Nicki Donley was thrilled -- and relieved -- when her father agreed to care for her girls. She'd had triplets, born prematurely, so day care was prohibitively expensive and finding a sitter proved to be a bust. "I interviewed several prospects, but it just didn't feel right," says Donley, of Twinsburg, Ohio. Having her dad come to her house two or three days a week gave Donley and her husband peace of mind. It's been seven years now, and Donley's folks (these days, her mom is the main sitter) are still the trio's twice-weekly caregivers. Donley's mom, Bonnie Peretto, 62, says keeping up with triplets "who think Grandma can do everything they can do" is physically tough, but also rewarding.
The sense of safety and trust that Donley enjoys is paramount for new moms and dads "employing" parents as babysitters. And the cost of turning a family member into Mary Poppins can't be beat. It's easy to understand why 30 percent of preschoolers whose mothers work outside the home are cared for by their grandparents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But is it right for you?