To encourage your child’s relationship with Granny to grow – not to mention save on childcare costs (yay)– having her help out couldn’t be better. The bad news is that there can be some troublespots
Given so many people have far flung family who can't help out, you're lucky if your mum (or mum-in-law) lives close enough to offer to do some childcare. But while it’s a relationship you really don’t want to mess up, it’s not always easy to hand over responsibility, especially when she arrives laden with Haribo...
1 Lay ground rules
It's easy to assume everything will click into place and that your mum (or mum-in-law) will know you don’t allow CBeebies until 4pm or that tea’s always at 5.30pm. But you need to talk about what you both expect from your set up, including what activities baby and Granny might do together. ‘If you wait until things have gone wrong to talk about it, there’ll be more friction,’ says Relate family counsellor Denise Knowles.
2 Be grateful
Yes, Granny loves being including in your child’s life. No, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to bother saying thank you on a regular basis. ‘Just a text when she’s on her way home, appreciating that she hung out your washing or made biscuits with your son can really help smooth things along,’ says Denise.
3 Invite her to fun stuff too
As well as those panicked phone calls asking Gran if she can do the nursery pick up because you’re stuck at work, don’t forget to make sure she’s also on the birthday party invite list, or ask her if she wants to come to the nursery play. ‘Even asking if she wants to come to the baby clinic with you will make her feel included, beyond just covering your childcare,’ says Denise.
4 Accept some give and take
Ok, so your mum arrives with her pockets full of Kit-Kats (just when you've spent all day convincing your toddler that a blueberry is actually a sweet), but if you don't see her too often, try to let a few things go. 'Unless she's regularly and fundamentally undermining your principles, remember that Grannies are always prone to giving a few treats and that's ok,' says Denise.
5 Spell out how she can help
Your mum (or mum-in-law) won't automatically know what’s expected of her and how much to do when she starts helping out with your baby. Unless you’ve discussed it, she’ll always be second-guessing you. ‘Some mums might prefer that she sticks to childcare and leaves housework and other domestic stuff to you,’ says Denise. 'But you need to have that conversation.'
'It's healthy that your mum has her own interests rather than always wanting to be part of yours'
6 Remember, Grannies have lives too
What do you mean you're playing Bridge on a Tuesday night? It can come as a shock that your mum won’t drop everything to babysit, just because you fancy a mum’s night out. ‘But it’s far healthier that she has her own interests rather than always wanting to be part of yours,’ says Denise.
7 Accept she will do things differently.
And that’s ok. You can’t expect Granny to replicate every decision that you might make if you were at home with your child. ‘Your children will learn to accept that Granny does things slightly differently,’ says Denise. ‘There are lots of benefits to having someone else in charge, such as different meals ideas and new games, nursery rhymes or activities.’
8 Don’t remote control her
The fact that you’ve asked your in-law or mum to do some childcare suggests that you trust her and are happy to involve her. ‘If you’re doing it simply for financial reasons, you should think again as this is likely to cause problems,’ says Denise. But, provided you do trust her, let her get on with it. ‘Texting every half an hour to tell her what to do or to check up on her will undermine her confidence,’ says Denise.
9 Have catch ups
Just because you had a vague chat about how much Granny was up for doing when you were still pregnant and blissfully unaware of the demands of looking after a new baby, this doesn’t mean it’s job done. ‘You’ll need to keep talking about how things are going, because everything changes quickly as your baby gets older,’ says Denise Knowles.
10 Establish an annual Granny outing
‘Once a year, I take my mum to a spa or treat her to a really expensive meal out,’ says Ruth, 33, from Chicester, mum to Harry, three. ‘It’s a chance to thank her for everything she does and remind her that I am grateful, even if we sometimes bicker.’ This is also a great way to spend time just the two of you – no babies allowed.
Does your mum or mum-in-law look after your baby? How do you keep that relationship running smoothly? Tell us in the comments box below.