.
If you’re thinking of hiring a grandparent to be your children’s full-time caregiver, here are 10 things you should consider.
1. Responsibility. Caring for children is a huge responsibility. Committing to showing up each day and providing 8 to 10 hours of childcare is a big commitment. Before hiring a grandparent to undertake this responsibility, you’ll want to evaluate their motives, ability, and level of commitment.
2. Pay. While many grandparents won’t accept payment, you’ll want to offer them some sort of financial compensation for their time. Once they are caring for your children, they will no longer be able to fulfill personal or professional commitments. For information about paying grandparents to provide childcare, consult the IRS publication 926.
3. Family dynamics. If the family dynamics are enough to drive you crazy during occasional visits, consider how you’ll feel being constantly exposed to them. Remember, unlike with an outsider, there will be no escape from your caregivers’ family drama.
4. The arrangement. Formalizing the arrangement by clarifying your expectations, hours you need coverage, duties, and responsibilities in writing can ensure everyone knows what they are committing to. Will the children be cared for at your house or at their grandparents? Will the grandparents be allowed to transport them around town? You’ll need to have mutually agreeable answers to these questions for the relationship to work.
5. Boundaries. When the grandparents are caring for the children, it’s essential the boundaries are set in stone. Be sure you clarify what is acceptable and what’s not in terms of house rules, behavior, and discipline style, and if the children are older be sure to clarify that when you’re not home grandma is boss.
6. Communication. It’s hard enough to communicate and manage a non-family care provider. Are you comfortable telling your parent or in-laws how to care for your children? Can you trust that they’ll provide you with accurate information or will they just tell you what you want to hear? Communication is essential in the caregiver/parent relationship.
7. Relationships. When a grandparent serves as nanny, relationships are at stake. The relationship between parent and grandparent and the relationship between grandparent and child have the potential to really blossom or to really take a beating. Consider the current relationships and evaluate if they can weather the storms that come along with working together in an intimate setting.
8. Parenting principles. Do the grandparents support your parenting style or will they constantly undermine you? Does she follow through with discipline? Is she consistent in enforcing your expectations? If grandma tends to start sentences with “I’m the grandparent, I can….” You may be in for trouble.
9. Backup plans. Having a backup plan for when grandma is sick or if the care plan doesn’t work out is essential, especially if you have professional commitments outside of the home. You’ll want to have a list of prescreened babysitters that can pinch hit if you need last minute assistance. Consider doing a three month trial period to see if the arrangement truly works for all involved.
10. Quality of care. While hiring a grandparent to provide childcare may save you money, will it cause you to sacrifice the quality of care that your children receive? Consider how you envision your children spending their day with their caregiver. This may include doing arts and crafts, learning letters and numbers, baking cupcakes, playing on the floor, and running outside at the park. Can you picture the grandparents doing these things while ensuring your children’s safety?
For some families, hiring grandma to serve as the children’s nanny is the perfect solution for solving the family’s childcare dilemma. For others, it’s a solution that would never work. When considering hiring a grandparent to provide full-time care, be sure you evaluate your care giving needs, your family’s needs, and the grandparent’s needs thoroughly before making a commitment.