Relationships with in-laws are often difficult to navigate. While you choose your spouse, you can’t quite choose their parents. However, this fraught relationship can become more intense after grandkids enter the picture. The mother-in-law might want the kids raised differently than how her daughter-in-law plans to. Conversely, some daughters-in-law may welcome the help in child-rearing. In fact, many do since good babysitting is hard to come by. However, there’s a difference between occasional visits with the grandkids and watching the grandkids every day when their parents are at work. This mom presents the latter situation and laments that her mother-in-law “expects to be paid for babysitting.”
“How dare my mother-in-law ask for money for precious time with her grandkid?”
In her letter to Brightside, Amy explains that she has been happily married for 10 years. She and her husband have a healthy six-month-old baby and both parents work full-time. She works at an office while her husband works from home. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law has retired and offered to watch the baby while the couple is at work. They accepted happily, Amy explaining that “she has a way with kids.” She adds, “I truly appreciate her time and devotion and everything she does.” In addition to watching the baby, she cooks and cleans.
However, Amy became shocked when her mother-in-law “dared” to ask them for payment/hour. “How dare she ask for money for precious time with her grandkid?” Amy’s husband believes his mother should get paid. After all, if they had to hire a professional they would probably have to pay even more money. However, Amy is torn up about what to do.
When the Mother-in-Law Provides Child Care
There are many perks to having grandparents care for the kids. Primarily, you can relax knowing your kids are getting proper attention and love. Many parents are uncomfortable with the idea of hiring a stranger. Keep in mind, this is about child care on a regular basis or full-time, like the case of Amy and her mother-in-law. This is not about grandparents babysitting on occasion (which generally does not involve payment, and could be the source of Amy’s confusion).
To start, money is a touchy subject for many people. Some grandparents may think they deserve pay but will never ask because of this taboo. Therefore, it’s best to create an open discussion on the topic. Remember, even though it’s their grandkids, babysitting is a job that involves fulfilling certain responsibilities and keeping to a schedule at the expense of other hobbies and obligations. Many grandparents may be appalled at the idea of being paid but may change their minds later on.
But the point of this discussion is about showing appreciation for the grandparents’ time and devotion. Expressing thanks on a regular basis, through words and gifts, is very important. This can involve gift certificates, thank you cards, flowers, baked goods, helping with her chores or bills. Taking these services for granted or feeling entitled to them can leave the grandparent feeling like they’re being taken advantage of. This can build up resentment that can rot the relationship. Having an open discussion about expectations while expressing gratitude and offering payment for their time and efforts can avoid these negative outcomes. Plus, this includes respecting the grandparent’s need for vacation time and breaks.
How Much Should You Pay?
If the grandparent does want financial compensation, make sure the guidelines of this are clear. Decide on the amount being paid. This you can determine based on the income of daycare employees or babysitters in your area. (Remember to account for the number of children, their ages, any specialized care needed, and if the grandparents does chores such as cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, driving the children to activities, etc.) Decide on when the payment will be issued, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Offer vacation time and holiday payment as necessary. And don’t forget to reimburse the grandparent for “business expenses” such as food, toys, gas, and activities. 
While you’re showing appreciation, also show empathy. Parents know better than anyone how exhausting child care can be. If it because difficult for the grandparent, look for ways to make the task easier for them, such as planning activities that require less physical strength and stamina like going to the playground or watching a movie. Another example, if a grandparent struggles with stairs, bring all of the supplies they will need to the main floor. Any health concerns should be discussed with the parents, especially those that could become risk to them or the kids, like seizures or memory issues.
Maintain Ongoing Communication
Additionally, it’s imperative that the kids know that the grandparent is in charge. They might be used to getting spoiled around grandpa and grandma; but they must know they have to follow the same rules as when their parents are around, such as doing their homework, not eating candy before meals, and going to bed on time.
And remember, sometimes grandparents can’t babysit and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for it. Keep a list of other babysitters for these cases. Grandparents — whether a mother, mother-in-law, father or father-in-law — have their own lives and schedules, and babysitting their grandkids should be a pleasure not a burden. So tell them to be honest when they are not feeling up to watching the kids or if they have another important engagement. Overall, there needs to be an open and ongoing discussion between grandparents and parents to avoid misunderstandings and to keep the arrangement beneficial for everyone.