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Mother-in-law as nanny

Mother-in-Law as the Nanny: The Real Costs of “Free” Childcare

By Amalah

Hi Amalah!

I always knew when we started having kids I’d want to be a SAHM, at least until they were in school. Well, I’m due with my first in a couple of weeks and unfortunately we can’t afford for me to stay home with her after maternity leave ends. At least I get to take 12 weeks, but after that I had no idea what I was going to do with her.

I was starting to look into daycare when recently my MIL approached me and asked if I’d found anyone to watch the baby yet. I said no, and that it was stressing me out. She then tearfully proceeded to ask if I “would allow her grandmother to watch her.” I’m not sure why exactly she was emotional about it- was it because I hadn’t approached her to ask myself? Was is it because she considers it a huge honor? I had no idea, but what could I say? I told her yes. After she left I promptly burst into tears.

I know it sounds crazy- my MIL is one of the sweetest, most generous people I know. It will be a tremendous financial burden off of us, and I know the baby will be in the most loving hands. It’s a huge sacrifice for her to take my infant full time and she will spoil the baby to death. But here’s the thing, as much as I love my MIL, she drives me absolutely bat-shit crazy sometimes. She’s helpful to the point of being intrusive and VERY opinionated. She has something to say about EVERYTHING. She does not understand the concept of comfortable silence- she must ALWAYS be talking.

As well-intentioned as she is, my MIL can rub my nerves completely raw. And she will be raising my child 40 hours a week. Given my MIL’s strong-willed, very opinionated personality, I’m worried about being steam-rolled as a parent, that she’ll become too possessive (you should see how she is with our dog), plus I don’t want her aggravating tendencies to rub off on my baby as she gets older.

I’m generally a very logical person. Maybe I’m being too paranoid- or just jealous that someone else gets to bond all day with my baby when I can’t, which is literally heart-wrenching for me. I know I should be grateful and maybe I’m not giving my MIL enough credit. Still, how do I lay boundaries to prevent my fears from coming true?


Always with the MIL issues

I don’t think you’re being too paranoid — this is one of those situations with a very large pro/con list, and you were basically put on the spot and guilted into agreeing before you had any time to weigh those pros and cons. Not cool. Even if you had ultimately agreed to go the MIL-as-nanny route, it would have been much, MUCH better if you had initially responded with a “Let me think about that offer and discuss it with Husband first.” And then “hired” her in a more formal way, with fewer tears and more “okay, but here are the ground rules” talks right from the start. 20/20 hindsight — totally the worst.

Having a family member as a primary caretaker is wonderful for many reasons. It’s an enormous financial load off your shoulders. You can rest easy knowing your baby is with someone who truly loves them and who is going to (hopefully) remain a stable, long-term fixture in her life. You don’t have to worry about any of the issues that come with traditional daycare, like unscheduled closings, inflexible hours, germs (and using YOUR sick days to stay home with a sick kid, only to get sick yourself with no leave left), rowdy older kids, and just that general nagging worry that your baby isn’t getting as much one-on-one attention as you’d like.

But oh, those cons. Those boundaries! Those mild in-law annoyances ratcheted up to 11! While ANY childcare arrangement requires a good deal of compromise and acceptance that no nanny or daycare in the world is going to always do things exactly the way you would, it can feel so, so PERSONAL when it’s your mom or MIL. And without good communication, it’s easy to let every little thing fester. You think she’s undermining you at every turn. She thinks you’re taking advantage of her by working late too many nights in a row. Why can’t she stick to the nap schedule? Why don’t you understand that sometimes your baby just doesn’t give a crap about your precious nap schedule? Why did you ever agree to this and how can you get out of it? Why did she ever agree to this and how can she get out of it? GAAAHHHHHHHH.

Our family all lived too far away to ever be a regular childcare option — though my MIL has said repeatedly that if we moved closer she’d nanny for us in a white hot second, and we do rely on them for any sort of overnight/travel-related care. So based on my not-entirely-equal experience, I’ll give this advice: As a first-time mom, I was simply wound way, way too tight to deal with an opinionated  family member as nanny, so know yourself. Your jealousy is natural and normal — and while it might feel illogical to be MORE jealous of a family member than a hired caretaker, I don’t actually think it is. Your MIL won’t be getting your money, but she will get that day-to-day emotional experience of bonding with your baby that you’re worried you’re missing out on. You need to come to terms with the fact that you have to work, maybe grieve a little for your lost SAHM dream, and then focus solidly on what childcare arrangement is best for your daughter. Some emotional homework for you, there.

As a second- and third-time mom, on the other hand, I would have been TOTALLY DOWN for my MIL nannying when they were newborns and babies (provided I worked outside the home, that is, rather than from home). I know we would have clashed on a few things (sleep training, sticking to meal schedules, BABIES DON’T NEED WATER OH MY GOD FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME) but I think I would have been chill enough to pick the right battles and let the rest go out of gratitude for the free care.

BUT the arrangement would have had to come to an end once they got older. In hindsight, fretting over her preference to rock my babies solidly to sleep instead of putting them in the crib drowsy-but-awake really isn’t as big of a deal as the disagreements we have now. I don’t really want to broadcast the specific details, but I think we have very similar MILs with similar personalities and yes. The stakes go up, as do the opportunities for undermining, once your kid is verbal and old enough to get confused by Things Grandma Told Me That Mom & Dad Don’t Agree With. The value of free overnight childcare has diminished over the past couple years, because I feel like we end up paying for it in other ways.

So. If I were you, I would probably accept that at this point, going back on your arrangement would be pretty damn nuclear, emotionally speaking, and if you’re due in just a few weeks it’s probably too late to find anything else anyway. So for now, I’d focus on the pros for your daughter and less on the cons that have to do with her just getting on your nerves. (She’ll be spending 40+ hours a week with your baby, but realistically, YOU’LL only be dealing with her a few minutes each day, so…win?) I mean, yeah, she’ll get on your nerves, but so would maybe getting consistently stuck in traffic on your way to the expensive daycare that charges you a fee for every minute you arrive after pick-up. Her constant talking will be good for your baby, and her confidence in her opinions will mean she probably WON’T be calling you constantly at work with endless questions.

I would also sit down with her NOW to discuss the arrangement in more detail, being blunt and honest that while you are hugely grateful for her sacrifice, you are aware this can be a dicey situation that really depends on good solid two-way communication and trust. If she ever feels like she made too much of a committment, she needs to tell you. If there are childcare directives you give her that are different from the way she did, you need to trust her to understand that this stuff changes with time and follow said directives without arguing. Pick your personal hills to die on (basically anything safety or health related), and agree to let the more petty, minor details slide. Clearly define expectations about responsibilities and schedules — will she be willing to do the baby’s laundry and clean up the kitchen, does she have any social commitments in the evenings that you need to respect and be home on time for, what’s the back-up plan for her taking days off (because for real — she’s going to need days off: vacation time, sick days, appointments, etc.), how much heads up will you need for said days off, and so on.

Your husband should be involved here, too. And you two will need to have a separate discussion about who will talk to her about any concerns or disagreements that crop up.

You might also still consider a compromise down the road — maybe just one or two days of traditional daycare at some point. (Give your MIL a heads up on the plan sooner rather than later, so she doesn’t think it’s because she’s doing something wrong. Be up front that the arrangement will have an expiration date.) You can position it like your daughter will benefit from the social interaction and structure, and because you understand what a huge time commitment she made and would like to give her a little bit of her life and free time back. If the MIL as nanny situation does turn out to be as irritating/undermining-y as you fear, and your finances allow it, you can slowly up her enrollment.

Or if everything is great with your daughter but you just find you just dread seeing your MIL’s face every morning, try to work out a shift plan with your husband — you go to work first, he stays until MIL shows up, then you relieve her in the afternoons (or vice versa).

Keep your options open, but also your mind. There’s free childcare and then there’s “free” childcare. Your MIL has offered a wonderful, generous gift…but for everybody’s sake it’s totally okay to be cautious about it and not just “wheeeeee! free babysitting! I can now never question her or have any opinion of my own because GRATITUDE!!1!” Maybe everything will be awesome. You can’t deny it’s nice to put the daycare hunt on hold and keep more of your paycheck, and having her as a nanny will be 100% more logistically convenient than using a daycare center, and a 1,000% cheaper than hiring a FT nanny on your own. The things that annoy you might have absolutely no negative bearing on your daughter, at least not at first. But if you can’t keep the lines of communication open without your nerves snapping, it’ll probably be best for everyone to explore alternate arrangements.

Published April 4, 2014. Last updated March 12, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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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  • MR

    April 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I totally agree with everything Amy said. My parents were the daycare for my niece until she started highschool. There were NO issues between my sister and our parents when my niece was a baby. But, once she started school… Sigh. And that was mother to daughter, not mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. So, I’d definitely say, having mil watch baby is fine, but maybe consider moving her to a pre-school/daycare type place when she is one or two. Because before then, it really is a lot of just holding and snuggling, and you can never have too many people love your child.
    Also, know that the first few weeks back at work will be rough, but it does get better. You get into a routine. And, no matter how much time your baby spends with your mother-in-law (or any other provider) while you at work, she will never once be confused about who her mom is. We had a nanny that was with us for almost 5 years (she didn’t live with us, but watched our kids at our home), and she was truly second mom to my girls. Sometimes my toddlers would call me by her name and her “Mom”, but that’s wiring in their head not quite connecting with the word they were going for. And, it was reassurance to me that they looked at her as motherly and loving too. But it was always very obvious that no matter how much they loved her, and she loved them, that they always knew I was mommy, and always preferred mom. So, no matter the bond your child forms with your mother-in-law, YOU will always be mom, and nothing can change that or take away from that.

  • Karen

    April 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    I start my kiddos in daycare around 6 months and it’s pretty gut-wrenching to see 12 weekers there. They are just so small and daycare is just so chaotic. Unless it was a truly unsafe situation, I would be so relieved to have a family member watch my 12 week old and then proceed to other options as the baby got older. Def have a more formal conversation about expectations, etc. asap and use that conversation to open up the possibility that you may want a couple days a week at an outside the home daycare or at least adjust the schedule at some point. And no, your MIL is not raising your child 40 hours a week, she is caring for her while you are at work. Your daughter will know the difference. Don’t be confused on that one.

  • Lilly

    April 4, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    “As a first-time mom, I was simply wound way, way too tight to deal with an opinionated family member as nanny, so know yourself.” Yes! This! And hate to admit that I still am, where my MIL and my mom are concerned. But for the OP, you can also save the money you would be spending in daycare (a small fortune, at least in my area) to put towards your SAHM dream. You could still make it happen for next year?

  • Holly

    April 4, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I agree with Amy said, and have a few bits of personal observation/advice I would like to share. 

    I had originally planned to put my daughter in part-time daycare (I work part-time) when she was three months old. Much to my surprise, once she arrived I found myself reconsidering my MIL’s offer to take care of her (she had offered months earlier). After long discussions with my husband, we decided to take MIL up on her offer. 

    MIL and I are not the best of friends. We are both strong personalities and have butt heads many times. She is very well-meaning but very opinionated. My husband had a very long and honest talk with her about our need to create boundaries and rules for this to be a good situation for everyone involved. To that end, we wrote a “baby’s user manual” with nitty-gritty details (feedings, naps, soothing, etc). We also wrote a “childcare agreement” that the three of us assigned. Basically, it laid out our expectations (we don’t expect you to do any housework except through the empty bottle in the sink) as well as our personal boundaries (no comments on housecleaning, food choices, medical choices), and schedule regular check-ins for us to discuss any changes, developments, observations, etc about our daughter.

    There have certainly been some bumps in the road, but in general it has been a good situation. I highly recommend making your husband the point-person for dealing with your MIL, especially when it comes to rules and boundaries. In our case, my husband and I have had to learn to let go of some control on little things and my MIL has had to learn to accept our parenting choices even if she doesn’t always understand or agree with them. Thankfully, we have never had a disagreements regarding health and safety, and my daughter and MIL adore each other.

    Sorry this has been a long post, but I hope I was able to help by sharing my experience. Good luck, mama!

  • Kacie

    April 4, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Agree with pp, hopefully you can make it work so you can be a sahm soon. Perhaps talk to a tax person to see what your husband’s take home pay would be, factoring out the two income household.

  • Stephanie

    April 4, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I think Amy’s advice is solid. I’m wondering, maybe, if you might want to enroll your baby in daycare two or three days a week. It might be easier knowing that your MIL isn’t doing this all full time. My friend’s MIL watched her son until he was 1 1/2? 2? I cant’ remember. After that time, she put him in a home daycare for two or three days. She also paid her MIL as well – probably no where near the real cost of daycare, but she felt better knowing that it was a job for her and it gave her more control over speaking up. 

    Also, you should consider writing out a little contract, or at least a set of things you absolutely want done or not want done. It might help to have those things written out from the get-go. Good luck! Enjoy your maternity leave.

  • mary

    April 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    One more pro in the mother-in-law watching the baby camp benefit is that you may see less of her than if she was not watching the baby.  This way she is building a relationship with the baby without taking up the shrinking amount of free time you will have as a working mother.  

    • Karen

      April 4, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      That is an excellent point! And so true! My mom is constantly inquiring about seeing the kids on the weekends but that is our “family” time. It causes a lot of friction.

  • AmyRenee

    April 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I agree with the advice given, but one more piece of advice I give everyone I know going back to work after maternity leave – even if you think your childcare arrangements are great, it can never hurt to have toured a few daycare centers and put yourself on the waiting lists for them (because in our area, they all have waiting lists for infants). That way you have already done your homework so if Plan A doesn’t work, you are partway to Plan B. And also that way when the daycare calls and says “we have a spot available” you can evaluate whether your current situation is really what’s best for your family or whether you are just sticking with it because its too much work to change now.

    For a reference point: we had each grandma take one day a week or every other week when our kids were little, and that worked out well for us – it was frequent enough that Grandmas felt part of the kids lives, but infrequent enough that a little bit of spoiling/doing things different than the rules at home were still in the “special occasion” category, not the “grrrr why can’t she just enforce the rules we set in place regarding snacks/nap/toys/bedtime” daily argument.

  • Brooke

    April 4, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I sort of had this. My MIL watched my first born for 4 months after my maternity leave ended so I could wait till she was 6 months to put her in daycare. That felt better to me, and MIL was all, “sign me up! I can do it! Free!” just like yours. I really worked during my maternity leave to establish clear preferences and a schedule that worked for me and baby (you aren’t gonna know just how strong those preferences are until baby comes… things like pacifiers, sleep routine, etc). Then communicate those preferences and routine clearly and often. I had my MIL come over and spend a day with me before my maternity leave ended so she could see my routine. It helped because if she disagreed with something, she could talk to me about it in advance and I could explain my rationale. As Amy said, you are going to have to get used to establishing firm boundaries for some things. And if she can’t respect that you are the mom – that you are the one who sets the rules, then you will find child care elsewhere. It isn’t personal – she will always be grandma and an important part of your daughter’s life. But she will only be care giver if she respects your rules. If not, you will look elsewhere. Period. No drama to it. Those are just the facts. The reality is she will inevitably stray from your rules, which is where you decide to pick your battles. Also – sometimes she will be wrong. Sometimes, you will be wrong. I remember being totally annoyed that my MIL was giving my baby so much breast milk in the bottles and extra feedings. My supply was dwindling, and surely she was wasting it! Because I KNEW my baby couldn’t eat that much in one day. Till the weekend… when I realized… Nope. She was right. Baby went through a growth spurt and did, indeed, literally double the amount of milk she drank in one day. Don’t become so convinced that she is wrong that you don’t listen to the person who is with your baby all day (who did raise children herself,  after all). I felt pretty terrible when I realized I was beginning to lump everything into the “you’re wrong” bundle of things instead of really listening and considering her perspective and judgment as a fellow mom. At the time, I remember I was so relieved when it was time to put my daughter in day care because I could be in control! But I quickly realized that you aren’t totally in control there either. And, as frustrating as my experience was, I ended up doing the exact same thing (MIL watches children until 6 mos) for my son because I was willing to exchange my control over the little things to be able to put my 10-week old child into the arms of someone who I knew would risk her life for my babies’ life in a heartbeat and shower my baby with love in those precious first couple of weeks when I couldn’t. And you may just find that your shared love of your child may bring you closer together. I’ve found that anyone who loves my children as much as me has become a more important part of my life.

    • MR

      April 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      “I’ve found that anyone who loves my children as much as me has become a more important part of my life.”


  • SarahB

    April 4, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I think the very emotional, put on the spot request and response means that you can actually still say no.  There are ways to get there, if you think having your MIL that involved in your life is a higher price to pay that saying no, and it might be in your case.

    What does your husband have to say?  I think you talk through the details with him, and then sit down with your MIL together and figure out if she really considered what it was she was offering.  Does she really want to be available from 8-6 Mon through Fri? That might be the biggest issue right there. It will be more than a full time job. How’s your MIL with car seats?

    What about when the baby is sick?  What about keeping notes of when the baby ate and how much and when diapers got changed like any daycare or nanny does?  Go tour some daycares and hear about what they do and think about whether your MIL would do those things.  What about an infant CPR class?  Tdap booster?  Will she pick up after herself like a nanny would?  Run a load of laundry?  Do you trust her not to rearrange your house and get into things she shouldn’t?  

    These are all questions to consider. I think you’ll be much better off with a professional day care arrangement with your MIL as back-up.

    • Christina

      April 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      I think this has disaster written all over it. It’s not too late to back out!

  • Jill

    April 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    “plus I don’t want her aggravating tendencies to rub off on my baby as she gets older.”

    I would just point out that you are talking about the woman WHO RAISED YOUR HUSBAND, the man you decided to marry and have babies with, so I’m guessing on some level you actually approve of the job she did as a parent.

    • JD

      April 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      whenever I read letters about in-laws, I can’t help but always think this!!! I mean, we’re talking about another ADULT, someone who’s already raised an infant to adulthood, the person you made a choice to spend the rest of your life with and raise your own babies with, so they must’ve done something right along the way, right? and don’t forget you might be someone’s MIL someday too, think of her as dealing with your future self 😉

      • K

        April 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

        Not a personal response, but the other side of this: whenever I see this line of thinking, I roll my eyes a little. The person saying it almost never acknowledges that, following this theory, your MIL is also responsible for all the things you *don’t* like about your spouse. It’d be just as easy to fault her, then, for all the things her now-grown child does wrong. More to the point, though, a lot of who we are is far beyond the control of our parents, which I think most mothers reading this blog know intuitively. We all do our best to instill values, but the factory settings are always there. 

  • Eiko

    April 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Totally agree with Amy’s advice. Such a tough situation to be in — you want what’s best for your baby, and/but you don’t want to go insane dealing with mother-in-law stuff. You are not crazy at all!

    I love the idea of having her come over ahead of time, even several days, to get up to speed. Having a written plan/routine is also a great idea. Even though you will write it, it will feel more collaborative to her if you go through it together and allow her to respond. Better to get everything out in the open now. But do this closer to the end of the 12 weeks (when you come up for air a bit).

    What I really wanted to say is: 12 weeks. Such precious little time. (I don’t want to tell you how long we get here in Canada.) Savor every moment of it. If you can, use some of the money you’re saving for meals, a cleaner…anything to free up time to spend with your baby. Keep family at bay. Be selfish: you, your husband and your baby need as much family time as you can get. It’s a crazy time as well, so try not to let this MIL stuff get in your head too much. (Plus, I’ve learned that grandparents can surprise you.)

    One of the wonderful things about becoming a mother is that, if you’re not already, you’ll become assertive like no one’s business when it comes to the needs of your child. My husband and I were very clear about our parenting style (even though half the time we were figuring it out as we went along), and everyone around us took their cues from that. Only you and your husband will truly know what’s right for your baby. To deal with your MIL, you’ll need to become opinionated too. Give it a fair chance, but if you feel at some point like she’s steamrolling and not listening to you, there is nothing wrong with you and your husband making it very clear what isn’t acceptable (pick your battles, obviously.) If you and your husband have a “plan for the plan”, and can agree on what you’ll do if things go sideways, you might feel a bit better about the whole thing. 

    (Also, who asks a nine-months-pregnant woman to make a major life decision on the spot? Argh.)

  • Jeannie

    April 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I was never in this situation, so do take what I say with a grain of salt … but I would consider this if — and only if — I felt my husband was on board with my decisions, and was willing to run interference with his mom if communications situations arose.

    My ex never would have done that, and would have sided with his mom on everything, and I thank my lucky stars we never had kids. My husband is fantastic at riding the rails between his mom and me — and almost never has to do so, probably for this reason. When his parents have done things we didn’t agree with, he didn’t hesitate to kindly but firmly tell them not to, and it was never an issue.

    So while knowing yourself is good, knowing your husband is also key!

    I would just like to note that 12 week old babies need little more than holding and loving engagement, and given your MIL did a pretty good job of raising your husband, I’d bet she will be fine with your child too, even if there are disagreements. Over the first year, she’s not going to mold your child’s personality very much — and what little “molding” might take place will certainly be easy enough to mold back. I know this is an emotional decision, and I certainly was very very cautious about letting other people care for my infants as well but … this could work out really well for you, I think.

  • another ftm

    April 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Our families have also offered to help with our day care situation. My husband’s parents are older and its been a very long time since they have been around a new baby where my parents have also been helping out with my nephew who is two so they are much more up on “kids these days”. Local hospitals here offer a Grandparents Class (found them when looking for child birth classes) and I am thinking of asking my MIL to go with me. That way we both can learn and then we can discuss how we might go about caring for the newborn. I figured using a third party (the class) as a way to introduce the topic and help with the discussion there hopefully won’t be hard feelings. While I haven’t figured out how to ask her to go to the class with me just yet. I hope that she won’t take offense to it if I bring it up as a way for BOTH of us to learn new things. 

    I would suggest maybe seeing if a similar class is offered and using it the same way. It can then help with the fear of how she will handle nap times/feedings/spoiling and help you talk to her about it. 

  • Kat

    April 4, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Agree with Amy! I also want to point out that a daycare/center type situation is usually not the only option for childcare for those of us that work. In most areas there are in-home providers (at their house or yours), nanny-share networks and co-ops, so I would recommend checking those out if the thought of a big daycare with lots of kids in baby containment devices freaks you out (it did me – I toured a few traditional daycares while I was pregnant and was in tears by the end of each tour – not a good fit for us). I also would have been way too tightly wound for anyone other than a person outside of our family to watch our son. I can’t imagine trying to negotiate a MIL relationship during this already tough time, especially if you already feel hesitant. Our solution was to find a really sweet, local in home care provider (she watches our son and two other children at her house). She has been wonderful, and extremely respectful of any new mom quirks (she even bought the same carrier I did after I told her how much he loved it at home!). There are good alternatives out there. And one last thing – your baby will never EVER be confused about who is momma. The same wonderful woman has watched our son for almost two years and they have an incredible bond, but I am definitely momma 🙂

  • Dorie

    April 4, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Amy’s advice is spot-on! I say that as a mother of three who struggled with non-relative daycare for eight long years before deciding to just give up my job and stay home until the youngest is in school. I just couldn’t deal with the constant battles anymore. I was literally losing my mind. You are are so fortunate to have your MIL.

  • KimC

    April 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Ok my relationship with my mother in law is great- she’s a great woman, though sometimes she bugs the crap out of me.  Im a rather strict parent on some things and shes not and wasnt and I guess she feels judged?  Also HER daughter is doing the parenting thing just like her mom so it makes me an odd man (woman) out.  That being said-
    When my oldest was a baby, she had colic.  She had to be held all the darn time to be happy and she screamed for absolutely no discernible reason and she would not go to sleep by herself for anything ever until she was three years old.  And My MIL was epic in giving us a break.    Its only been since other kids have been added to the family and the kid grew up that we had any problem at all with her choices.

      She was excellent about following our rules and asked me to write down instructions on everything!  Everything!  She wanted reminders on how to warm up a breastmilk bottle (no microwave! ARGH!) Easiest way to burp babygirl (she WAS a tough kid to burp.. Had to thump her pretty hardl, lol )Didnt flinch when I presented her with a PDF with everything typed up on it. And when I had a second, easier kid, she wanted the same instructions and any time saving tricks that I had. (dont bother rocking second kid.  she doesnt hate it but she will not fall asleep. lol)

    Now, parent as primary caretaker is HARD.. My mom watched lilmisshighstrung for 6 months while I worked.  She was great.  And I hated it.  But I wouldve hated anyone watching my kid.  Here’s some things for you to think about with her watching your child

    Is she coming to your house or are you dropping baby off?  Much easier for her to come to you, you dont have to gather everything up and get everyone ready and oops! SOMEONE had a poopsplosion allll over her sleeper and your shirt and yeah.

    If she is in your home, is she to do laundry at all?  Because Im uncomfortable with anyone dealing with mine and my husbands underoos. Baby stuff, sure, if they can keep up with my closet system and whatnot

    If she is in your home, do you need to feed her?

    Computer access? 

    I like the idea of the commenters above that suggested that she come over and see what a day in the life of you and baby is like.  And leave her with the child for small outings before you go back- just going to the grocery store without a little one in tow is a freaking miracle sometimes, and it gives her a chance to be sure she wants to do this- sometimes little people are harder than you remember them being- and you the confidence that she can handle it.

    I second or third the idea that even if she is your primary caretaker for a while, it will end.  Somewhere around two or three years old, pre-k may need to happen.  Mine needed to be around other kids and to hang out with other adults and I needed some time.  

    You need to be able to talk to her calmly and she you! about things that are going on.  Food laws, like when to start solids, when to allow candy (huge in husband’s family. they tried to give chocolate at 3 months when the kids hadn’t even had FOOD yet, lol.) 

    And make sure she really GETS  “back to sleep”

    PS Holy run-ons batman!  And sorry for the novel.

    • Kerry

      April 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      If there’s any way your mother-in-law would come to you, that’s magic. Every extra hour your daughter sleeps in in the morning is an extra hour you get with her in the evening = ).

      • Susan

        April 7, 2014 at 5:34 pm

        While I do love when my ILs watch my boys now (they’re 3 and 5) when they were young I insisted on taking them to their house because I didn’t want to think about how messy my house was. To me, the stress of getting everyone out of the house in the morning was less than the stress of trying to tidy up before anyone came to our house.

  • Lex

    April 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I have both my mom and my MIL in my life (my MIL to a much lesser extent than my mom). While your concerns are 100% valid, as someone looking back from 9 months, you might also want to spend some time talking to your MIL before you make up your mind. 

    My MIL and I disagree on several issues, specifically vaccinations and gluten. I was so hormone crazed during the end of my pregnancy that I wouldn’t even read a book she sent us because it had anti-vaccination information in it. My husband told her that it was an issue that she couldn’t bring up with us, and she listened. She and my FIL also got tdap vaccinations since we made it clear they wouldn’t be seeing their grandson if they didn’t. So: I’ve been impressed at how much my MIL does listen to our wishes. You know your MIL though – I’d see if getting your husband involved will help with communication.

    The bigger emotional issue for me has actually been my own mother. She lives in the same town as us, and watches my son 2 days a week plus occasional nights. She was very vocal about the things she didn’t understand/agree with (swaddling, rocking to sleep, sleep training, which food to introduce first), and she also has some personality traits that I’d rather my son didn’t pick up. She has gotten so much more accepting of “our way” of doing things though. I also know that no other care provider could love my son as much as she does. In the future we will probably use a daycare, but for right now, I’m happy knowing my baby is getting all that one on one time. 

  • Mona

    April 4, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    In Laws always come with boundary baggage, real or perceived. I say if you trust your MIL to be home with your baby and know she will be living and wonderful- do it! It is a blessing in many ways- and it is wonderful for your kids to have that loving, day to day interaction with grandparents.
    If the irritation and irks are over relatively mild issues that just won’t matter much in a few years, try to overlook them as best you can, and go for it. You can always switch care later if that feels right. But nothing beats a wonderful grandma watching your precious baby when you can’t. It can be a great gift for all concerned.

  • Kerry

    April 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Two things

    1) I think your feelings are completely rational, but they are also very similar to the feelings I had when I was very pregnant and giving up my life long assumption that I would be a stay at home parent in order to have my husband fulfill that role instead. (I left him alone with SEEDLINGS once and came back to find out that he had decided he knew more about raising seedings than me and I was no longer allowed to touch them). I think the final countdown to having your very own baby is always filled with the terrifying realization that you won’t control everything. 

    2) My daughter is now 19 months old and although she is very like her father, and very like me, she is mostly like herself… which is the one thing that I couldn’t really picture before she was born. I bet even if your daughter does pick up some grandma habits, they will seem very different coming from her. And they really will be different, because the even greater amount of time she spends with you, plus your special role as mommy, will more than moderate what she gets from grandma. (I had no idea, pre-baby, what a drop in the bucket 40 hours a week was in the enormous amounts of time that you will be spending with your daughter.) 

    And also, from the time she could walk my daughter was chasing down other little kids in stores wanting to play with them, so I think you can probably make a compelling argument for early preschool for the social interaction. And are you planning to have more than one? It seems like toddler + newborn is the tipping point at which most grandmas start to feel like maybe weekend visits are more ideal.

  • Stef

    April 5, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Here’s something from a different perspective.

    My mom left me with my grandma (her mother-in-law) when I was about 3 mos old. It broke her heart to do so, but for monetary reasons she needed to go back to work. Stupid day job!

    My mom and grandma could not have been more different, but the one thing they did have in common was they adored me. They clearly must have established some boundaries, because not only did grandma take care of me, but when I was 3 my parents bought the house across the street from them to make it easier.

    Speaking from the perspective of the kid here, it was so amazing. I was so close to my grandparents, and not a day goes by I don’t miss them. In particular my grandma.

    However, as a mom myself now I completely understand the reservations. There must be a clear understanding of boundaries and I certainly need to pick my battles. I need to let go and trust that my husband and I turned out ok so I’m sure they won’t do too much damage that can’t be fixed. Also, when given the opportunity, how could we deprive our son of the chance to get to know his grandparents the way my I did.

    I know grandma did things mom didn’t like. But I seem no worse off for them. Just like my mother-in-law does a few things with my kid I don’t like. But nothing really deal breaking, because early on we made boundaries.

    Best of luck OP.

  • LB

    April 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    I have my mom doing quite a bit of childcare for me and she has absolutely NO boundaries and is incredibly opinionated and critical, particularly about my housekeeping and cooking skills (or lack thereof). But she is also very helpful and thoughtful and loves my daughter more than anything and is amazing with her.

    So far it has worked out really well, better than I expected. I have learned to just take the bad parts of her personality with the good and focus on the benefits and ignore the rest. It is hard sometimes but it has been worth it for the benefits. It has been such an incredible gift to our family, there is nothing better than knowing that you are leaving your child with someone who cares about them and loves them like family, so it may all work out better than you expect.

    Although my daughter is not yet 2 so I could see things becoming more challenging when she is older but we will not need as much assistance then either.

  • DontBlameTheKids

    April 7, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I don’t have MIL problems, but I sure do have Mom problems. I would love for my MIL to watch the kids instead of paying for daycare (but she works, so no), but I would rather pay twice what I pay for daycare than let my mom do it. 

    To me, the nature of the opinions and undermining is important. I don’t get so worked up over some things as other things. And, yes, the stakes get so much higher as they get older. I would probably let my mom watch the baby, even though we don’t agree on many things, but I would never let her watch a three year old. I know she means well, but she would put ideas in her head about “modesty” (I mean, come on, we’re talking about shoulders on a toddler now) or how moms who TRULY love their children stay at home. 

    So…maybe take advantage of the free care now, and lay some ground rules, but save your money for when this arrangement cannot work.

  • Kate

    April 7, 2014 at 11:39 am

    My mom watched my second child for his first year (from 3 months on) and will watch my third beginning this fall.  I totally understand that even though it *should* feel easier/more comfortable because it’s family, it sometimes doesn’t.  The fact that it’s family just adds that extra bit of tension/stress that is difficult to deal with.  And I was dealing with MY mom, I can only imagine how it would be ratcheted up if it were my MIL (with whom I have a generally good relationship… but still….).  Anyway, just wanted to offer some tips based on my experience: 1) try to get your MIL out of the house pretty quickly after you get home from work, so you don’t feel like she is encroaching on your family time.  My mom would often stay for dinner or stay to “help” if my husband was working late, but I usually just felt like, GOD, GO HOME and let me be with my kids!  Honestly, that’s where most of the tension came from.  and 2) Amy’s so right about being “wound tight” as a first time mom.  You’ll have to work really REALLY hard not to lose the forest for the tress when it comes to things like eating/sleeping schedules and all the minutiae of baby care.  Just try to remember that it really truly doesn’t matter if your MIL doesn’t care for your baby in exactly the same way you would — as long as she/he is happy and healthy at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you got there.

  • Kath

    April 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I agree with everything Amy said! My only thing to add is to maybe not judge how things are working until a few months in to this arrangement. Both my kids are in fulltime care at a center that we love. With my first, I stayed home with her the first 7 months. With the second, I stayed home with her for 14 weeks, then my mom watched her for 3 months and then she started daycare at 6 months.
    My mom and I have have a great relationship and she did great with my rules and boundaries, but I still had some issues with thinking my daughter was more bonded to my mom than to me at that age (under 6 months). My husband told me I was crazy and I was, but I also felt it so HARD. But when your baby gets older, your mama-baby bond becomes so much more real and tangible. Not just, give me the milk, lady. But real communication. And, what follows, IME, is so much less insecurity about that relationship.
    I thought I’d be a SAHM too. I too grieved that loss. Looking back 5 years later, I am SO THRILLED I am working and my kids are in loving care and thriving and everyone is happy. I think your MIL gig will be great for an infant and maybe great for a toddler and then you can figure out your options.

  • judi

    April 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    just one thing to add and it’s something a therapist told me once – it doesn’t matter how much time/physical presence grandparents have, your children are YOUR children and they will be like YOU. you’re around, too, and your relationship/bond isn’t something that gets taken away or in some way superseded by a grandparent relationship. which is not to say you shouldn’t be cautious and communicate openly, but just that you shouldn’t dread “losing” your child to her, because she will definitely be yours.

  • Lucy

    April 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    My mom-in-law has watched our son since he was 5 months old (he’ll be 2 in a few months) four days a week. On the other day, he goes to daycare. My MIL and I are very different and there is definitely sometimes tension (and probably will be more as he gets older). I had similar worries when I had to go back to work. But now I am 100 percent so happy and grateful that she is able to watch him. The jealousy may not go away completely but I just think of it this way: your child will have one additional person in thier life that they can rely on, trust, feel secure around and love. That has to be good for them. It’s so great now to watch my son walking through a crowded family event, spot his nana, and just plop down on her lap without even thinking about it. It doesn’t take away from the love he has for me, it just adds to his life.

    Also everyone I know who has an “older” family member watching thier child usually runs into some form of the “we never did it that way” conflict. My husband and I figured out which battles we really cared about and made sure they were followed. And honestly, for the smaller ones, the ones I let go of…those helped me relax a lot as a mom because after awhile, I realized that they really don’t matter that much compared with the big picture of how your child turns out.

    No matter what, going back to work is so hard. Stay strong!

  • Shannon

    April 8, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    One thing I don’t see many people mention is that full-time childcare is VERY TIRING for grandparents. Hell, it is tiring for me and I’m in my 30s. I live in an area where it is really common for grandmothers in their 60s+ to watch multiple grandchildren to avoid daycare. These poor women are running ragged and often admit to me at the playground that they are exhausted and overwhelmed doing full-time childcare, but they dare not admit it to their children (the parents) because god forbid that would mean putting their preshus baybies into daycare. I really think parents need to consider that factor when asking any grandparent (or accepting their offer) to provide full-time childcare. No matter how healthy and spry they may seem, it is really hard work to do 40+ hours/week. I would prefer to have grandparents cover maybe 1-2 days/week and then pay for alternate care the rest of the week.

    • cricket

      February 23, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Thank you for bringing this up. I watch my granddaughter 5 mornings a week from 6:30 am until my DIL gets home. She works part-time, but she doesn’t get home until 1:30. Then after watching my granddaughter all week, sometimes she askes me to keep her overnight This last weekend I had her until Sunday morning, and back at her house Monday morning. I am 65 and very active, however I AM TIRED! I need to learn how to say no!  

  • Natalie

    April 9, 2014 at 8:16 am

    I had to go back to work 4 weeks after my daughter was born (I had been working at my job for less than a year when I had my daughter and had almost no sick/vacation time to use). It was TERRIBLE but there was no other choice because we needed my job to survive. My Mom, who I rarely see eye to eye with, became our child care provider. That was 5 years ago. Now my daughter is getting ready to sign up for kindergarten. There have been ups and downs, things my mom does that DRIVE ME INSANE, and I am constantly pointing out that grandmas can spoil yes, but not when it is EVERYDAY! We all agree that school will be VERY good for my daughter because she lacks playmates her own age. But the truth is she has forged a relationship with my Mom that I never got the chance to develop with my own grandparents. She feels just as safe and at home at my moms house as she does at our house and my mom is a second mother to her, not just a grandma. In the end I think that relationship they have with each other will out weigh all of the other stuff. My daughter knows she is always safe and loved by both her Mom and her Mimi.

  • JM

    April 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I agree with Natalie 100%!!! We did it both ways–with my first I declined my mother’s offer to watch my son, and went with a babysitter then daycare later on. With my daughter I just couldn’t find a decent sitter so I asked my mom. Both are doing great but there’s definitely more pros to my mom watching my children than someone else, most of which I only realized in hindsight. I think the biggest pro, as Natalie mentioned, is the relationship they form–my mom and my daughter are so close, plus my mom is closer to my son because she’s around more often (he is 5, my daughter is nearly 2). There is just so much love there and I know, despite the fact that I did not have the best relationship with my mom and still don’t agree with a lot of what she says and does, they are all so much better off this way. And no one you hire will love your little ones like Grandma. You’ll learn to let go of the small stuff, and most of it is small stuff! Really, I was so against my mom watching my kids while I work and I have turned around completely. Finally, keep in mind that you can always change your mind or try a combo as your baby gets older.

  • Anonymous for this

    April 10, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    My in laws watch my daughter once a week, sometimes more. Despite many of the bumps described above, it was working for both sides. This week, the baby came home with scratches they hadn’t noticed and couldn’t figure out. When it was pointed out to them (not rudely, I promise!) they got upset and are now not sure they’re up to the task of watching her at all. I definitely vote for having a plan b as described above. If they decide they can’t keep on, we are in a pretty stressful situation.

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  • Me witt

    August 17, 2015 at 11:18 am

    This post helped me tremendously since I am in the same boat! It’s hard enough leaving our babies and having to think about my MIL steamrolling me as a parent has been stressing me out!