Daycare with Grandma
I’m on my second week of providing part-time care for my grandson; here’s what I’ve learned so far.
When my daughter was pregnant, I offered to provide child care for the first year of her child’s life. I offered for several reasons: quality child care is expensive and hard to find, the opportunity to form a close bond with my grandchild was alluring, and I wanted to provide peace of mind, knowing her baby would be supremely loved and well cared for, as a gift to my daughter. This wasn’t impulsive; it came after a few months of careful consideration and introspective questioning. There is a reason younger people have babies--did I have the physical energy to take care of an infant? Would my problematic back be able to handle the stress of holding a baby? Maybe more crucial was the emotional aspect. Since I retired I have developed more than a bit of commitment phobia. I enjoy waking up to no alarm, going to the gym, meeting friends for coffee and the occasional guilty pleasure of an afternoon nap. Honestly, I’ve become selfish. Could I give up the “all about me” lifestyle I’d come to love and go back to the demands of a schedule?
Despite these concerns, I thought the benefits would outweigh the negatives, so I offered to provide childcare for the first year. An offer my daughter and son-in-law happily accepted. My daughter’s maternity leave was over two weeks ago, so I’m on my second week of providing part-time care for my grandson, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.
- Communicate – As in almost every area of life, clear communication is vitally important. Because my son-in-law and I are sharing the child care and he has an unpredictable schedule, it’s essential we map out plans each week. We also communicate concerning what the baby has done in our care, naps, feeding, diaper changes.
- Expectations- This is big! Make sure you iron out the details; how many hours per week are you willing to care for your grandchild, will it be at your house or theirs, will you be paid or are you doing this as a gift. Are you expected to do any other household chores while watching your grandbaby? Unmet expectations on either part can lead to disappointment and resentment.
- Respect- This goes both ways. As a grandparent, you need to respect the parents' rules and preferences, but the parents should attempt to make things easier for you and express appreciation for your efforts. A perfect example of this is my daughter’s preference for cloth diapers. She doesn’t insist I use cloth diapers when he’s at my home, but I’m giving it a fair try and will probably alternate between cloth and disposable.
- Backup plan- One of my concerns about committing to providing child care was the inevitable illness or unscheduled conflict that might prevent me from being able to take care of the baby. We’re lucky that a couple of the other grandparents also live close and have offered to be called in as substitute caregivers if necessary. It’s important to have a contingency plan.
- Sensitivity- Although my daughter loves her work, I know it’s sometimes hard to be away from her son all day. I try to send her pictures several times a day and short updates on his day. I wondered if she would want me to tell her if he had a “first” when he’s with me. What if he rolls over for the first time, takes a step, says his first word? Should I pretend it didn’t happen or let her know? Ask their preference and then be sensitive to their choices.
- Unsolicited advice- In almost every grandparenting blog I write, I repeat this. Despite your years of experience, do not offer advice unless asked. The only exception would be if you feel your grandchild is in danger and then of course, you must intervene.
- Education- We raised our kids and we think we did a pretty good job but let’s face it, we’ve slept a bit since then. Besides our memories not being top notch, some things have changed and it’s good to be up to date on current child care practices, CPR and first aid. It’s also helpful to be aware of normal development and what to expect at different stages.
- Emergencies- Have an emergency plan in place. The following information should be placed in a conspicuous place: the address where you are, the pediatrician’s phone number, the parent’s phone numbers, poison control phone number (1-800-222-1222) and a waiver (click here for form) that enables you to seek emergency medical services.
We’re only two weeks into this arrangement and I am fully aware there will be bumps along the way, but I have confidence my daughter, son-in-law and I can effectively and honestly communicate and solve any issues that arise. So far, spending the one-on-one hours with my grandson has been wonderful. In the beginning, I thought I was doing a favor to my precious daughter, but as it evolves I realize it wasn’t such an altruistic move after all. I’m beginning to suspect it’s a selfish act, one in which I will be the main recipient of all the goodies.