Bringing Up Baby - Childcare With Grandparents
If you are contemplating asking your parents or your in-laws to jump in for some hands-on grandparenting, you are definitely not alone.
If you are contemplating asking your parents or your in-laws to jump in for some hands-on grandparenting, you are definitely not alone. The cost of childcare, time spent commuting, and irregular work hours are just some of the factors that see Irish parents relying more on their own parents for childminding, says Emily Manning.
Once the newborn haze has lifted and you start to plan your childcare arrangements, the very real realisation that someone other than you will be minding your baby sets in. This is when many of us look to their own parents for reassurance, familiarity and, for some, a solution.
Many parents are now facing childcare costs that match or even surpass their monthly mortgage payments, resulting in a decision to either give up work or find alternative childcare. This has resulted in many grandparents taking up some, if not all, of these duties.
Before you all embark on a big change, a trial period is definitely called for. This will allow everyone to understand what’s involved, the reality of what each day will bring, and to see how you all adjust.
Unlike my own parents, who deliberately try to pack in as much chocolate, cake, sweets and general naughtiness as they can while on babysitting duties, I carry out a very different routine for my child. It’s for reasons like this that you will need to sit down and set some clear boundaries.
One of the hardest areas for all parties is discipline and routines. If grandparents are to care for your children on more than an ad hoc basis, it is important for them to be fully aware of your expectations when it comes to routines, mealtimes, bedtime, behaviour, homework and so on. Your way of doing things may differ from theirs – in fact, it most likely will – so setting out a very clear guideline will help everyone.
Similarly, if you hired a nanny or sent your child to crèche, you would have set hours for collection and drop off. It wouldn’t be acceptable to ring a few minutes before you’re expected to say you will be an hour late. Well, neither is it acceptable if your parent is the childminder.
A payment arrangement, if any, is obviously something you can work out with your parents when the time comes, but it is also important to remember the less substantial costs that may arise. For example, outings and entertainment, play centres, classes, lunches, even just stocking up on extra groceries. An arrangement to cover these costs should be discussed – after all, this is a much lighter spend than alternative childcare options.
The most important thing to remember is that your children are being cared for by their grandparents – and that relationship is far more important than any childcare arrangement. If you, or they, feel that childminding is taking over or changing the dynamic of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, then it would be wise to look for a new solution.
While it may seem very clinical and strict to set rules with your own parents for the care of your children, that is a minor element to the whole equation – it purely keeps things on an even keel.
The real benefit of this childcare arrangement is the time your child will get to spend with his or her grandparent, the stories they will hear first-hand, the knowledge they will gain. What a wonderful bond that is sure to make.