In-Law Appreciation Day
I have a five month old and have devoured your previous advice columns (happily cloth diapering with GMD prefolds and flip covers, thanks!). I read the columns about crazy in-laws with amusement and sympathy, but find myself with somewhat of the opposite problem. Maybe answering a question about a great in-law relationship will be something different to think about?
My mother-in-law takes care of my son once a week, driving an hour each way to our house. The arrangement lets my husband be a stay at home dad four days a week while still working part time as I work full time at a job I love. It’s a perfect setup for my husband and me both personally and professionally, and I have no idea how we would be able to replicate it without her. I worried that we would have problems with parenting preferences but she has been incredibly respectful of our wishes and (not surprisingly) fantastic with our son.
So what can I do to thank her for being so great and make her time taking care of my son easier? Her birthday is coming up and I’m trying to figure out what we can do to show our appreciation and also anything we could do to make taking care of the baby more fun. When he gets older we look forward to getting tickets for them to museums or the zoo or other fun trips, but he’s 5 months old. We’ve offered to buy any food/snacks she wants and the only thing she’s asked for in the house is diet soda. Somehow supplying two cans of diet soda per week doesn’t seem adequate… So do you or the other readers have any tips for what would make a care-givers day?
Wow. What a breath of fresh air through the in-law zone of the question queue! Look, everybody! It CAN happen! It CAN work! It DOES exist! Let’s all ooh and ahh over the mythical unicorn-in-law.
I bet your mother-in-law already thinks her current schedule and time with the baby is pretty fun. Outings will be nice down the road, but right now, a whole solid day of sweet, squishy baby time is probably her jam. Goodness, I just officially said goodbye to the baby stage of parenting like, five minutes ago and I’m already itching to get my hands on somebody else’s baby for a fix. (A temporary fix. That I can hand back after a couple hours. And then go home and sleeeeeeeeep.)
That’s not to say a nice show of appreciation isn’t in order, or anything. She’s obviously more than happy to help out and spend time with her delicious grandson, but you certainly don’t want her feel like you’re taking the arrangement for granted. Which again, I bet she doesn’t. Your letter is clearly aware of how lucky you are and dripping with a need to let her know how much it all means to you. I bet real life reads like that too, in more subtle ways. Like nice cold Diet Cokes.
Here are my top grandparent/caregiver appreciation ideas, and then I’m pitching this one right into the comments for further brainstorming.
1) Photo books. A customized “Grandma and Me” photo book would be a very sweet memento of their time together, particularly if she takes photos of your son during her day with him that you could include. Get those photos off the phones and memory cards and into a book, complete with text or a dedication where you and your husband can express how thankful you are. (Plus a photo book can be displayed if she wants, or tucked away on a shelf if she’s not one for “clutter,” unlike a framed photo or wall collage that she might not really have space for.) (Editor’s note: we have reviewed some custom photo book options here, here and here.)
2) Personalized jewelry. Spend some time on Etsy and you’ll be amazed by all the cool and creative jewelry ideas you can find for grandparents. Lockets, photo pendants, charm bracelets, initials, birthstones, — even lines from her favorite baby book or lullaby — you name it, you can find something that fits her style and will perfectly commemorate her special relationship with your son. (Just be warned that a lot of jewelry on Etsy now uses an overly loose interpretation of “handmade,” so research the shop a bit to make sure you’re not just buying something mass-produced overseas with a ridiculous markup. Personalized or custom-made products tend to avoid this problem, though.) (Editor’s note: Our friends at Cool Mom Picks have written about some of the most unique jewelry for moms. We recommend looking through their archives.)
3) A letter. Oh, write it down! Tell her! Even if all you get her for her birthday is a nice sweater or Amazon gift card, whip out some nice stationery and crib from your letter above. Thank you for driving an hour each way. Thank you for providing the perfect setup for my husband and I both personally and professionally. I have no idea how we would be able to replicate it without you. Thank you for being respectful of our parenting wishes and thank you for being so (not surprisingly) fantastic with our son.
Another suggestion for general relationship strengthening, from my personal experience, is to remember that just because she’s a grandparent doesn’t mean she’s stopped being a mother. A mother who also wants to spend quality time with her child. Make sure your husband stays mindful of this and doesn’t let his relationship with her devolve into a employer/hired caregiver arrangement where he simply relieves her of duty at the end of the day, or doesn’t really have any interaction with her beyond her babysitting duties. Maybe he could drive out her way and take her out for a special birthday dinner, just the two of them, or some other mother/son outing he thinks she’d enjoy. I think that would be a lovely way to both thank her for being an amazing grandmother, and also for being a great mom.