A Is for Arrangement
Ideally, you'll talk with the grandparents about the childcare arrangement before you even have the baby. Here are some things you need to think about:
How much care will the grandparents provide? Will it be fulltime or just a few days a week? Will you add in a night for a date with your husband? Dan Kessinger, whose in-laws have cared for his children, now 4 and 5, since they were born, keeps extra hours to a minimum and asks for outside babysitting only with plenty of advance notice. "They're the first ones to know if we plan a trip," he says. "Of course they say yes, but we want to be respectful of their time and let them know we're grateful for their help."
Where will the care take place? If it's at your home, will the grandparents live in or come over daily? Will they be free to use the kitchen or the television as they wish? If it's at the grandparents', is the house properly childproofed? Will your child have a room there? Do you need to buy two of everything—baby swings, bouncy seats, high chairs—or will you bring the gear back and forth?
Will you pay the grandparents? If so, how much? While you can save quite a bit when family provides childcare, you also want to be sure the grandparents don't feel exploited. Mary Baker*, whose parents care for her sons, ages 7 and 9, after school each day, has never paid them, but she does compensate them in other ways, such as dinners out or expensive gifts at Christmas or birthdays.
With an infant, you need to agree on the nuts and bolts—feeding, napping, bathing. What will the child eat? Have this conversation early and revisit it each time you introduce a new food. What about naps? Do you want the grandparents to keep the baby awake during the day so she will sleep better at night? Will the grandparents bathe and dress the child or will you? Talk about it all; it'll be a good way for you to review your parenting plans even if you end up deciding to use a different childcare option.
As your child gets older, you need to think about discipline. What's your style? Do the grandparents agree with the 1-2-3 Magic method or know how to administer time outs? Will they feel comfortable enforcing repercussions? You need to make sure you're on the same page so your child receives consistent, loving discipline.