Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should We Leave Our Kids with My Mother Or Hire a Nanny?”

I have been a stay-at-home mom for a while, but for several reasons my husband and I have decided that I need to return to work. I have been offered a fantastic opportunity, but they need me to start ASAP.

Unfortunately, the daycare we intend to use, as well as any other local daycare, does not have openings right now for our children and will not be able to get them in for two months. So, we have two options for interim childcare: my mother who lives nearby or hiring someone.

My mother is willing to keep my kids at her house, but we have a few hang-ups. She is keeping my sister’s infant all day and her school-age child in the afternoons (and driving carpool), so we worry this will be too much for her. She would have to load and unload two infant carriers and a three- year-old (who can’t buckle himself yet) every time she ran carpool. Her vehicle will accommodate all the kids, but managing this many kids would be hard even for me, and I’m not in my 60s. Also, she has a dog that my husband doesn’t trust. The dog has been known to be aggressive, but only with adult males. Finally, my brother stays with my mom off and on, and he has a history of drug problems. Although he is supposedly clean right now, I am not 100% certain.

I am struggling with the idea of bringing in a complete stranger, our only other option, on such short notice. I would have, at most, a week to find someone. That isn’t really enough time to get to know someone and let the kids get to know that person, too. Also, who would take a job with a known end date? If it were summertime, I’d think maybe a college student. But, it isn’t summer. (I have tried to find someone we might know and trust through church and friends, but to no avail, which leaves me finding someone via the web).

So, do we ask my mother to keep the kids and hope that she can handle it? Or do we hire someone we aren’t sure we trust? I’m leaning towards my mother–and my husband towards the nanny. What should we do? — Mom Needing Childcare Help

You honestly think that leaving your senior-citizen mother alone with two infants and what sounds like an additional two to three school-aged children, an aggressive dog, and a drug-addicted adult child, every day for two months, is a better idea than leaving your two children in the care of a professional nanny? You’re tempted to go with that scenario without even trying to find a professional first? I hear a lot of excuses — you only have one week, you don’t have enough time to get to know the nanny and have your kids get to know her, no one is going to want to work for two months, etc., etc., but none of these excuses sound like valid reasons to not even try an online search (which you could even start through various neighborhood parents’ groups, perhaps on Facebook or Yahoo, which is how I found our part-time nanny over four years ago).

First of all, how many professional nannies do you really think spend time “getting to know” the kids they’ll be paid to watch before committing to the job? Do you think teachers “get to know” their students before the school year begins? At most, there might be a meet-and-greet before a paid professional is charged with caring for and/or teaching your child, but the relationship-building “getting to know each other” happens on the job and not before.

Second of all, plenty of nannies would be happy to have full-time work for two months. Maybe they have a summer gig lined up — you know, when most kids are out of school and in need of childcare — and would be happy to have some interim work until then. Maybe their employer is about to go on maternity leave and is suspending the nanny’s employment for a couple months. There are plenty of reasons that a nanny, whose work schedule and lifestyle is much different than a typical 9-5 employee, would welcome temporary work.

Finally, you actually have more than a week to find someone. Maybe your job starts in a week, but if you’re leaning towards having your mother watch your kids — again, on top of watching the multiple children she already cares for, plus an aggressive dog and a drug-addicted adult, then why couldn’t you have her watch the kids for a week or two until you can line up alternative care? Even having her watch your children under those circumstances only one day a week or half days is better than all day, every day. Speaking of flexibility and piece-work childcare, which is how many modern families approach childcare, you could also look for a nanny to do afternoons with your kids so that, when your mother has to pick up the school-aged children and run the carpool, she’s not juggling four or five young children at once.

In arguing for the nanny route, I haven’t even touched yet on the multiple relationship conflicts that could arise when fielding full-time childcare to a family member who is already overburdened with the task of watching another family member’s multiple kids. There’s no way your mother will possibly be able to give each child personal attention and meet his or her individuals needs the exact way you would prefer. Sure, that’s not going to happen in a daycare facility either, but interpersonal relationships aren’t on the line the same way when you’re paying professionals to watch your kids and you have the managed expectations parents should have going into group childcare situations.

Will the world end if your mother has to watch five children every day for two months? No. But the risk of harm to her, your kids, and certainly the inter-family relationships is greater, in my opinion, than if you found a nanny to take on all or some of the childcare duties during that time.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

30 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Tara March 25, 2016, 8:36 am

    I was a nanny during grad school. I only met the kids once, for like 30 minutes and that was part of the interview with the mom before getting hired and starting. I was totally “thrown in to the fire” and that’s completely normal.
    Post an add on Care.com or Sitter City and contact a few nannies you like on the site, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone.

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  • avatar

    PumpkinSpice March 25, 2016, 8:45 am

    LW: there are multiple nanny websites out there who hire reputable nannies and do full background checks and these nannies come with years of experience and a lot of them are educated in early childhood development and education. Do a Google Search, read the reviews of potential agencies and do your own full background screening of the potentials. It really isn’t that hard. There are plenty of options out there, all you have to do is ask around and do some research. There are also websites out there that will do a full screening on the person for a minimal fee. O know we all hear horror stories in the news, but that doesn’t mean there is no good childcare out there. Take the time and look around. But just be sure to do your research.i know it is hard to be able to trust your family in the hands of a stranger, but there are a lot of good people out there looking for work who are professionally trained to take care of children.

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  • juliecatharine

    Juliecatharine March 25, 2016, 8:46 am

    I agree with Wendy-that is way too many kids for your mother to take on full time. Another thought-would it be possible to hire a nanny to work with your mother at her house? It comes with its own set of complications of course but your kids would still spend time with grandma and their cousins and your mom would have another responsible adult to share the work with.

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    • avatar

      Vathena March 25, 2016, 8:57 am

      This was my thought too. The best of both worlds! But it would only work if the mom/grandma was on board.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar March 25, 2016, 11:07 am

      Nanny or mothers helper. Perfect!

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  • avatar

    PumpkinSpice March 25, 2016, 8:53 am

    Here are a few links to help guide you in choosing the right agency. Wendy is right, your mom has way way way to much on her plate right now. I hope this helps!

    http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/148722/5_best_places_to_find

    http://www.nannynetwork.com/Library/Parentlib/10agencyques.cfm

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  • avatar

    anonymousse March 25, 2016, 9:12 am

    Care.com is also popular, although I think you have to pay a fee to really use it.

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  • kare

    kare March 25, 2016, 9:27 am

    I don’t have kids, so apologies if this is a dumb question: but can you even fit 3 car seats in one vehicle? I guess if she has a van or something that would work. Just depending on her vehicle, it might not be feasible to fit 4 children in the back seat (that’s not including any other kids she might pick up doing the carpool).

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom March 25, 2016, 9:43 am

      It would take a van because you can’t put that many kids in the back seat of a car and none of them are old enough to ride in the front seat. Most cars will only fit two car seats in the backseat because the car seats are now so large that the base of each seat will cover the center seat belt. Also, depending on the height of the driver and how far back they have to put their seat to get the necessary leg room to drive, some car seats won’t fit in the seat behind the driver in the rear facing position because the tilt of the car seat puts it into the same space that the drivers seat is taking. We could only put our daughter’s car seat behind the front passenger seat when it was rear facing. Lifting small children into a car is hard enough but getting them into the back seat of a van is even tougher because you have to climb in and lean over to get to the back and then while being stooped lift the child into the seat.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover March 25, 2016, 10:02 am

        Depends on the car and carseats actually. The Diono Radian is really narrow, that’s what I’ve got. My kid loves it, we’re going to get them for our second as well. You can put two of them forward-facing, and in between you can have a bucket seat rear-facing. Or you can put three of them in a row if your car is wide enough. It would definitely be a pain to get the middle kid in there and buckled up though.

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      • kare

        kare March 25, 2016, 11:05 am

        Good to know. I can’t imagine trying to wrangle 2 infants and a toddler into car seats by myself. Of course, she would still need a van or something because the other child probably isn’t old enough to ride in the passenger seat.

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    • veritek33

      veritek33 March 25, 2016, 10:14 am

      my co worker has three car seats in his honda civic. When there’s a will, apparently there’s a way!

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 25, 2016, 10:32 am

        I have to wonder if at least one of them is very, very old and has a narrower base or if two of them are hanging off the off the seat on the sides. You can’t make three seats whose total number of inches are greater than the seat fit just because you will them to do so.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover March 25, 2016, 10:39 am

        I left another comment to this effect but I wasn’t logged in and it’s waiting for moderation. There are definitely narrow carseats you can get. I have the Diono Radian and you can fit three across even in a compact or mini car, even in one smaller than the Civic. I think the carseat companies are doing it on purpose now because gas is more expensive and fewer people are going the minivan route.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 25, 2016, 11:20 am

        That’s nice to know. Are they rear facing until the child is two or do you use an infant seat? I found that the base increased in size as the amount of time rear facing went up and there had to be more leg room for the child.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover March 25, 2016, 11:42 am

        The one I have is rear until 40lbs/44″, which will even cover most 3 year olds. My son really loves it because it’s not as “formed”, it’s a more open design with just a flat seat, and then armrests, so it’s open beside their legs. He hates feeling trapped. We have a second one that’s bigger and filled-in on the sides, he hates it. This one is supposed to be fine for babies too, but personally I would feel weird putting a baby in it because of the openness. I’m going to get more once the new baby is older though, because they do forward-facing up till 65lbs/57″, and then they can be a booster up till 100lbs/57″. So this is the only seat you really need, unless you need a booster at the end when they grow out of it. But boosters are cheap. Anyway, I did a ton of research on it and when I first got it I didn’t think it was as nice as my Britax, but my son loves it so much more and that’s what matters. We’ll use the Britax for the baby till she’s a bit bigger and then get a Radian for her too.

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    • avatar

      Gwyneth6 March 25, 2016, 10:26 am

      There’s a narrow type, “radian” Brand car seats. My relative had 3 in a station wagon. These are also seats that go until baby is around 7 years old (till too tall).

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  • avatar

    Unwanted_Truth March 25, 2016, 10:29 am

    I agree with Wendy on this, and everyone else just the same. I do have one question concerning the children staying with the LW’s mother, even if for a week or two. Some of the children she already cares for are school aged, right? My son is 10, but even when he was 7 or 8 he was happy ready and willing to help out with small chores around the house and in the yard with leaves and such, so would be at all possible that one or two of the older kids help at all, even if in the smallest of ways? Maybe help buckle in the kids, and the mother just recheck before leaving to make sure they are all buckled in properly, you know, stuff like that, although small could end being a big help and the older kids would feel good about helping and learning new stuff? just a thought. Like I said though i’m thinking of this just being temporary of course because I’d be concerned with the dog and the sometimes drug addict adult being around .

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  • avatar

    Gwyneth6 March 25, 2016, 10:30 am

    Do you use Facebook? A lot of parenting groups are secret groups and someone needs to add you. Ask your local parent friends to add you to any groups they know. I’m in a larger city and we also have a childcare group, (and more for each suburb) nannies, daycare owners and parents make posts and then can be private messaged. Likely less sketchy than craigslist or kijiji or whatever classifieds

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  • avatar

    Taylor March 25, 2016, 10:33 am

    LW, you could also hire a helper to be around your Mom with all the kids, if you’d like her vetted by a family member first.

    Good luck, and congrats on the new job!

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  • avatar

    Sara March 25, 2016, 10:45 am

    2nd Juliecatherine’s advice…this doesn’t have to be an either or. If you’re concerned about a stranger, hire someone who will help your mother. That way you have someone there who can do the heavy lifting, but you also know your mother is there. A friend of mine did this for the first year and a half of her child’s life.

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  • chief10

    chief10 March 25, 2016, 10:58 am

    Professional all the way. Best for the kids and grandma!

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  • avatar

    Ron March 25, 2016, 12:16 pm

    I also vote to go the nanny route. If you can’t get things arranged within a week, ask your husband to take a week’s vacation and fill in. Heck, ask him to take two weeks off if necessary. It’s not like you are going to have more than a week’s vacation yourself this year, if that, as a new employee, so your husband taking some vacation time to kid sit is not going to rob you of any family vacation time.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph March 25, 2016, 2:31 pm

      Great point to get the husband involved. It sounds like the LW is taking on all the burden herself that since she is going back to work and had previously been a SAHM that it is her responsibility to arrange childcare. But she and her husband decided together that she should go back to work, so where is his half of the burden of figuring how to get childcare ASAP?

      Besides, this will be good practice for the many future times that his job will be impacted by childcare now that both of them are working outside the home. As you point out, she’s not gonna have a lot of vacation time as she starts a new job… so guess who’s going to be taking care of feverish kids too sick for daycare? That’s right… dad!

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  • avatar

    Anonymous March 25, 2016, 1:01 pm

    I suggest hiring someone you like to help your mother. That way you have someone you trust 100% and you mom will have some help. We are in a situation that is close to this. We are having my husbands brother (who is between jobs) watch the kid. Flying him out and paying room and board for the 5 weeks.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros March 25, 2016, 3:34 pm

    I’m a little surprised that the idea of having the mother watch them temporarily until someone could be hired was ignored by the LW. The time it takes to ruminate on this could be used to start setting up interviews. I also think that your expectations are a little off. A nanny doesn’t need to know your kids beforehand. They just need to meet the requirements you have, have good references/background check, and be a good fit. Plenty of folks need summer work, like college students or people who have summers off (I have teacher friends who are nannies in the summer) or people whose last nanny jobs just ended. Just gotta do the legwork of finding s

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark March 25, 2016, 6:23 pm

    What does she drive a school bus? How do you drive carpool with four kids in the car before you even leave home?

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    • avatar

      Kate March 28, 2016, 6:31 am

      Probably in a 3-row Suburban or something. That’s what this limo driver who has 7 kids told me he does (He also said he’s gotten 14 kids in there, not with seat belts).

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    • avatar

      keyblade March 28, 2016, 7:29 am

      I used to sit on the floor of a van back in the 80s.

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    • redessa

      redessa March 28, 2016, 10:02 am

      My minivan has seating for 8. Even if no one is old enough to sit in the front, I can safely drive 6 kids with seatbelts and/or carseats.

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