THE BLOG
08/19/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Oct 19, 2014

Why Grandma Might Not Be the Best Babysitter

With the new school year starting, you're likely thinking about how you'll meet your childcare needs for the year. Whether you need an after-school babysitter to care for your kids until you get home from work, a full-time nanny, or a regular sitter to give you a break a couple of afternoons a week, you may think Grandma is the ideal candidate. After all, who better to trust with the care for your children than your own mother or mother-in-law? Before you pull the trigger on hiring Grandma to be the babysitter, give some thought to these four reasons why she might not be the best choice for the job.

1. The Roles Have Reversed.
It may be difficult for your parent to understand or accept that you are now the head of the house, and that by taking on the role of "babysitter," she is working under your roof, rules and agreed-upon schedule. As a parent, you decide how your children will be raised. You have your own parenting philosophies, views and practices, some of which may be very different from those favored in your parents' childrearing days. Explaining your viewpoints and preferences for your child's diet, schedule, screen time, and discipline may be easier to do with an employee than with your own parent. In the same sense, it may be difficult for a grandparent to voice concerns or offer advice without being seen as meddling or undermining, and she may have a hard time enforcing the rules of your house if they were not the rules for hers.

2. Your Mother Might Not Really Want to be a Granny Nanny.
It may be hard for a grandparent to admit, even to herself, that she doesn't necessarily want to provide full-time care for her grandkids. The prospect of spending time with and helping to raise her grandchildren may sound wonderful, but the reality of it may be taxing, time consuming and a lot less appealing. Many grandparents feel they have done their time raising children and have earned freedom and flexibility in their Golden Years. Many would much rather serve as grandmother, rather than babysitter, and some may feel they are physically or mentally unfit for the role of a regular caregiver.

3. It's an Unclear Job Description.
Being a grandparent who is also an employee can be tricky. For instance, maybe you'd like to run a few errands or share a drink with your co-workers before heading home to relieve Grandma from nanny duty. It's easy to feel that your mother surely wouldn't mind another hour or two with her grandkids, and to lose sight of the fact that she looks forward to her time off just as much as you do. You're more likely to push the boundaries of the job with your mother than you would be with a hired stranger. You'd likely end up with Grandma feeling exhausted, burdened and taken advantage of.

4. The Job May Be a Financial Burden.
The financial aspects of hiring your mother or mother-in-law for childcare can get sticky. Some grandparents refuse to take money for their services, feeling that they want to help their child by saving them from childcare expenses and that spending time with their grandchildren is payment enough. However, there are many daily costs of caring for kids. Consider travel expenses, including the gas purchased to get to and from the job and for any carpooling of the kids, the toll the travel takes on her car, as well as taxi or public transportation costs she may incur during the day. In addition, there are plenty of meal, snack, entertainment, and incidental costs she may be picking up during the time with your children. For those who are retired, especially, these expenses can quickly become a financial burden.

Whether you choose your mother or mother-in-law for regular babysitting or decide to hire someone else for the job, select a caregiver who is the right fit for your family and its own unique needs. If hiring Grandma isn't in her best interest or yours, services like UrbanSitter.com can help you quickly and easily find a top-notch sitter who will quickly begin to feel like part of the family. And no matter whom you hire, having a clear dialogue about your expectations is the best way to tee up any babysitter-parent relationship for success.