by Louisa Fitzgerald, Sittercity parent
When you’re a parent, having family nearby can be a lifesaver—especially when that family includes doting grandparents who want to spend time with their grandchild. As a mom of one five-year-old girl, tapping into our family resources has helped my husband and I manage a busy household and the demands of work, social obligations and extracurricular activities (both ours and our daughter’s). But while our family is there to lean on, we decided early on that we didn’t want to rely on our parents for regular childcare needs. Sure, there are some benefits to grandma or grandpa taking on the role of childcare provider, but after thinking through our options, we decided that hiring a babysitter made more sense for our family—here’s why.
1. We wanted to hire a professional for a job, not ask a family member for a favor.
This isn’t to say we’ve never asked a family member to spend a random evening or afternoon with our kid while we snuck in a date night or accomplished some errands child-free. We have and they’ve happily obliged. But having grandma or grandpa babysit a child every single day, or even just on a regular basis, creates a much different dynamic. Consider this: When you hire a sitter, you set expectations, rules and boundaries, and you expect that the sitter will follow them. If a problem arises, you can approach the situation as an employer. And if it’s not working out, it’s totally appropriate to find someone new. Cutting ties with a sitter or nanny may not be pleasant, but it’s not personal.
For me, I knew I would have a hard time voicing concerns with grandparents, particularly with caregiving issues that we didn’t see eye-to-eye on. And if boundaries were pushed too far? Letting grandma go wouldn’t be easy—and that’s something that can not only adversely affect your relationship with your parents or in-laws, but also your child’s relationship with her grandparents. In other words, it could get complicated quickly.
2. Grandma and Grandpa have their own priorities, and babysitting isn’t one of them.
While many people still retire in their early 60s, people are also living longer, which means some are choosing to stay in the workforce or to ease into retirement with part-time jobs or side hustles. My husband’s mother is 72 and still works full time as nurse. My mom retired from her teaching job 10 years ago, and immediately picked up about a dozen time-consuming hobbies, including running for public office, sitting on various community boards, joining a bowling team and getting certified to teach yoga. Needless to say, retirement isn’t what it used to be, and none of my daughter’s grandparents were planning to spend their golden years as our family’s on-call babysitter—much less full-time caregiver. So instead of working around their busy work and social schedules, we simply hire a sitter.
3. Every day isn’t my child’s birthday and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Our daughter spends a good amount of time with her paternal grandma who lives approximately five minutes from us. “Grandma Lola” is an expert at spoiling her only grandchild—a skill that grandparents have perfected for generations. My daughter rarely comes home without a gift; her food is made-to-order; and she’s allowed to watch just a little bit more television than I prefer. While this time together is important and certainly special for grandma and granddaughter, it is exactly that—special, which means, not every day.
4. Sitters offer experience and expertise. And fun.
My kid loves babysitters. They are the coolest. It’s a treat for her to play with someone who’s usually younger and always way more fun than mommy. But in addition to entertaining my kid, I’ve realized that there are benefits to hiring different sitters to watch my daughter. Not only do they bring different skills to the table—one of our sitters always has a craft project at the ready and another basically taught my kid to read—they also give my daughter an opportunity to interact with different types of people, allowing her to more fully develop her social skills. I not only feel confident my kiddo is safe with a trusted sitter—I know she’s going to have a great time and probably learn something new.
The bottom line: My husband and I recognize how important it is for our daughter to have a strong relationship with all of her grandparents, and not relying on her grandparents for childcare has ensured that the time she does spend with them is meaningful and not a job or a favor. For us, hiring babysitters who aren’t related just makes more sense.