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Family Babysitters: Are you taking advantage?

Family babysitters: Are you taking advantage?

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Having a job and kids as well is made much easier when you’ve got family babysitters, healthy parents or in-laws to dump them on from time to time – and it can work well: Grandparents get to see more of your kids and you get time to yourself. But it’s hard for some parents to say ‘no’ to their kids, and it’s usually only when we see other people taking the proverbial by roping their own parents in a unpaid babysitters that eyebrows get raised. Whilst it’s perfectly OK up to a point, are you taking the proverbial and exploiting your parents?


After all, looking after a toddler is a huge commitment. Many grandparents secretly feel resentful about minding a child, because even one day a week can be draining. It helps to remember that your parents may not have the same physical and emotional strength that they had when they raised you.

As more women return to paid work after having children, it seems that grandparents are being called on increasingly to help out with childcare. This can be for several reasons – official childcare is expensive, parents may feel their children are too young for day care and the favourite old chestnut – it’s supposed to be quality time for grandparents and grandchildren to spend together. And while your dear old mum and dad may graciously accept your children into their house with open arms, a lollipop and a new toy, they may not present this same sweet side to their own friends.  Indeed, many grandparents feel resentment about the situation, and will complain to their friends about being put up on – they would rather not be doing it at all.


It was when I overheard my own mother complaining about me leaving my kids with her that I realised I was expecting too much. And yes, eavesdropping is naughty, but here are a few of the things I heard her complain about:Family babysitters: Are you taking advantage?

“I’m a nanna, not a nanny…just not got the energy or the patience to run around after a hyperactive three-year-old….last time he came, he tore down the curtains and put a piece of bacon through my sewing machine…me and Jim are retired now, and Jim says looking after the grandkids is harder than a shift at the abattoir, and you know how much he hated it there… Yes, yes, yes, of course I enjoy spending quality time with the kids, but my knees aren’t what they used to be in… – oh, hello dear, I didn’t see you at the door, were you there long?”


Although it wasn’t the most pleasant conversation to overhear, it changed things drastically. Instead of dropping the kids off at a moment’s notice, I now make sure my parents are 110% okay with the arrangement. I even offer to pay mum and dad for their services, but they wouldn’t dream of taking cash off me. So instead, I take them a gift to thank them for the services. A bottle of wine costs about a fiver, and flowers even less – the look on my mother’s face when I present her with a bouquet is priceless – letting your parents know you appreciate their services is vital, and goes a long way to greasing the wheels.

Arrangements to suit all

Drawing up a contract between family members for a casual childcare arrangement may sound preposterous but it’s actually helped my own situation incredibly. If you are using your grandparents as a bargain babysitting service, remember, benevolence does have its limits. A contract could involve hours, possible payment, expenses incurred, and what the children can and can’t do. Also, the contract can cover what to do if a child for grandparent is sick, how much cancellation notice is required, and how much notice is required before the children can be dropped off. A contract may seem drastic, but it sets parameters, and can stop resentment from festering.


The biggest key to a successful grandparent-babysitting relationship is communication, and if I’d not have overheard my mother chatting with her friend, I would still be leaving the kids with her three or four times a week, and only giving her a quick text ten minutes before arriving. And I will definitely make sure my own children learn by my mistakes.






About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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