On the Mindful Return blog, I cover child care-related topics with some frequency (see below for links to a bunch of helpful resources).  But I’ve never broached the subject of how to make a family childcare arrangement work effectively.

It turns out this is a tough subject for new moms to broach in a public forum for a number of reasons.  First, there’s an understandable need for privacy (and not wanting to say anything that will damage that caregiver relationship!).  And second, not too many of the moms I’ve worked with in the Mindful Return program have had family members watching their little ones while they’re at work.  Many of us, it seems, don’t live close to family or have other reasons for turning to nannies, daycares, and au pairs.

For this post, then, I am grateful to a new working mama who, while preferring to remain anonymous, did want to share her story to help other new moms as they navigated this childcare path.  My favorite of her tips?  Assume positive intent.  That’s probably good advice to follow, no matter the caregiving situation.  (Also check out my script for critical conversations here.)

Here’s my interview with this new working mama, whose mom cares for her daughter:

Q:  How did you decide on having a family member care for your child while you were at work?

A: I decided on having a family member care for my child while I was at work, both for convenience and for peace of mind.  When my husband and​ I were home buying, we purposely looked for a house that was close to my parents.  My mom was a daycare provider for 16 years, so it seemed like a no brainer for us​.

Q:  Who takes care of your baby, and what does the arrangement look like (how many hours per week, etc.)?

A:  My mother takes care of our baby Monday through Friday, about 45 hours a week, from 7am-6pm.  Thursday is our date night, so she stays overnight one day a week.  If my mom has errands to run or doctors appointments to go to​,​ we coordinate our schedules to meet her needs.

Q:  How did you first broach the subject with your mom?

A:  I first broached the question with my when I was pregnant.  My mom was very open to it and expected she would be a caregiver.

Q:  Is there any compensation exchanged?

A:  There is no ​formal compensation.  However, I have agreed to take care of my parents’ burial and funeral expenses in advance,​ as a non-formal form of compensation​.

Q:  What’s your back-up plan in the event your mom is sick or otherwise unavailable?

A:  Our back-up plan is to take a vacation or sick day and stay home, if my mom is sick or unavailable.​

Q:  What are some the benefits of your arrangement?

A:  Benefits include peace of mind, knowing that our baby is with a family member.  Our baby gets undivided attention, which can be a good or a bad thing. ​  I can also call my mom at any time of the day, to speak with her about how the baby is doing too.

Q:  What are some of the challenges?  And how have you addressed them?

​A:  From a cultural standpoint there are many challenges.  We are from the Caribbean, so my mom started to introduce solids and gripe water before 4 months!  I’ve tried to coach her on it, but she is adamant.  It’s an ongoing battle that I simply am not winning.  I just try to remind myself that my mom has good intentions and that is trying to do what she thinks is best.  ​

Q:  Have you had any differences about child rearing styles?  If so, how did you address them?

​ A:  Yes, we have had differences in child-rearing styles.  My mom never lets my 4-month year old cry and prefers to give her a bottle to console her.  Again, I have tried to tell her that sometimes the baby is not hungry and that she needs to try another way to soothe her.  It’s a work in progress!

Q:  Any recommendations you have for others whose family members may watch their children?

​A:  My recommendations for other parents who have family members who watch their children is to speak with them in advance about your preferences.  Try not to make it a battle, but rather compromise on some aspects.  Try to keep in mind that everyone wants what’s right for the baby.

Thank you, new mama, for sharing your perspectives here!

And if you are looking for more Mindful Return resources on childcare issues, check out these related blog posts:

Back to Work After BabyNeed help thinking through additional returning-to-work logistics as you prepare to go back from maternity leave?  Consider joining the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.  

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