Dear Carolyn: My husband and I both worked full time while our children were young, and my parents looked after them full time. My husband and I were able to pad our retirement plans and we retired last year.
My daughter-in-law is expecting, and we couldn’t be happier. I offered to watch the grandchildren, as it would enable both my son and daughter-in-law to work full time.
To my surprise, my daughter-in-law is working part time and using a day-care facility attached to her workplace.
I am a little disappointed in their choice. If they used me as free babysitting they could save the money, or put it toward retirement or even a college savings account.
You will tell me not to say anything to them because it isn’t my decision to make, but I can’t help but feel they are taking a very short-sighted view.
I know I should be grateful I will get to see my grandchild often and enjoy my retirement in other ways. I just don’t know how to let go of my expectations for watching their kids and my impulse to give them reasons to change their mind.
You’re right, I’m advising you to zip it – but you’ve anticipated only part of the reason.
Yes, it’s their decision, but you will all benefit if you don’t stop there, and instead actively try to see the wisdom in their choice.
You have the money argument and the but-I’m-the-Grandma! argument in your favor, but there are arguments for their choice too: For one, this facility puts the mother right next to her child whenever she’s at work. That is a huge advantage, particularly if/when she is nursing.
And, this takes you out of a business relationship. It worked for you and your parents, but not everyone is so fortunate; a lot of bad feelings get introduced when family members enter a caregiving agreement. Maybe your son and daughter-in-law know themselves well enough to see this arrangement as better for family harmony.
Having the child in high-quality day care also can confer social and linguistic benefits – plus there’s the obvious benefit of your daughter-in-law getting more time with her baby in a part-time job than working full time as you envision.
Please use these or other reasons to support the couple’s decision, which is so much better than just forcing yourself not to grumble about it. Bring an unburdened heart to what will likely still be your significant role in this baby’s life.
To Grandma: If you’re willing to be the snow day/sick-kid backup day care, you will be valued perhaps more than as the day-to-day.
And remember – your daughter-in-law may not WANT to work full time, and if she can work out a part-time arrangement with her employer, more power to her.
Yes to both, thanks.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.