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Grandparents as Caretakers: has it worked for you?

As I was heading to drop off one of the kids at school this morning, I passed a mom and child pulled into a driveway.  She was handing off her son, pre-kinder age, to her parents.  "Mom, don't worry about it," she said.  It seemed like a regular arrangement for grandma to be watching the tot, just about as regular as another family I pass often, where mom pulls over, many times double parked, to lug her infant-in-carseat up several front steps to her dad, always waiting for her atop the stairs.

Grandparents can play a crucial role in rearing our little ones.  I, myself, spent a lot of time with all of my living grandparents - my mom's parents and my dad's mom took turns taking care of me from the time I was born.  I was even sent back to my parents' native country, the Philippines, for a while when I was around a year old, so that my parents could work odd hours and study to pass licensing exams.

Rearing my own children, I didn't have the support network of nearby family where they could play a daily role in helping with childcare.  

Having loved growing up with my grandparents, and now watchiing how adoring my own kids are of their own grandparents, I love to hear stories of grandparents developing a routine with their grandkids, a special, regular relationship and intimacy with one another.  Have you had your children's grandparents involved, on a regular basis, with childcare?  How has that been?


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The thought. Is frightening. That is all! :) (Well, for the grandparent that lives close by anyway!)

When my daughter was really tiny, I worked part time on the weekends, but every third weekend my husband rotated into working, as well. My mom not only watched my daughter, but made me dinner.

She's done this a few times as my daughter's gotten older, I've worked full time (but with weekends sometimes required) or we've had an adults only event.

She also worked full time for much of this AND I don't think caring for my daughter full time would've been exactly in her plans. But her flexibility was helpful when my daughter was little (even though we generally did stuff together and didn't ask very often).

I also contrast this with my mother-in-law: we went to visit her when my daughter was about 9 months. Not only couldn't we get her to watch the baby so we could have a nice meal out together (NYC) for a few hours. She refused to watch the baby so one of us could take a shower or even go to the bathroom!

The new surroundings so messed with my daughter's schedule that she kept me up all night (after having previously been a perfect, sleep through the night baby at two months)---so my husband cared for her while I slept in the mornings. My MIL seriously made him take the baby into the bathroom with him while he peed, because she refused to watch her for 5 minutes (or less).

My dad retired to watch our daughter after she was born. She's now almost two and grandpa still watches her while my husband and I are at work. It's wonderful that my daughter is so close to my dad. It's been such a blessing to have my parents so close by, and that they've taken such an active roll in helping out with raising our daughter. We do pay my dad for watching her, but it's worth every cent knowing she's with someone who really loves and cares for her.

We were fortunate that my mother-in-law took care of our children full-time as soon as our maternity/paternity leave ended at eight weeks. Since she wouldn't let us pay her for most of the time, I think we must have saved around $50,000 or more. Staggering to see her gift in that light. That's in addition to the genuine love and care she feels for our kids. Since they are older now and in school, she tries to have them for a sleepover at least once a month.

We are also lucky that between her and my mom, most of the summer is covered with no expense. Believe me, I know how lucky we are. And how lucky our kids are.

On the flip side, both grandmas have their own ways with the kids. They go on wacky outings, eat too much junk food, and watch too much TV, but that's part of the deal. Luckily I'm not a controlling person, so it's easy to feel grateful and just go with the flow.

Don't have the option since gp's don't live here, but have used them for one week at at time on school breaks, which is enough for all concerned. Not sure I would take them as a primary caregiver... in some ways we agree and and some not. I'm sure had they been here and available, it would have been hard to say we prefered to pay someone, so we would have lived with things as they were- though who knows if they ever would have taken it on, right now the kid wears them out! I think it must be nice to know that you always have someone but then you do 'get what you get'- no real right answer unless you really are very alike in parenting.

My kids are fortunate enough to have four sets of grandparents (the happy by product of an unhappy situation -- divorce and remarriage on my husband's side). Three of the four sets live within 35 minutes' drive. So, my husband and I are lucky enough to get at least twice monthly nights out and overnights several times a year, without cost. In addition, my son has spent a day a week with one of his grandpas for the last two years. My son proudly proclaims that "Grandpa is my best friend." And, truly, my father-in-law "gets" my son in a way that no one else does. They have a truly special bond. This is especially important since my son has some challenges which include social skills and relationships.

We don't leave our kids with my parents, though. Even though they are wonderful parents and grandparents, they don't have the physical stamina anymore to keep up with two very active kids.

I am less enthusiastic about leaving my kids with one of my mothers-in-law. She is a wonderful, sweet woman and she loves her grandkids. But she has very selective hearing on certain subjects. We ask caregivers to do very few things to our specifications, but she routinely flouts those simple requests. Nothing is a safety issue, but just little annoying things like, say, letting the kids stay up way too late. My kids are not hard to get to bed, but she seems to keep them up simply because she wants to spend more time with them. It's annoying to go out on a nice dinner on a Saturday, and then spend the following Sunday dealing with kids who are super crabby because they are short on sleep.

So, all in all, we take the good with the bad, I guess!

Day-to-day childcare with the grandparents was not an option--geography for one set of grandparents, and "we have a life and have raised our kids" for the other set.

Just as well with the geographically undesirable set--both were alcoholics. Visits with either gpa or gma were supervised by my ex-husband or I; our daughter was never, ever left alone with either of them. It simply was not safe.

My parents--the ones with a life--helped when I asked, but it was never on the table for them to provide daily care. Thankfully, I had good childcare over the years, and my parents would bend over backwards to fill in when I needed it. I think they were so willing because I only asked when I had to.

My parents would also willingly take my daughter for vacations and breaks. I have a pretty easy-going kid who could always roll reasonably well with changes in the schedule (and sleep anywhere at the drop of a hat, so that helped, too.) When my dad was alive, I know she got a TON of junk food and junk TV that I wouldn't necessarily allow. Now that it's just my mom, my daughter does complain that grandma never has any good snacks, makes small meals, but does have a great cable line-up, so that redeems the lack of munchies.

I had to let go and not intervene with my parents because I always knew my daughter was safe and loved, and I knew she'd get over the wacky sleep/food/TV stuff in short order. With my in-laws, thankfully my ex agreed that it just wasn't a safe situation to have our daughter spend "alone time" with either of them.

My parents watch my 2 children one day a week all day so my husband and I can both work at the same time (otherwise we mostly cover each other). They live about an hour away and have been doing this since my oldest, who is now 5 1/2, was born. My mom (or very occasionally my dad) always makes dinner for us on that day as well, and my brother and his girlfriend often join us for dinner so it's a nice way to have a regular family get-together. I am grateful to my parents for doing this, though admittedly I don't often think to tell them that. Of course their ways of relating to my children are different than mine (more strict, less tolerant at times of, in my opinion, age appropriate behaviors) which at times has been difficult for me but I have mostly held my tongue except for intervening a little at times when I have seen an interaction that made me uncomfortable. But mainly it is just a difference in styles, not anything extreme. I am grateful for the flexibility it allows us to work without needing childcare, and I am also happy that my kids are getting to know their grandparents enough to have a comfortable, every-day type relationship with them. Their other 2 sets of grandparents both live out of state so regular childcare is out of the question, though one set would doubtless provide it if they were closer and could do so.

My mom always says that if we lived closer, she could help us more, but I don't really see how that could be. My whole family is on the East Coast, but they are all so BUSY all the time. They would want to help on their terms, not mine, and it just wouldn't be so helpful. And my mom, bless her heart, she was a great mom, but I think she has forgotten how to deal with kids! Not the hands on, baking cookies and playing house type of grandma. But I love having her come once a year to visit (she is coming a week from today...yay!) and we go there for about 10 days each year. It's never long enough though, and we have to pack in so many activities and see so many relatives. My dad died 2 years ago, and being a mom who used a donor, my daughter has 1 grandparent, and I am so grateful she has that one person in her life that sometimes I do want to move closer...if only there wasn't all that stinky cold snow! :(

My parents are still working full time so regular child care during the day has never been an option, even for last min needs like the sitter being sick. They are attentive grandparents and were/are attentive and involved parents, but there are still things that intimidated them at first, especially with sleeping since my son has exclusively breastfed and co-slept with us. However, once they had some successful times putting him down, they don't seem to mind it as much when we request a later time home. They love spending a few hours together on the weekends, and since we live only 8 blks away from one another, he usually sees them for a couple hours either Sat, Sun, or both days. I love seeing my son's face light up when he sees either of them, or even at the mere mention of their names. It's amazing to me the special bond that is there, with just mostly short but regular visits together. I know also that I am extremely lucky in the regard that my parents hold the same ideals that I do in regards to discipline/boundaries, eating well, getting enough sleep for little ones, and creative activities. Even though my son is only 2, he loves working in my dad's workshop with real tools and helping my mom "sort" fabric from her stash. I look forward to the eventual day they might feel comfortable enough to have him stay overnight with them, perhaps when he is night weaned I guess. I recently asked my mom if she would help me in that dept, since some friends had a recent success in night weaning completely by having their 18 mos old spend 2 nights in a row with the grandparents... My mom immediately said no, she didn't think he would do well (ummm, we live only 8 blks away and my kiddo is pretty independent from his mama in all other regards). Then I asked her how she night weaned my brother, who nursed into his 2's, and she sheepishly admitted that my grandparents watched him over a weekend - HA! So I might have a chance then...

My husband's parents are older and retired, and he does wear them out. Whereas my dad is very hands on with my son, my father in law is very hands off - he looks extremely awkward holding him or sitting next to him even! My husband's mom does better but she tends to doubt herself and not take the lead in the relationship. While my son also adores her (he isn't sure about gp), he also senses there are no boundaries and gets a little wild. A classic case of a kid taking advantage of someone who never says no. While my in laws are kind and generous, they have quite the social structure with their friends and golfing, everyone showing pictures, etc. I honestly think they like the idea of grand kids but not the actual work that goes into maintaining a relationship with one. Intestingly, they are the only grandparents pressuring us with not so subtle hints that we should have another child soon! They live 1.5 hrs away during the summer months and in another state in the winter - we see them about once a month in the summer and one week each winter. Never have they watched him for more than an hour or so.

I thought each set of grandparents would want more alone time with our son and offer to babysit more, but even my parents don't offer, I have to ask for the occasional date night or mid-day weekend appt. I remember spending a ton of time with both sets of my own grandparents, days and weekends, but mostly as a school aged kid. Perhaps as my parents age and eventually retire, we can delve into longer times together with grandkids during school breaks or summertime, at least I hope so!

Having grandparents to help take care of my child would be a dream. I wish!

My in laws are living with us half the week, so my 2 kids have grown really close to both of them. I am not going to comment on the co-living part but I have to admit that it really is nice having someone able and willing to watch the kids at a min notice.

My parents are a different story... its complicated. I try to equally split the babysitting amongst my family, but someone is always feeling short.

I am happy our familys live close by (sometimes too close!) but its worth the time they get with each set of grandparents... The time is priceless.

1 set of grandparents far away - 1 grandmother in the neighborhood. from the beginning, neighborhood grandmother has provided some regular care. at first, it was 2 whole days each week to limit our daughter's time in childcare. now, it's 2 afternoons from the 2:30 school bell until i get home at 5:30.

our styles are very different. the kids do things and eat thing with her that they wouldn't otherwise. but you know, i LOVE that they get to have a relationship independent of anyone else's influence. kinds know that different contexts have different rules. that's a good thing to get comfortable with. their grandmother loves them, and i'm sure they're safe and happy with her. i'm also incredibly thankful for the thousands of dollars we've saved in childcare over the last 5 years. my mom (the faraway grandma) is terribly jealous and sad about not having the everyday relationship, but when she's in town i try to get out of the way. she and my kids have so much fun - she's kind of the vacation grandma. i wouldn't trade either of them.

My mom moved from Boston so she could be more a part of my kids' lives. She spends one afternoon/week with the kids as well as an occasional date night or weekend morning. She's always been respectful of our parenting style and she is always thinking of fun projects to do with the kids. My husband's parents live farther away but manage to spend a day with the kids most months. I'm so grateful that my kids have such loving, involved grandparents.

When I was growing up, my mom's mom spent a lot of time watching up, particularly when we were sick or had a day off school or a mid-day dentist appointment. I enjoyed it at the time because she had different toys, and let us eat more junk food and watch more TV. Funny how it's always about that! Looking back, I really cherish those memories and time we had together, and not just because of the junk food.

For my stepson, his biological grandparents are all in another country, so my parents are the closest he's got. My dad retired last year, and he has been really helpful with picking him up from school a few days a week, watching him on no-school days, and taking him to sports practices. They seem to have a pretty good relationship; it's good for my stepson to have another set of people to rely on and experiences with them that are unique. He loves my mom's cooking (ask him about the rice or the tuna melts), and reminisces quite fondly about the times they have KFC (which we don't have at our place). And of course I am so grateful for my parents' help, because they make it possible for my husband and I to work and study while knowing that he's being taken care of by people who care. Beyond having the day-to-day help with my stepson, it's been wonderful to have my parents as a sounding board to discuss parenting issues and for emotional support when I'm having a tough time. It's amazing how your perspective on your own childhood changes when you have kids! I agree with my parents a lot more now than I did then.

Not feasible geographically, or health- and age-wise. But, when we are in the same state, they do hang out here at our house so I can do dishes/laundry/shopping. Would have loved to have had children earlier in life, when parents were younger/healthier, but, alas, I'll have to settle for at least my older kid remembering his GPs. I grew up w/distant (and unhealthy) gparents n(whom I adored, but who only once took care of me, and it was a disaster), so I'm more wide-eyed about many of your stories, rather than painfully wistful.

I'm very fortunate that my mother-in-law cares for my daughter a few days a week and even an overnight once every few weeks. She is youthful and full of energy and feeds my kid great homemade dishes. Couldn't do it without her!

My son has a gramma day one day a week, just during the school year because in the summer my partner is off. Both the boy and the gramma love the set up, they have their own routines and schedule that often helps me set some structure to the other at home days. It is my mom and she has good boundaries and has always been very easy to communicate with, so it has been a great situation for all involved.

I have posted about this a few times before, but this prompts a different angle: my mom was left bu her husband of 17 years very abruptly, and will absolutely no financial resources for her future. At the same time, I had my first child. As her alimony got smaller and smaller, the money we gave her for caring for our daughter was a) a lifesaver for her, and b) a better situation for us than a nanny or daycare center. We are lucky in that we trust my mom 100% on every angle of child rearing, with the exception of being a little too lenient in moments where firm discipline would help. And, she's fairly young (60) and healthy. Because of her dire financial circumstances, we finished our basement last year so that she could move in with us. By then, her being a daily, intimate part of our lives was very familiar so it was easier than expected in some ways, but harder in others. When my husband or I are feeling challenged by the situation, we are able to sit back remind ourselves that our daughter is so incredibly fortunate, to have such a close bond with her grandmother. Now, my mom has a great relationship with the families in our preschool community too. It's beautiful to watch her be such a grandmotherly/wise presence for more families than our own. And, we're proud and thankful we were able to turn two huge stresses (loss of a lifetime of preparation for older years, and birth of a first child in a two-office-worker home) into a bonus, all said and done.

Meine Eltern würden auch gerne nehmen meine Tochter für Urlaub und Pausen. Ich habe eine ziemlich easy-going Kind, das immer rollen konnte recht gut mit den Veränderungen in der Anlage (und überall schlafen am Tropfen eines Hutes, so dass auch mitgeholfen.) Als mein Vater noch lebte, ich weiß, sie bekam eine TON von Junk-Food und Junk-TV, ich würde nicht unbedingt erlauben. Nun, da es nur meine Mutter, meine Tochter nicht beklagen, dass Oma hat nie gute Snacks, kleine Mahlzeiten macht, aber eine große Kabel-Line-up haben, damit erlöst den Mangel an Knabbereien.

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