When my daughter announced that her family would be moving back to Minneapolis from Denver, I contemplated the possibility of doing daycare one day a week for our two young grandkids. The theme song that best represents what it took to make that happen is It Don’t Come Easy by Ringo Starr.
The easiest part was getting my daughter to agree. She saw the numerous benefits to the proposed arrangement, but first had to make sure her chosen daycare provider would be flexible. Once that was settled, my daughter and I started hashing out the specifics.
I wanted more time at my home. And since both she and her wife work from their home, we settled on my house for the daycare location. But since it’s a little more than a half-hour drive, we agreed to split the driving: She’d drop them off in the morning and I’d drive them home at the end of the day. Battling rush hour with two little ones wouldn’t be fun. It don’t come easy.
Next I discussed the proposed arrangement with my husband, and said the magic words to win his support: “You will lose no money in this deal if I get my way at work.”
I would propose four 10-hour days to keep my current salary. I knew they’d be long days and I’d miss out on time with my husband at night. And you know it don’t come easy.
Now it was time to pitch the new schedule to my boss — four 10-hour days with every Wednesday off. I described the plan as a pilot program, and said we could reassess after a few months. She gave the green light, but added a new assignment to my duties: Clean out the office shared drive. Yuck!
I also told my co-worker, who would be carrying the workload in my absence, that I’d be willing to stay late every Friday to pay her back for covering my Wednesdays. You know it don’t come easy.
After stocking up on young-child necessities such as diapers, wipes, extra clothes, electrical outlet covers, baby food and toys, I was ready; and so we began the Wednesday daycare schedule.
No sooner had we started, when up popped a Wednesday work conflict, followed by another conflict created by my vacation. With a bit of hustle, we arranged substitutes who did not come easy or cheap.
Then, after several months of the pilot program, it was time for my manager and me to reassess. The theme song that best describes the outcome is, unfortunately, You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones. After two intense discussions, I came away with only every other Wednesday off, and wasn’t given the option to work four 10s moving forward.
Since this new arrangement would involve a slight pay cut, I had to renegotiate with my husband. While he wasn’t thrilled, he still agreed to the revised plan, as he understood how much joy these Wednesdays with the kids brought me.
Putting the daycare plan in place for my two grandchildren did not come easy, but the payoff of getting to spend more time with them has been worth the effort.
When our family moved back to Minnesota we were all eager to have more time together — especially for my kids and my parents, Nana and Papa. Nana pitched the idea of watching them one day a week, which sounded like a great balance: They’d still get lots of socialization with other kids at the daycare center we’d picked out, and they’d get quality time with Nana as well.
Whenever I’d heard friends talking about having their parents provide care for their kids, I always thought those families had it so easy. I would’ve loved having my kids watched by someone I know and trust, to not navigate 12-plus-months-long childcare wait lists and to not have to pay sky-high daycare tuition.
I’ve come to realize, however, that navigating family-provided daycare comes with its own set of unique challenges. It requires thorough planning and open communication on both ends to ensure a positive experience for everyone.
Overall, the most important question to consider is: Why are you choosing to have family watch the kids? Is it financial, relational (to give your kids and their grandparents time together), logistical (maybe you can’t find care during the days/hours you need)? What are your non-negotiables and where can you be flexible? Knowing the answers to these questions and being as honest as possible with your family — without offending — will help ensure everyone is on the same page.
After that, there are logistical questions:
- Where does the care happen? What days/hours? Is this consistent or will it vary?
- Is the care arrangement indefinite or for a shorter period of time?
- What will you do if the grandparent has a scheduling conflict? How far in advance do you need to know about such scheduling issues?
- What if the weather makes the roads dangerous?
- What will you do if someone is sick? Grandparent? Kid(s)? Mildly or severely?
- Is the grandparent aware of — and on board with — any specific parenting practices that are important to you (including behavior management, nutrition, etc.)?
- Is the grandparent aware of any changes in safety practices since you were a child (babies sleep on their backs, cribs shouldn’t have blankets or toys until babies are 12 months old, etc.)?
- Is the grandparent well enough (physically, mentally) to keep up with young kids? Is there anything you don’t feel comfortable with the grandparent doing with the kids (such as driving)? What if there’s an emergency?
- What is the grandparent giving up to be able to provide care? Is this sacrifice reasonable/fair? Are there ways to ease the sacrifice?
- Will you compensate the grandparent financially, by helping them in other ways, by providing meals or simply by expressing gratitude regularly?
The benefits of having Nana watch the children have FAR outweighed the negatives. Nana is even closer with the kids now and our oldest, Kellan, actually refers to her as his “best friend.” We also get to enjoy dinner as a family (including Papa) each week the kids are with her.
I’m so thankful to have the support of our family, and I’m glad we’ve been able to find an arrangement that works well for everyone!
Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer grandmother, and her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell, a millennial mother of two, are documenting their parenting/grandparenting experiences in the Twin Cities.