Paying Grandparents to Watch Kids

by TTMK on July 15, 2013 · 9 comments

Child care can be extraordinarily expensive.   I had a conversation recently with someone without kids, who assumed it cost a couple of hundred dollars per month for a kid to be watched.  Well, his jaw dropped when I told him exactly how much it really cost for most people.  He first thought I was joking, until I relayed that no, actually I’m totally serious about those figures! And besides, the kid has to be more than “watched” – he or she should be cared for and provided learning and development activities too.

This cost aspect to child care brings me to a different friend of mine, who has a family with a couple of kids.  He and his wife are both busy professionals, so they have a direct need for day care.  Additionally, they’re people who could realistically afford it, although my friend isn’t into throwing away their money.  It’s his value of saving money and being frugal that has gotten them to become in good shape financially as it is.

As the kids both entered school age, their child care needs changed. No longer did they need them cared for all day, as they were in school.

This is where my friend’s mother in-law entered the picture.  She volunteered to help pick up the kids, take them to activities, feed them a snack, etc.  All for what would have been about 15 hours per week.  It seemed like it was out of the goodness of a grandparent’s heart to want to help out.

Then, she sprung on them the idea that she wanted $15 per hour.  Later, she asked for more hours.  Then came requests (nice demands?) for a small gas allowance, and even compensation for food provided.  In total, it sounded like this would be near $350 weekly.  That was a few years ago, so I don’t know if she has asked for more money since then.  What I do know, however, is that this arrangement has still been going on.  So, the money probably isn’t any less today.

My friend has hated this for years.  He would rather spend a bit more, I believe, to get different care for the kids.  A big reason is that he just can’t stand the reality that his mother-in-law actually wants money to watch her grandkids, and has nickel and dimed them along the way.  Plus, he thinks she isn’t very good with giving them nutritious choices (he’s a health fanatic), so the whole thing rubs him the wrong way.

His wife seems great, though in this case she defends her Mom by saying she needs the money and it’s better to have kids with a grandparent than a stranger.  Clearly, she is getting her way here and not my friend.

What put him even more over the top irritated with the whole thing is that the in-laws took a trip overseas last year, which was really just a vacation.  They brought back little trinkets for the kids that he thinks cost maybe $10 USD.  He wonders how they could take money for watching kids, and then bring back very little.

I think the bigger thing is that they supposedly needed the money, yet took an overseas trip.  In his shoes, I’d be thinking that the funds obtained from watching kids is funding travel and other goodies.  But, who knows.

What do you think of all of this?

My Questions for You

What do you think about the idea of paying grandparents to watch their grandchildren?

Do you think my friend has a reason to be upset? Why or why not?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Brent Pittman July 15, 2013 at 7:33 am

I think the problem lies in his relationship with his in-laws. I’m willing to be there are other unresolved issues involved too. Money is just the flashpoint of the conflict, not the root.

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TTMK July 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Brent – one thing is for sure, tension over money isn’t something good to have with in-laws!

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Emily @ evolvingPF July 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

I guess part of the problem is that they are in between a favor and employment. If you pay the market rate for a service, it should be done exactly the way you want it to be done. If you are getting something for free, you really can’t complain if it isn’t up to your specifications. It sounds like the grandmother is helping them out because they would be paying more elsewhere, but she’s also not acting like an employee.

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TTMK July 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Emily – that’s a great way to put it: in between a favor and employment. Confusing for all concerned – at least many might be in this case.

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Matt Becker July 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Tough situation. It would have been much better I think if everything had been clearly outlined up front, rather than making the offer to watch the kids and then springing the concept of charging. Without really knowing the quality of the care the kids are getting and what they could be getting elsewhere, it’s hard to really make a judgment on what they should do. I don’t necessarily think the idea of paying grandparents is bad, though it definitely invites some difficult situations like this.

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TTMK July 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Matt – that makes sense, transparency is a good thing and fair. In this case, the guy doesn’t seem to like paying his in-laws but the in-laws don’t seem to have trouble taking from the son in-law. I think that this is a good example of how family and money is a tricky combination.

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Edward Antrobus July 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I couldn’t imagine demanding $350/week from a family member.
The other problem is that in some places, this arrangement would actually be illegal. A few years ago, NJ passed a law stating that anyone providing childcare services for money had to be certified by the state. By paying a grandparent, you are making them an unlicensed daycare.

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AverageJoe July 17, 2013 at 8:43 am

While I don’t mind grandma wanting to be paid for her time, this seems like she’s keeping the family hostage. She has your friend over the barrel and there’s nothing he can really do about it!

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funancials July 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

This is completely irrelevant and adds no value whatsoever, but this reminded me of one of my friend’s parents.

His mom called him and said “I am at the mall and I see some pants I really want you to have.” She asked for his size, he said “okay,” and that was the end of it. Until his mom showed up with the receipt and asked him to pay for the pants.

That’s an awkward situation all together. I would rather pay more and avoid it.

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