Hiring Grandma

Caregiver Catastrophes: The Downside

Unfortunately, some grandparents are simply not cut out for this arrangement. "My mother-in-law is constantly offering to care for my baby once she's born," says Jane Stepan of Salem, Massachusetts, who's pregnant. "But she has uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes. She could suffer a medical emergency and the baby would be left uncared for." Other parents have safety concerns. "My mom is great at playing with babies, but I'm afraid she would get flustered if someone got hurt and wouldn't have the presence of mind to call 911," says one mother of two.

There's also the issue of spoiling. If the grandparent can't resist showering your child with gifts, neglects discipline, and ignores the rules you've laid out, she's not right for the job. "Every time I leave my kids with my mother, she flagrantly defies my rules," says Kate Beller of Scotch Plains, New Jersey. "I once saw her giving my then 2-year-old a huge wad of gum he could have choked on."

Last, if you and your mother or mother-in-law don't have a good relationship, having her babysit full-time won't bring you closer or cure those ills. "If you find her to be controlling, manipulative, and bossy, it doesn't make sense to have her care for your child," says Maier.

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