Family Daycare - Pros and Cons — The Bump
Working Moms

Family Daycare - Pros and Cons

I recently posted about my MIL taking care of DS for the first year or so and then adding some daycare days to the mix.  Not surprisingly, a few comments touched on the pros or cons of having family watch our little ones. I figured why not start a new discussion about it.  I'd love to hear everyone's experiences... who watched your kids? What were the pros and/or cons?

Personally I'm looking forward to the convenience and saving some money, but I do worry all the time that there is going to be tension between me and my MIL and it will eventually spill into my relationship.  Trying to remain optimistic for now :)

Looking forward to hearing your experiences! 



Re: Family Daycare - Pros and Cons

  • My Mom & Dad watch DS one day a week and have for the last 4 + years. My parents do a great job they follow our schedule our rules and respect our parenting choices it has been great. We like the one day as it is easy to cover if they are sick or go on vacation instead of trying to find coverage or use our days when we don't want to. Our ILs babysit when we have a date night and I would never have them watch DS on a regular basis. They let him do whatever he wants and never follows our rules.
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  • I'd never have grandparents provide regular childcare, because I want them to be able to be grandparents and spoil the kids. I also don't want to argue with "well, when you were a baby we did xyz and you turned out fine!", and I know I'd have that argument with all of the grandparents. My daycare has people trained in child development and up to date on all of the current safety practices watching my kids, and I can talk to them about things that aren't going well without worry of a big family feud erupting. Of course it would be nice to have grandma watch the kids for free, I'd save a ton of money.
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  • My parents watch DS 2 days a week.  They have since he was 3 months old (he's 4.5 years now).  It's worked for us - they respect our rules (for the most part), it's not too much where they still want to see him other times, and they are honest about how it's enough.

    That's the thing- taking care of a young child when you're in your 50s, 60s, etc, is HARD work.  And I"m thankful that my parents are honest with "2 days is enough".  Sometimes I think grandparents sign up for this w/o really thinking it through - and I think YOU Need to make sure you keep that line of communication open w/ your MIL.  Without making her feel bad if she does feel that 5 days a week is too much.

    But you also have to be honest with yourselves- is she REALLY the best choice?  being a grandmom  odesn't always mean they are the best caretaker.  Especially if she doesn't follow your rules. 

    "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
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  • If family will listen to and respect your wishes as parents, then it can be a great arrangement.  My Mom watches DS once a week and it's a dream.  She is up-to-date on child safety & development, asks before she does something out of the ordinary, and lets me know if she thinks anything was up with DS.  We make sure to keep food she likes at the house, give her the times for story hour at local libraries, and otherwise be relaxed about when she does something different than we would, but not unsafe or throwing off DS' schedule.  My MIL also watches DS one day a week and she is the opposite.  The arrangement will not last much longer and certainly will not extend to when we have more than one kiddo.  It's great to save the money, but it is not more convenient for us (we take DS to her house) and the stress is greater. As you mentioned, the tension is something to consider.  My MIL doesn't always respect our decisions as the parents.

    Lots of times grandparents love their grandkids and are awesome grandparents - that doesn't make them good caretakers.  Being a caretaker is a totally different role.

  • *sparky**sparky* member
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 250 Answers 500 Love Its
    edited October 2013

    I think the key is knowing your personality vs. your MIL's.  Will she listen to what you want in terms of schedule, what to feed your LO, etc., or will she want to do whatever she thinks is best?  Has she spent much time around small children lately or has it been 20+ years? 

    My dad and his wife watched our DS two days a week when he was little and it worked out great for all of us.  They loved the time with him, but they also followed our wishes in terms of schedule, feeding, etc.  My dad's wife has been very involved in helping to raise her other grandchildren and I knew it worked out very well for them so I was pretty comfortable that she knew what she was doing.

    My IL's, on the other hand, are totally old school and have not been around babies for almost 40 years.  They did not agree with a lot of the things we did for DS, even when they were related to very real medical issues he had.  They have never once babysat for us, even for a couple of hours.

    ETA: I also think it worked out for us because it was PT, not 5 days a week, and I was flexible with the days when they needed me to be, because I had a very flexible nanny the other days.  So they still have the freedom to enjoy their retirement most of the time - they are not locked into FT caregiver 5 days/week.  Not that FT would not work out for some people - it just would not have for us.


  • My mom has watched DD since she was 6 months old.  (now 18 months). 

    Pros:  My mom's house is on the way to work

    -  my mom has all toys, bottles, sippy cups, plates, pack and play, diapers, etc. at her house so I don't have to pack anything and I don't have to wash anything.

    - my mom always makes food for DD.  For the most part my mom feeds her very healthy meals. 

    - my DD loves my mom and is always happy when she's there.

    - I love that my mom can take DD on outings to the park or library if she feels like it.

    - I'm saving a ton of money.  I would like to pay my mom something but she won't take any money from us.

    I'm pretty happy with my mom as childcare.  I know DD is safe and happy there. I'm not super picky about schedules and stuff. For the most part she listens to me on the important things: Food and limited TV time.  DD watches about 20 minutes of TV per day at my mom's.  This is ok with me.  I would prefer no tv but I know this is not realistic.

    Con:  There have been time that I've had to talk to my mom about some things and she gets very defensive.  My mom will complain and criticize but then she'll do what I ask anyway. 

    PP you just have to be comfortable to talk to you MIL when issues arrise.  Your MIL may get upset but it's your kid and she will get over it.  My mom always does and everything is fine.  I don't believe that there is any tension between me and my  mom. 

  • DiveFrogDiveFrog member
    Eighth Anniversary 500 Comments 100 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited October 2013

    I can understand that family childcare doesn't work for all families, and I can understand NOT wanting to deal with those issues.

    However, I just have to refute the whole "I want grandparents to be able to spoil my kids" argument.

    I want my kids to be adored and loved by their grandparents and when they are young the absolute best way for that to happen, and for them to build that relationship is spending time with their grandparents. Having my parents and IL's watch DD gives them that time

    It is just a fact of life at this point that it is very unlikely that my parents and FIL will live to see my children as adults. They would all have to live until their late 80's just to see DD graduate HS, let alone see any second child we have graduate.

    I want my children and the grandparents to make the absolute most of the years they do have. At 16 months I can already see that DD has a deep connection to my parents and she has her own little inside secrets and routines with each of my parents. It is a truly amazing and beautiful thing to witness.

    The normal spoiling by Grandma and Grandpa can still happen when they watch your kids for you and they can still discipline your child at the same time...these are not mutually exclusive. My Dad can buy her the ball she wanted at the store, or my Mom can treat her to frozen yogurt on the way back from library time...No it isn't an everyday thing, or an every single time I see Grandma and Grandpa  I am going to 'get something', or go somewhere 'super special'....but it works out to the same amount of spoiling because most kids don't see their grandparents that much.


    From a practical perspective family daycare works for us because DH and I have good relationships with both sets of our parents and our parents are 100% on board with us being the parents and following our wishes. Sure we have had discussions about certain things, but they follow us without question on the big things (safety, feeding, sleeping and discipline). Honestly, other than those four I am not that concerned if the do things "Their way" versus mine.

    The only cons of family care for us that I see is that at a certain point DD will need more socialization and academic stimulation...but those are easy enough to supplement using toddler classes and eventually preschool.


  • I had my mother and MIL watch DS for 4 mos. My mom was awesome...I never worried about anything. My MIL drove me much so that there is definitely a wedge btwn us and btwn she and DH. She was very critical of a lot of our parenting techniques (dumb things like DS sleeping on his back as an infant, not starting solids until 5 mos, and a laundry list of others), mostly because she hasnt been around an infant in 30 years and, well, things have changed! She had too much to say and evenutally we had to call it quits and move to DC full time (coincidentally at the same time my  grandmother fell very ill and I didnt want to ask her to continue watchign DS when she had so much else on her plate). We are very happy with day care now and DS is thriving...but i will never forget some of the  very off putting conversations with my MIL. If you are worried about your relationship being strained I am assuming its because there are already things she does/says that bothers you. That will only me...i LOVE my mother in law and had a lot of patience, but that particular situation drove a wedge btwn us..and I know going forward I am going to keep everything surface with her.
  • My mother has watched DS at our house since I returned to work after my maternity leave. It has worked really, really well. She and I generally see eye-to-eye on parenting and she has always respected our decisions as parents, and we have paid her. I have loved not having to worry about getting out the door on time with a baby in tow. She will wash DS's diapers and clothes, and has occasionally started dinner for me, runs the dishwasher, etc. I don't ask her to do any of these things, but I'm so glad she does, as it does make my life easier. The best thing has been seeing the bond she has developed with DS. I love watching the smile on his face each morning as he watches her walk up to the house, and how comfortable and happy he is with her (and with my dad, who comes by each day to spend time with DS).

    The big downside is of course my parents' age. Mom is almost 63 and Dad is 70, and I know it has been harder on my mom than she anticipated. I am very adamant that we not ask her to watch DS outside of the work week if we can help it, and I think being respectful of her time that way has helped her. All in all, I have absolutely no regrets about having family provide care, but I think there need to be clear boundaries and expectations on both sides if it's going to work.
  • I really believe in the benefits of a structured daycare program, but I'm also a bit jealous hearing people's stories about how close their kids are with family.  I think one or two days with family, and the rest in a center or preschool would be perfect.  That's not an option for us, because my family lives in another state, and ILs are batsh*t crazy. I wouldn't leave a plant with them unsupervised. 
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  • My mom watches my 17-month-old daughter while I work 3 days a week. It's been great. I love that she is getting 1-on-1 attention, always has the same caregiver, and building a relationship with someone who loves her and will continue to be a big part of her life unlike a daycare teacher. She will take my daughter when she's mildly sick, which daycare wont do. My mom is also a retired child speech-language pathologist so that's been great too.

    Obviously, not every grandparent is right for this. They need to be able to respect your rules and willing to re-learn all the infant safety guidelines, but that's the easy part.

    There are a few key things that gave made it successful for us. First, back-up care. Grandma needs to be able to go on vacation or take a sick day too. We have a back-up care program through my husband's employer and it's been great knowing that we won't be up a creek calling random SAHM friends and great-aunts begging them to watch our kid. Second, this is just luck, but my dad is usually home from work by 1 so my mom isn't alone. He's not the best helper, but at least she can get a shower or run an errand without the baby. Third, I have a semi-flexible schedule at work, so if she gets invited to something on a weekday, I can usually accomodate it. Lastly, I try really hard to let her know she's appreciated. I make her photo books of DD, surprise her with flowers sometimes, stuff like that. I think that is really all most grandparents want, to know you appreciate it.

    The cons for us have been:
    1. We never, ever ask for her to babysit on evenings and weekends because we don't think it's fair to ask for more.
    2. I do have to listen to her opinion on all things childrearing. Luckily this mostly lines up with my own opinions and she was very supportive with BFing, etc. But she's much more paranoid when it comes to certain things, like toys with PVC, non-organic fruit, etc and I have to pick my battles there.
    3. It's really hard to turn down any family gatherings with them because part of me feels we 'owe' them.
    4. MIL is bitter but I'm pretty good at ignoring her by now so that hasn't been a big deal.

    Good luck!

    baby girl  5.12
  • DS (15 months) goes to DC 3 days a week and my parents watch him the other 2 days.  Some weeks my ILs take him for a day but it's not consistent.  The pros - my parents feed him really healthy meals and make sure he always gets long naps (something that doesn't happen all the time at DC), DS gets lots of attention and gets to do a lot of fun activities (swimming and music classes), my parents read to him a LOT (which is fabulous since that's DS' favourite activity), and he gets sick less often; or when he IS sick, there is someone to watch him. 

    The cons - inconsistency in discipline.  My Dad absolutely spoils DS and will let him do anything.  My mom, on the other hand, is rather strict.  Things that wouldn't normally bother me (e.g. pulling things off of shelves, scattering his books everywhere, making a mess while eating) bother her quite a bit and she tells him "no" a lot.  I feel like I can't say much since it's their house and it's unrealistic for me to expect that she'd change her way of living.  But the poor kid is probably confused.  Just last night she complained to me about how my Dad just let DS pull apart his playmat (it's made of interlocking puzzles).  I kept waiting for her to tell me what the problem was, but apparently that was it.  In my mind, I thought it was good that he was learning to pull that apart and then putting it back - it's working on a puzzle!  My mom also constantly tells me how DS is very well behaved whenever I'm not around but will throw huge tantrums when I am around.  That bothers me.  But in the grand scheme of things, I'm very grateful to have the help and I absolutely LOVE how much happiness DS brings to my parents' lives.

  • Oh I should also add that in addition to the benefits to DS, I think having my parents watch him has really helped my parents.  My Dad is anti-social and doesn't have many friends nor hobbies (the man was a workoholic before he retired); but ever since he started watching DS, he has become very social.  He loves talking about DS and would randomly chat up another grandparent.  He has also developed an interest in photography since he has been taking so many pictures of DS; and just last night he told me he was going to sign up for a digital film making class at the local seniors' college so that he can make DVDs of all of DS' funny moments.
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  • I work for the school district. My dad watches my little girl on the days when I have to work past 5 or 5:30. Other than that my daughter go it an in home daycare. I really like my babysitter. She is state licensed. Even though she can have more than 6 kids that's all she accepts. Infants and all. I will add also that for 6 weeks, my daughter did attend a daycare center. It was a newer center in my town but it was just so expensive. They called it "school" and even the little infants had a curriculum everyday even it it was just tummy time. My mom lives out of state so when she visits she does request her "gma" time.
  • My mom watched LO for the first 5 months exclusively and then she couldn't do a full week so the next couple of months switched to  2 days with my mom and 3 days with my SD18 . It was great and he never seemed to have any issues with me leaving him there. My mom didn't have any issues with what I told her I wanted for LO.
    The only issues is that everyone treated him like a baby. They held him most of the day. He didn't really get to crawl around and get the crawling down till we switched him to daycare at 9.5 months. It also meant if one decided they had something to do (cause after all they considered it a favor and not a real job cause they weren't getting paid mom didn't want any and we provided everything she needed for him (and even after we were paying the SD18)), they felt like they should be able to do it and I ended up having to take him to work a couple of times.
     I think as long as you discuss how you want things to go and what you want for the baby, you should be good. Expectations are always good when you set them upfront :)
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