Giving Grandma the babysitting brush-off

Parent advice

From our panel of staff contributors

Tell her that you fear the kid(s) would be too much of a handful, but emphasize that she is always welcome to visit. And you could also float the idea that if she saw the kids every day, her visits would not be as special as a grandma visit should be.

Bill Hageman

Is there middle ground? Maybe the nanny would like to take off Friday afternoons or another afternoon during the week. Or grandma could come midafternoon and stay while you and your spouse have date night one night a week. You could save a few bucks and grandma would appreciate knowing she's appreciated. If she isn't, please send her our way!

Wendy Donahue

Grandma is most likely going to be in your lives a lot longer than the nanny, so your handling of this could have lifelong consequences. Would all people concerned be up for sharing duties? We had grammy watch the twins in the morning; just about the time she was tired, the nanny showed up for the afternoon; then we arrived home to relieve the nanny. The kids realized that the world is full of people who love them. Nannies' lives change so rapidly. Why decline this generous offer from someone who loves your children and will always be in their lives?

Dodie Hofstetter

Expert advice

Start by assuming that the offer comes from a good, generous place.

"No granny in her right mind would want her daughter or daughter-in-law to be unhappy with her," says parenting coach Betsy Brown Braun, author of "Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents" (HarperCollins). "There's no doubt she just wants to be helpful."

But keeping baby-sitting duties and grandmother duties mostly separated isn't a bad idea, she adds.

"Things have really changed a lot in 25 to 30 years," says Brown Braun. "The way young parents want to (raise their kids) is often very different — letting them cry or not letting them cry, putting them down to sleep on their backs or their tummies, giving them candy or not giving them candy."

When those new parents have handpicked the nanny — and pay him or her — they find it easier to spell out the house rules.

"I see this all time in my practice: Moms say they aren't happy with something their mothers or mothers-in-law are doing, but they say, 'I'm just so grateful she's watching them. I can't say anything,'" Brown Braun says.

Preservation of the family bond is a perfectly valid reason to turn down the offer, and should be your stated reason when you break the news.

"I would start by saying, 'We're incredibly grateful that you would want to give this much of your own time, but this is our time to raise our children our way, and we wouldn't want to do anything that would put us at risk of damaging our relationship with you. You mean so much to us,'" Brown Braun says.

"Granny should enjoy her relationship as a grandmother and be that special, loved person and know that mothers feel very different about nannies than they do about grannies."

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