As a parent, especially one with very young children, you’ll want to make sure your little ones are not only safe but also very happy if they’re spending time in childcare. So, why not choose a great set of parents you already know to help you out? Why not choose Mum and Dad?
Your children, your parents
You know best, and your parents probably taught you most of what you know. You know what your children like and dislike to eat; you know what worries them, and what they’re nervous of; you know which TV programmes are an instant hit, which toys aren’t popular, and which special item makes going to sleep SO much easier – and your parents may already know this too. That can be a huge advantage.
Grandparents usually have the advantage of being involved right from the outset, and that can help reduce the worries involved when it comes to any special health needs, or something as simple as ‘I’m going to be late’. But your own needs are also important: it’s quite sensible to say that you, too, need to be confident your parents can cope with the responsibilities of looking after young ones – so here are some questions that you may like to think about, or even discuss with them before making a firm commitment.
Are your parents fit enough?
Dive in with a tough question! Your parents are older than you are so, even if they’re relatively young, it’s sensible to consider if they – and you – feel comfortable they’re agile enough to look after an energetic youngster. If your children are of push-chair or pram age, then a walk in the park may be beneficial for everyone involved. But if you have excited toddlers running around and perhaps running off, could Mum or Dad still catch up?
Will they have the time?
As we grow older, aims in life change. Do your parents have plans that involve making changes to childcare arrangements on an irregular basis? For some children, that’s fine; for others, stability is very important – so it’s worth talking this through: could Mum and Dad make a firm commitment to so many hours a day, every day?
What about general health and safety?
Yes, times change. These days, we’re far more aware of obligations to each other in terms of health and safety. Fridge-locks, stair-gates, medicine-cabinets, coffee-table corners … these are all things that parents add to their ‘check it out’ routine, regularly. But when it comes to childcare on a more permanent basis, could your parents completely child-proof their home too, or would they be visiting you in yours? Grandparents usually know what to look out for when it comes to bumps and scrapes, but are there other concerns you’d like them to be aware of, and how will you feel if someone close to you makes a health decision you’re not happy about ?
How will you handle differences in opinion?
Inevitably, there may be things you’d like ‘done another way’. Seems obvious to say so, but your parents are older than you now and ‘in their day’ things WERE different! That could be anything from the way nappies are changed, to the way food is heated up; it could be ‘don’t worry about cardigans and Wellington Boots’, it could be ‘we don’t let them use a tablet or a Smartphone – until after tea.’ Understanding what the ground rules are is one thing, but what’s even more important is agreeing in advance how you’re going to deal with differences in opinion – and, perhaps, accepting that if you can’t be there, then you’ll have to trust someone else’s judgement, some times.
What kind of environment will your children be in?
Your parents’ home may have changed significantly since you left – or it may be the same. Everyone’s home is different. But would you have to provide a second set of toys, clothes and food equipment (things like sterilizers or bottle-warmers), and would your parents offer a continuous supply of activities and fun things to do? Probably, but these aspects of childcare do benefit from planning – and a budget. Which brings us to…
What will it cost?
Good question. How do you ‘pay’ your parents to look after your children? Some people wouldn’t feel comfortable with the situation at all; there’s certainly a tax implication involved, and any kind of paid childcare raises contractual issues and points to think about in terms of liability and duty of care. On the other hand, a firm arrangement may make it slightly easier to be sure of who's doing what, exactly when.
Your children, your choices
It doesn’t matter what the reasons are for needing or wanting some help looking after your children – you may want childcare because you’re working, or perhaps you simply need a short-term break from looking after them full-time yourself: that’s absolutely fine in either case – but in an ideal world, you’ll also want the environment to be secure, fun and educational too.
We say this: the quality of the childcare you choose is the most important thing. You must do what’s right for your immediate family, not what’s right in someone else’s opinion – and the truth is, your circumstances are unique and your decision should be based on those alone. Your parents could be an excellent choice, because they bring all the security of ‘knowing us’ to the arrangement, but it’s still important to work through the practical aspects of childcare arrangements first, and make the decision with your head not your heart…