Every Monday morning, at 8.15am, I open the door to my parents, hand them an overflowing bag of toys and kiss my little girl, Immy, now three, goodbye.
As I wave her off into their care, I once again thank my lucky stars – and, of course, my parents – for their overwhelming support when it comes to both Immy and her big brother, Theo, five.
But would I ever pay them for the pleasure of looking after their grandchildren? Not in a million years – and they certainly wouldn’t ever accept any money for childcare they do for us.
Grandparents should only look after their grandchildren while their parents work because they want to. They should be appreciated, thanked – but not paid.
This very issue arose this week, when one new dad explained on Reddit the bad feeling that had arisen when his parents-in-law had asked for $400 (£312) per week of babysitting, and $100 (£78) per weekend, when he and his wife went back to work.
Now, expecting anyone to look after your children five days a week is a lot of work – a full-time job, actually – and, even though the grandparents in question ‘loved the idea’, they are completely entitled to change their mind when that idea becomes a reality and they realised exactly what they had signed up to.
However, is the answer to that to give their own daughter a bill? I certainly don’t think so! It creates too awkward a situation and problems down the line.
My parents have helped us out with childcare ever since Tom and I went back to work when Theo was a year old – even though we lived in London, 300 miles away from my hometown of Newcastle.
My dad still worked then, but my mam readily agreed to come down on the train once a month and stay with us for a few days, looking after Theo while me and Tom worked.
She wanted to, she assured us, as a way of guaranteeing she would regularly see her grandson.
I wasn’t particularly surprised by her reaction. She adores being a grandma and had similarly helped my sister with childcare for her two children.
Tom and I were so thankful that, with the two of us taking a Monday off once a month and my husband’s parents coming up every fourth Monday, and me dropping down to a four-day week, we could get away with putting Theo into our local nursery for just three days, rather than five.
Not only was that far more affordable but it also meant that Theo spent the majority of his week with family and didn’t face five long days away from home.
Now we have moved closer to my parents, my dad has retired and Theo has started school, my parents now have Immy every Monday.
But we’ve never once offered to pay them – and they wouldn’t expect it.
They have her because they love her, and us. They get to help us, and spend more time with their grandchild, while Theo and Immy get to forge a strong relationship with their grandparents.
If they did ask for money, I would immediately change the arrangement. Because to me – as I’m sure it did to the people in the Reddit post – it implies that their heart isn’t really in it. That they don’t really want to do it. That it is about money, not love.
And that would be absolutely fine – my parents have already done their time, bringing us up. They definitely shouldn’t be expected to look after our children too. And I wouldn’t want to have to pay them to persuade them.
Just because we don’t pay my parents doesn’t mean we don’t express our gratitude in other ways.
Whenever mam came down to London, we’d buy her a first-class train ticket, so she had a nice journey, and didn’t have to worry about lunch.
We’d treat her to a takeaway when she was staying with us, or make her a nice meal.
My sister and I have also started buying my parents more extravagant birthday and Christmas presents, like a luxury train journey, or vouchers, so they can go away.
And outside of those Mondays, we rarely ask them for any other help – despite them offering We are grateful for what they give us already, we don’t want to take the mickey.
Of course, everyone’s situations are different and what works for some doesn’t work for others. I know of one family whose grandmother was young, and still working when her daughter had a baby.
They agreed, between them, that she would quit her job and the parents would cover her wage to look after their newborn.
I’m sure they worked out the details between them, yet I can’t help but feel that things could so easily become complicated if you paid your parents for childcare.
Would you start expecting them to do more with your children during the time they had them? Or begrudge the weeks when they couldn’t take care of them?
Because we don’t pay my parents, they feel free to book holidays whenever they want and just give me and Tom the dates in advance.
Rather than resenting it, we remain thankful that we have help the majority of time.
Because that’s what families should do – help one another. Thankfully, my parents are still fit and healthy, but if there comes a day when they need help from us, then me, Tom, my sister and brother-in-law, will give it.
More than gladly, and definitely without cost.
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