Having grandparents that are able bodied and that live nearby is invaluable to both parents and children. Being able to rely on them for any kind of support is a sure-fire way to make all the challenges that come with raising your little ones just a little bit more manageable.
It’s true, they are likely to have many opinions on how you go about it. They’ll have something to say on everything from how to have a baby boy or how to have a baby girl, all the way through to what they should eat and what school they should go to – it’s practically a grandparent’s rite of passage to weigh in on parenthood. Perhaps the best way to take advantage of their enthusiasm to be involved is to let them live out their desires for a childcare job and for you to maintain some of your freedoms – just be careful you don’t jump in too quick without considering all that this will entail.
When deciding to enlist your parents to look after your children on a regular basis boundaries are imperative. Think back to your childhood, chances are the times have changed and there’s plenty of things they might have done that your declared you would never do. Everyone knows or has a parent who thinks they always know what’s best for their child, it’s not uncommon for this feeling to extend to grandchildren. There are plenty of cons when opting for professional childcare or a nanny (not least of which is the cost), but the one big pro is your ability to have some control regarding the care of your children. When having grandparents taking on that role, it’s imperative that you discuss the things you feel very strongly about – big ones tend to be discipline and diets – but it’s equally important that you remember to give your parents the freedoms and authority you would allow any non-family member who is providing you with childcare. If you aren’t able to establish boundaries with each other, it may not be the best fit.
Just because they are your parents, doesn’t mean you can assume they are mind readers. Explicitly laying out what is expected from both parties from the start and having regular check ins will ensure there’s not a fall out from miscommunication. Providing childcare is no walk in the park, regardless of whether it’s your children or someone else’s. Only a fool would overlook how much work they are expecting grandparents to take on. The last thing you want to arise from this situation is feelings of resentment or a belief they are being taken advantage of. Take that time to sit with each other and work out what your childcare needs are, what you expect of them and things you expect them to do and not to do. Writing up a roster or preparing a calendar that goes ‘x’ amount of time before being reviewed affords both parties a way to reassess the situation and make changes as required.
Open the floor to discuss compensation. It is often assumed that when grandparents (or other family members) babysit for you that they are doing so as a ‘favour’ and don’t expect anything in return. This is often true, particularly for one off occasions, however if you are intending on having your parents provide childcare to your little ones regularly this should definitely be confirmed. Chances are they won’t be expecting any financial compensation, but this also allows you to offer up other ways to repay them. This could be that you cover costs for an annual family trip or help them out around their house such as redoing the clear decking oilor clearing out their gutters. Depending on where this childcare will be taking place (at your house or theirs) you might discuss providing them with some financial support to cover costs of activities or provide the food your children will have while they are there. It’s always best to ensure that you and your parents are on the same page and that they are given the option for compensation to avoid any resentment or conflict.
If you’re planning to have your parents look after your little ones quite regularly and they will be going to their house, you should be discussing any equipment they will require and assist in organising that it’s available. Chances are your kids already have plenty of toys and other entertainment option that have been gifted by their grandparents, but there are also safety items to consider. Much like taking on aged care would require you to look into aged care equipment suppliers or maybe bariatric equipment, when considering having your parents take on childcare responsibilities, they will need to adjust their homes. This adjustment will obviously look different depending on the age or your child, and there may be some items that you can send with them on the day but bigger items such as a crib or highchair are ideal to have a second one that lives at their house.
If you can make the arrangement work, having grandparents provide childcare can be a great opportunity for your children. Whilst we are very fortunate to have so many options for childcare today, there are extra benefits that come from that care being provided by extended family members. Time spent with the older generation is often invaluable for education and emotional development. You can feel confident that your children are getting a level of care akin to that you’d be providing them at home which reduces feelings of stress and worry for their wellbeing. Often times children benefit from time spent with grandparents as they learn to be apart from parents in a safe and family minded environment. This time spent with grandparents as a small child can often also be quite precious as many of us get very little time with them as adults. If you are lucky enough to have grandparents available for childcare, it is often worth any extra emotional effort to make the arrangement work.