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Grandpa Poppins or Daycare?

Grandpa Poppins or Daycare?

By Amalah

Hi Amy:

I found myself reading through your blog archives on my maternity leave (I feel like I know your kids! They are so great!) and am an avid Smackdown follower. I am now in a situation where I need independent third-party advice and hope you and your readers will be able to help.

I have a very happy and outgoing 8-month-old (my first), who has been in a traditional daycare since she was 14 weeks old. She’s currently in the infant room with 7 other babies (4-to-1 ratio is required where I live). It’s been … interesting. I have never been concerned about her safety, and it’s worked out well with breastfeeding (it’s 5 minutes down the road from my office, so I am able to nurse over lunch and keep her stocked with freshly pumped milk). But there have been a few issues. First, there is a ton of turnover. So much so that I’m not sure who will be there from one day to the next (though the original care provider is still there and my daughter loves her). Second, my daughter is not a great napper – she generally needs ideal circumstances to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time, and this daycare just hasn’t been able to make that happen for her. She often comes home having only gotten two 20-minute naps and has to be put immediately to bed once home. I can handle the early bedtime, but it breaks my heart knowing she is so tired all day, even if she’s generally happy. Third, now that my daughter is mobile, she gets much less attention from the providers than she used to – perhaps it is just that she is more interested in crawling and cruising than snuggling, but I have gone to nurse her at lunch to find her not having had a diaper changed since I dropped her off 4 hours prior. This has happened on at least 2 occasions. Fourth and finally, the COLDS oh the colds and the SICKNESS, which I know is par for the course, but still. Perhaps this is me being overly anxious as a first-time mom, but now that a new tuition hike is about to take place, we are starting to re-evaluate our options.

It has always been our plan to do the local Montessori program when our daughter is old enough – but we’ve still got 6 months to go before she’ll be eligible, and there’s a sizable waitlist. Recently, my MIL has been (not so subtly) hinting that my FIL was “devastated” when we didn’t ask him to nanny for our daughter from the start (even though neither of my husband’s parents have even offered to change a diaper, let alone watch the baby). They live a few states away, so he would have to move in with us for this to be an option. He is on the older side, and I’m just not sure it’s feasible. He is still in good health and very sharp, just slowing down a bit, but for some reason I don’t feel 100% comfortable. On top of that, my MIL is difficult to deal with, and I fear that having my FIL at our house full time will increase that tension and lead to future issues, especially should we decide the situation is not a good fit after giving it a try. On the other hand, my daughter really does love her grandpa – he comes to visit often and they have a great time together. And we have the space for him to stay with us without it being a truly cramped household. So I’m torn – should we at least give it a shot, sacrifice what little alone time we have as a family of 3, forego the stability of the daycare routine, risk family drama and some discomfort, knowing grandpa would certainly provide at least as much love and attention as a daycare could, and likely much more?

Do you or your readers have any insight into how we could possibly make this situation work? I think our daughter would be fine with the transition, but she really has thrived in the daycare setting. She’s starting to sign, fully crawling, pulling up, warming up to solids, and using a sippy cup right on schedule. This is not entirely a money issue, but we would like to try to save a bit more before trying for baby #2, so that would definitely be a positive to having Grandpa Nanny, even if it’s only for 6 months or so. But then won’t we be expected to enter into the same arrangement for the next baby? Am I overthinking this? Gah!

Thank you in advance!
(Almost) Done with Daycare

P.S. I just remembered a blog entry about your father-in-law using Clorox wipes on your son like they were baby wipes. That’s the type of worry I currently have.

Ooooooooohh this is a tricky one.

I have to admit I’m biased on this issue — for many many reasons, using grandparents as primary caregivers was a HARD NO for us personally, and throughout my many many years (smacks gums) of writing this column I’ve received enough letters that reflect how not ideal of a situation this can be. While it SOUNDS so good in theory (who else could possibly care for and love your child better than family?!), it really does come with a lot of unique challenges.

You’ve got your “I raised you so I know best” types who refuse to follow any instructions they don’t agree with. Then there’s the ones who WILL follow your instructions, but grumble and complain or backhandedly undermine your confidence in your decisions. Or the ones who won’t admit that maybe they aren’t really up for the responsibility, mentally or physically. And then there’s just the proximity and boundaries issues that everybody deals with when it comes to in-laws living with you, or at least being in your house 8+ hours a day. (The boundaries! Won’t somebody think of the boundaries!)

Of course it CAN and DOES work for many households, and works out in practice just as good as it sounds in theory. I would love for any readers to share their positive experiences, and perhaps some insight on the hows and whys, and whether it was similar or different to the arrangement you’re considering.

But no, I don’t think you’re overthinking this. You’re wise to recognize that this “free” childcare offer is anything but truly free. Here’s my (again, probably overly biased) take on the costs:

  1. I don’t like the way the “offer” was made. It was coated in a fine layer of guilt and no-so-subtle hints, that you “devastated” your FIL by not asking him in the first place. (Which: He didn’t ever explicitly offer? He lives several states away? And would need to move into your house? Why would that seem like the natural first choice?) That’s a red flag.
  2. He hasn’t actually babysat your daughter at all, or been hands-on with her care outside the role of doting grandpa. Which is fine! If that’s the role he wants, that’s the role he should remain in. The grandpa-as-full-time-nanny is a completely different role, and one he hasn’t really proven himself capable of. I would at least do a small trial run first (take a long day trip or stay overnight somewhere?) before seriously considering this.
  3. Think about some of the issues you have with your daycare and your current comfort level with raising those issues with them. Have you pointed out the lack of a diaper change or asked if they plan to address the turnover problem? Or have you just kept your concerns to yourself so not to “rock the boat” or “seem difficult?” Now try to imagine expressing concerns/displeasure to your FIL, who might also forget to change her/feed her on schedule, or mistakenly feed her a choking hazard, or turn the TV for hours at a time because he needs a break, or buckle her carseat incorrectly, or yes, mistake the Clorox wipes for diaper wipes. (All things that have happened to us, by the way. Not saying your FIL will 100% do any of those particular things, but it’s safe to assume that there will be SOME kind of hiccup or miscommunication along the way.)
  4. Living. With. You. In. Your. House. All the time. There at breakfast, there at dinner. How much do you trust him to give you and your spouse space, or do you see him expecting you both to keep him entertained and occupied? Will he intrude on your time with your daughter outside of “working hours”? Will he be helpful around the house in ways a traditional nanny might (loading/unloading dishwasher, cleaning up toys, helping with your daughter’s laundry, etc.) or will he see all that stuff as not his job?
  5. And lastly, HELL YES, you’d be setting a precedent/expectation for baby #2. If you DIDN’T bring him back as caregiver, that could (and probably will) be seen as even more of an explicit rejection of him.

But again, this arrangement CAN work, so on the flip side, I don’t think you’re crazy for considering it! But it’s smart not to just jump into it for fuzzy “family automatically means better childcare” idea that simply isn’t always true. Think long and hard and muddle through all the hypotheticals and what-ifs. Maybe arrange a one-week trial run (tell them the daycare is closing to be repainted, or something) and see how you (and your nerves) feel by the end of it. Recognize that yeah, a six-month interim could potentially lead to a two-year stint with baby #2, and that could either be 1) amazing and awesome and unbelievably convenient, or 2) not what you want and the source of a major sore spot/awkwardness with your in-laws going forward.

Personally, I’d hire a temporary live-out nanny for six months instead. But readers, what would you do?

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Bonnie
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Bonnie

Can we expand a little on the “how the ‘offer’ was made” issue? Because it’s huge. Has FIL ever actually said a single thing to you about this? If it’s even clear that this is a thing that he himself actually wants, and isn’t something cooked up entirely by MIL, think about how that would play out once he was in your house – it doesn’t sound like he’s comfortable communicating and expects others to do his communicating for him or to guess what he wants. Imagine this extrapolated out to every dinner, every family outing, every time he needs… Read more »

JD
Guest
JD

OP here – apparently FIL approached my husband early on to offer his services, but dropped it once hubby said we were happy with the daycare arrangement. The last time we were together (MIL, FIL, and me), I asked him if MIL was speaking for him when she said he wanted to nanny full time and he said “I was hoping you would ask me.” It is definitely an ongoing communication issue, but I don’t feel like it would completely foreclose the arrangement if we placed an emphasis on open communication. I think a trial run might help us evaluate… Read more »

S. Bean
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S. Bean

I just want to say that all of those daycare problems were the same things we experienced (except I never checked during the day, so I have no idea if her diaper was/wasn’t changed!). We always had one or two consistent caregivers and then lots of floaters. My daughter is 2 now, and suffers no ill effects from short naps or the floating staff, and I think her immune system is super strong! My dad offered full-time caregiving for us for the first few months of her life, but since I knew she’d be in daycare when my parents went… Read more »

AliceWonderland0
Guest

We had my MIL as our full time caregiver for the first 2 months that I went back to work, and I have a very good relationship with her and she is incredibly thoughtful and helpful and listened to what I wanted done with the baby, and we have a nice big house….. and by the end of the 2 months I was DYING to have our house and little family of three back. Basically, I don’t think I possibly could have had a better set up or a better experience with a family member providing care for our baby,… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Definitely speak up with the daycare – they provide a service to you for a fee so it’s totally normal and within reason to bring up concerns to them. I’d frame it more as “oh hey I noticed this” and avoid inflammatory language but they should be open to hearing your concerns and making corrections/changes. If she is otherwise happy and thriving at daycare (some kids just don’t nap well outside of home) and you are already planning on moving her to a (different) preschool in 6 months, I’d say get on the preschool wait list now and keep her… Read more »

SB
Guest
SB

I actually had my parents move in with us for ten weeks prior to my son starting daycare (so from about 3.5 months til he was 6 months old) due to a wait list issue, and they cared for my son full time. At the time, it was fine – they were actually “between houses” (they had sold the “family home” but weren’t sure where they wanted to move) so it was convenient for them to live with us and not have to pay rent or a hotel room for 2.5 months. They are also my parents, and so I… Read more »

Kate Myers
Guest
Kate Myers

The daycare doesn’t sound unsalvageable. Turnover happens, and I’d ask specifically for the diaper changing schedule. My kid’s daycare had a strict every 2 hours for every kid. If you’ve gone 4 hours, ask for that and asked for it logged. Additionally, my kid was never a good napper at that age but ask for other ways for her to get in another 3d small.nap if 2 short ones isn’t enough. Also ask how their care has changed with the crawling. On the grandfather, if you want to consider it, what does your husband think? And you both would need… Read more »

Autumm
Guest
Autumm

I would start with emailing the day care center director about your concerns related to diaper changes. That’s something they could get flagged on if a state inspection were to happen. Be polite but firm that your daughter has missed several changes and how can this be resolved. Ask about staff training related to turnover in your email. It’s a writen record and those tend to get resolved faster than verbal communication. Just before responding to your post, I emailed our center director about why my kiddo wasn’t changed on schedule (cloth diapers are a giveaway if you don’t to… Read more »

MR
Guest
MR

I agree, the fact that your FIL 1) Never actually said he wants to be the nanny, and 2) Lives a couple states away and thus would have to MOVE IN with you, automatically waves HUGE red flags to me. Of COURSE it wouldn’t be a natural conclusion to assume that someone who lived states away was the solution for daycare. That’s a pretty big deal. And that alone would be enough for me. I mean, I love my parents, and get along with them very well. And we have used them for short term daycare needs at times, like… Read more »

Jeffiner Cox
Guest
Jeffiner Cox

My daycare logs all diaper changes, and some days I noticed my daughter only had 3 changes in a 10 hour period. They have a policy of changing every 2 hours, but some days she was napping when her changing time came up, so they skipped it. When I pointed it out, they were more vigilant about making sure she was changed more often, regardless of the 2-hour change schedule. My daycare has a ton of turnover, too, and it really upsets my husband. We’ve visited other daycares, but they all have similar turnover rates. My daughter has never been… Read more »

Jeannie Shirley
Guest
Jeannie Shirley

Just like to add, since my two kids, now 11 and 7, were daycare kids: 1 High turnover is to be expected. We were lucky and had our kids in employer-subsidized daycare which meant the daycare staff were all licensed and were paid (somewhat) well with benefits and a pension, so it wasn’t too bad for us. But the kids coped with whatever turnover ok. 2 sickness was always a Thing but: they hit school, and kids who *hadn’t* been in daycare were sick *all the time* and mine blew off most colds and illnesses. I say let them get… Read more »

Annie
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Annie

My in-laws lived with us for approximately a year when they were between good jobs, and we had enough space for a basement apartment situation. We had an infant and a three year old. I was not working that year, but home with our kids. My in-laws are absolutely lovely, and having them live with us went very well. They are rather scatterbrained, and having them watch our children was something we had to think about very carefully. My parents, on the other hand, are fantastic at childcare and tons of fun, but I would never want to live with… Read more »

fearcutsdeeper
Guest
fearcutsdeeper

My FIL watched my daughter part time from when she was 5 months old until she was one. (we had a babysitter for the other time) It actually went pretty well. There were a few iffy moments of child care decisions that I didn’t like but nothing life threatening or really dangerous. However he explicitly offered his help, he was very receptive to any constructive feedback or guidelines that we gave him and he is fantastic with children (especially his only granddaughter) and I think missed his mark at being a preschool or child care teacher.

K
Guest
K

Yeah – I second (third, fifth?) the question around whether your FIL even wants to move into your home and take care of your child (even with how lovely she sounds!). That’s a lot to ask, and unless there is really no other option at all, just seems like maybe not the most logical approach to childcare. I totally agree with the idea of talking with your providers about diaper changes and new approaches to care with crawlers, but I’m guessing that she’s doing great at daycare and even amazing daycare providers sometimes miss a change. One other thing that… Read more »

Call Me Jo
Guest
Call Me Jo

Okay, I realize this post is 2 months old and a decision probably has been made, but there seem to be a couple factors that aren’t being considered. Primary, will you really be saving money? I expect that your FIL will eat at your house. His presence will mean an increase in your utilities. What about car/insurance/gas? Adding another adult to your household is expensive. If he’s providing free childcare, I doubt he will be contributing to the household in any other monetary way. You may even feel the need to “pay” him with dinners out, gifts, etc. and to… Read more »

Hilary Browning
Guest
Hilary Browning

I wanted to comment that I have a working child-care situation with my in-laws. My daughter is 2, and she has been cared for by my inlaws since she was six months. There was a gap between when my maternity leave ended and when my in-laws retired, and it was filled by daycare center at the Air Force Base where we live. I think this has worked for us because of the following factors: 1) My in-laws expressed a fervent desire to watch our daughter. My father in law is a retired elementary school teacher, and my mother in law… Read more »