Family Life


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The Pros and Cons of Choosing Family Members as Daycare Providers

Toddler Road Trip - Parents Canada

Grandma care - the pros and cons of choosing family members as daycare providersParents say if they can’t be home with their children, then a family member is the next best thing. But it’s not always a perfect solution.

What a workday. Your meeting ran late. You missed your train. Now you’ll be lucky if you’re home before dusk. At least you don’t have to worry about getting to the daycare before it closes.

As a working parent, you’ve got a lot on your mind, for sure. But the one thing you don’t have to worry about: daycare centre hours. It’s well after six o’clock when you finally make it in the front door. But your child is in the kitchen with grandma, happily putting the finishing touches on a pan of cookies. And no one is watching the clock. That’s just one of the advantages of having a relative double as a daycare provider.

On the whole, relatives are a top daycare pick for Canadian parents. A Vanier Institute of the Family survey of daycare preferences found that if neither mom nor dad can be home with the kids, in an ideal world, the next best thing is grandma or grandpa. And if they can’t do it, then any other blood relative is considered a better choice than a non-related daycare provider. Even in Quebec, where parents have access to quality daycare at low cost, parents would sooner have their kids cared for by family.

Alison Brandon’s three-year-old daughter is among the one in three kids who is looked after by a relative. Grandma quit her job in Ottawa to provide daycare. Alison says, “It works well for us. There are fantastic daycares out there, but often those are really hard to get into.” Besides, there’s a lot Alison likes about having her mom provide the care. She appreciates the one-on-one attention, and she trusts her mom to comfort her daughter instead of letting her cry it out. Perhaps most important is the unbeatable bond that has developed between them. “That’s really important to me. My parents are immigrants, and I never saw my grandparents. It’s just wonderful for my daughter to have that relationship with her grandmother.”

Two thumbs up from Kitty Raymond, a parent educator in Calgary, who says, “I believe there are advantages to family care that are sometimes so subtle they can easily be overlooked. Babies do best in the care of an adult who is strongly attached to them, and to whom they can become attached in return. And when children grow up with regular contact with their extended families, it gives them an additional perspective on family life. Stories and experiences are passed down.”

Let’s Hear It from Grandma

We talked with four women who regularly provide daycare to their grandchildren. Although all

four of these anonymous grandmothers love their work, they admit it’s not all roses.

Grandma A:
“The thing is getting up at six in the morning. If I could sleep in, my lifestyle would be a little bit easier. When I tell friends my own age what time I get up, they say, ‘you gotta be crazy!’ They sleep in until nine. By that time, I’ve done three loads of laundry! During the summer months, when the kids are out of school, I can’t make daytime appointments and such because I’m really tied to the house. I think I’m due for a raise!”

Grandma B:
“Privacy is a challenge. I don’t have a life of my own, nor do they. Perhaps I’m expected to do a little bit more than just taking care of the kids, like household chores. Although part of that is

me, too, because I like to do as much as I can.”

Grandma C:
“There’s a difference between the role of a grandparent and the role of a caregiver. When one is a caregiver, there’s more involvement in discipline. I miss the role of the grandparent who can be more indulgent. I sometimes feel that there isn’t that time to sit down with my daughter and just enjoy being together. Even when we sit briefly together when she’s picking up the kids, it’s

always with the youngsters around. It limits some of that relationship time.”

Grandma D:
“I love my two grandchildren, but I wouldn’t have chosen to be tied down at my age. For our family it was a necessity. It’s my contribution to help my daughter get on her feet financially. It hasn’t been ideal, but the long-term goal may make it worthwhile.”

Don’t expect everything to be done your way. That’s not a reasonable goal. Express your appreciation. Say thank you every single day, and find other ways to let your relative know she’s valued.

Published May 2010

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