Assessing my options
I started to think about childcare whilst I was still pregnant with my first child, Charlie. Who would look after him when I returned to work? Nurseries are so expensive so could we afford to pay the costs full time? Would a child minder be better? Would a family member be more appropriate? Could I use a mixture of all these options? It was going to be hard enough to leave him at all when I went back to work. I wanted to make sure that he was as happy as possible. I also needed flexibility in my increasingly pressured role.
My mum was working as a part-time Assistant Cook in a school kitchen when I fell pregnant. I had a discussion with her around whether she would be willing to give up her job to look after Charlie when I went back to work. We would pay her although it would be slightly less than what she was earning. My mum agreed that this was an option she was happy to consider.
Weighing up the pros and cons
I looked at the cost of putting Charlie in nursery full time. I realised that this was ridiculously expensive. Although nurseries are a great environment for children to develop social skills and interact with other children, putting Charlie in a nursery at 7 months did seem a very young age to do so. He wouldn’t have one to one care. He probably wouldn’t benefit so much with interaction and development as a baby, as he would do when he was older. I completely realise that this is the only option for some parents. I have no criticism of nurseries at all. However, we decided that this wasn’t the right option for us at this time.
I spoke to some of my friends who were using child minders to look after their children. This is definitely a cheaper option than nursery. Although Charlie still wouldn’t receive one to one care, the ratio of carer to child is far better than nursery. He could still interact with other children but on a smaller scale and in a more informal environment.
We also considered reducing my hours to part-time or my now husband’s, but with a wedding to pay for that year and both of us still having goals to achieve in our careers, this was not an option. My husband is a trainee Paramedic and has very sporadic shifts that we would find child care difficult to work around.
After assessing all these options, my mum looking after Charlie was the best choice for us. Charlie loved her, and it enabled her to spend more time with her grandchild. She had a very physically tiring job working in a kitchen, and although looking after a child full time is absolutely mentally and emotionally exhausting, it would give her a physical rest compared to what she was doing.
It is a cheaper option for us and provides my husband and I with flexibility if we need to work extra hours and go in earlier or finish later. I could return to work confident that Charlie was safe, happy and secure and had one to one care all day. Who better to look after your child than someone who loves and adores them equally as much as you do?
For anyone considering grandparents as an option for childcare there are a few tips I would suggest making sure that this agreement works:
Treat the agreement as a business one when it comes to payment. We set up a direct debit to my mum for an agreed monthly amount to be paid on the same day each month. Money is not mentioned now, and we don’t have any issues.
Understand that your mum/dad is doing a paid job that is very hard work. It doesn’t harm to show them how much you appreciate them once in a while. Understand that they will get tired and stressed from time to time as it is an emotionally exhausting job.
Set out any specific requirements that you would like your parents to try and adhere to. I wanted Charlie to try and interact with other children, so my mum attended lots of playgroups and toddler groups and play centres. I also wanted to keep sweet treats to a minimum.
We adequately supply my mum with nappies, wipes and food for Charlie to cover the day. I see this as our responsibility and this is only the same as what some nurseries and child minders require.
Prepare to ask other baby sitters to look after your children if you want to go out at weekend. I’m not saying that we don’t ever ask my mum, but we try to avoid it to give her a break.
A note to my mum
The best decision I made was asking you to look after Charlie. He has such a close relationship with you and has made lots of new friends because of all the groups you took him to. Sometimes we disagreed on things, but this turned into healthy debate and was needed to progress things forward. As you know I am nearing the end of my second maternity leave and you will be looking after our little girl Jorgie-Mae with the same love, care and attention that you did Charlie. Charlie started nursery during maternity leave and will continue when I return to work as he needs to prepare for school and give you a break. Looking after two kids would send you to the brink as it would me! We are incredibly lucky that we have you as an option and your support is invaluable.
I hope you look back on this experience as a positive one. Remember grandparents who babysit their grandchildren tend to live longer and feel younger! You are an example of a young and cool Nanna!