There isn’t a parent alive who didn’t know everything about raising children until the day they had their own. You, like so many others probably held firm to a laundry list of ‘i never’s’ that included who, how and what you would do with your children once they were born. Then the reality of that angelic face appears and you realize that just because you didn’t think it was right to choose grandparents as caretakers before you can’t imagine leaving your child with strangers now. The truth of the matter is that choosing grandparents as caretakers instead of putting your child in daycare is not a decision that should be made lightly. For many people, this new relationship puts a lot of pressure on their relationship with their parents or in-laws
The first consideration should probably be how similarly you and the grandparents feel about parenting. When your child is an infant, there isn’t much harm that can be done. However, your infant will grow into a baby quickly and you will be forced to raise your children according to someone else. If this ‘someone else’ happens to be a grandparent, you might find that they are less likely to follow YOUR rules. The thing is, if you are a working parent you are essentially giving your child over to someone else during the week. These people will spend an immense amount of time with your children, shaping rules, regulations, and even things like your child’s nutrition and wellness. If grandma is constantly offering cookies and soda because she is afraid to say no, and wants to be a grandma she might not be the best choice for being your child’s caretaker!
As your child gets older the lines between being nanny and poppy can the guardian that you expect to enforce your rules will blue even more. This can be very frustrating and it will certainly place strain on you and your spouse and the children. Children, as smart as they are will also begin to look to their grandparents as parental figures, understandably so since they are the ones they are with more often. It doesn’t hurt that many grandparents as caretakers often say yes more often than you do! Even though the grandparents may not intend to undermine your parenting style, it is only expected that their style is much different from yours. Who wins in the end? Hard to say. At some point however, you may consider treating the childcare arrangements as a business.
On the positive side of things, you know that your child will be safe with their grandparents. Rather than placing them in a building with dozens of other children, they will come home from school to one on one attention, home made treats and lots and lots of love. This can create a wonderful foundation for your child based on love and trust. A lot of whether the arrangement works out positively or not depends on how your parents or in-laws feel about it. If Nana and Big Daddy want to be the kind of grandparents who simply spoil their grandchildren and hand them back to you when they are done being a main caretaker might not be optimal. It is unfair of you to try and steal away their ideas of being a grandparent because you want them to do things differently. In this case, you may want to pay someone else to take care of your kids and allow the grandparents to do typical grandparent things with your child that doesn’t involve their routine care.
Similarly, your children need discipline. And simply, some grandparents don’t want to be the ones to do it. Why should they? They spent years, a lifetime really disciplining you and are entitled to an easier, less responsible life with their grandchildren. And if the grandparents do care for your children around the clock, but refuse to set limits or boundaries, you are in for a likeness to hell when you have them at home. And yes, you will always be the meanie! So you have to think clearly, with your head above your heart, when it comes to choosing grandparents as caretakers!
Probably the best scenario is to have the grandparents ease the childcare arrangements by taking them on part time. This way, your children get to spend a lot of time with your children, but your children are also learning about limits and boundaries from other sources. This way, they will be able to notice the difference between being grandparented and parented. They will also learn to love their time with their grandparents, not being able to sense your annoyance with the situation. If the grandparents do watch your children, talk about some ground rules. It is okay for you to have some forbidden things and they should respect them. But remember that your parents love your children just as much as you do, and it may be more difficult to let them down or disappoint them. If the infraction is mild let it go. However if it something that you strongly believe in, you should ask once for the situation to change. If it doesn’t, don’t take the kids away from the grandparents, but eliminate them being full time caretakers.
The bottom line is that every family is different. What works for some, doesn’t work for others. When it comes to choosing grandparents as caretakers for your child, only you know the best way to handle it. It might be worth trying, and it might not be something that you think you can handle. Often, as parents we are forced to make decisions and take actions that we never thought we would in order to provide the best for our children. Only you will know in the end. And as a reminder, remember that grandparents are somewhat entitled to living out their dreams of being Granny and Papa. If being elected as the full time caretaker somehow steals these fleeting and cherished moments, you should find a different solution out of respect.