Mum thinks it's OK to sub-contract childcare - what do you think?
September 24, 2008 11:33 PM   Subscribe

Perspective filter: When my Mum is caring for my baby, is it reasonable for her to have someone else, who I don't know, care for him? Angst and hair-pulling follows.

I've hit a sticking point on an issue with my (beloved) Mum, and just need some objective viewpoints to understand who is misguided in this situation. We are the closest of friends, but we just can't seem to see eye-to-eye on this small point.

Some background: My Mum cares for my year-old son two days a week. For this I am very, very grateful because she does not want to be paid, does so with a great deal of love and energy, and takes time off work to do so. I have asked her many times if she is happy with the arrangement and she insists that she would be crushed if she couldn't care for him on those days. I trust her care completely - she is loving, attentive and has a lot of common sense. I can't fault her as a Mum, and Grandmother, after all she raised me and my brother without any problems.

Happy then.

Anyway, my son is with her now, and I just talked with her on the phone, and she said that a friend of hers from work is going to take care of my son tomorrow for a half hour to an hour while she goes to the gym with a friend. This news gave me a knot in the stomach - I have met the friend once, and while she seems nice enough, I have absolutely no real opinion of her, good or bad, I simply don't know her, so I was very upset that I was being told, not asked if this was an OK arrangement.

Mum's view is that if I trust her, I trust her completely to make good choices, and that she would never leave my baby with someone she didn't feel was up to it. My position is that is beside the point - I do trust her, but I simply do not know this woman from a bar of soap. The friend is doing this as favour, by the way, not being paid or anything like that. I'm not a control freak, but I do feel I should have been consulted about this, not just told after the plans had been made.

I don't have any specific concerns, but if Mum has asked me if it was OK to sub-contract the care of my son, I would have asked a number of questions to figure out how I felt about it, such as where is she taking him? Is she driving anywhere? How long will you be? Will she be alone? Or with other people? I don't know if it's OK with me, because I don't know all the details.

My son has, to date, only been cared for by family and close personal friends. I've left him in the care of a close friend, but wouldn't leave him with a baby-sitter yet, because he's pretty young. When I put it to Mum that I don't leave him in the care of anyone but the closest of friends or family, she said "Oh, but he goes to childcare one day a week - those aren't family or freinds!" This is ridiculous to me - those are trained pros, and not the same as some friend she knows from work.

Mum is very upset over me saying I think she should have asked, and is basically saying "Well I won't go then... forget it" and points out, honestly enough, that she doesn't have a lot of time in her week to do the things she wants because of caring for the baby. I am very empathetic to this, and have said over and over that it's not about saying she can't go and do these things, it's the consultation with me about the baby's care that is the issue.

The reason this is a big deal is that she can't see it my way, and I can't see it hers. She's very upset by it and says I obviously don't trust her to make good choices. I feel frustrated because I feel like my problem with the situation isn't at all being understood, but don't want to give the impression that I don't appreciate the help she gives me. I don't want to think I'm a controlling pain in the ass - she should feel she has freedom when he is in her care, but for me, this was an obvious limit that I feel should have been discussed. She has also said she should have "just done it, and not told me" then it wouldn't have been such a big issue. Very frustrating for me, lemme tell ya.

She asks me what I could possibly think would go wrong, and I say, I don't really anticipate anything going wrong, I would just like to personally know anyone who is going to take care of my baby son. What if this person does the same and hands the baby to a friend or relative while she goes and does something? I don't know because I don't know the person.

I have said now that it's OK for her to stick with her plans, I just would have liked a chat first, but she is basically saying "Forget it, I won't go" like I took the joy out of life for her. We are going around in circles over this.

If it helps to understand the situation at all, we rarely, if ever disagree. And another tiny element - she is in a country location where from her perspective, everything is laid back and OK, and for her to know someone chatting at work makes them an intimate friend to her.

Some perspective, if you please... who needs to shift position on this? Do we both need to get over it?
posted by lottie to Human Relations (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
As the parent, I'm sure you are absolutely concerned with the welfare of your child at all turns, and it's a good idea to find out what you can about anyone who would take care of your child.

However, on the other hand, your mother is concerned about both you and your son, which is also her grandson. Unless she is known for serious lapses of judgment, it's unlikely that she'd permit a friend from work to take care of her grandson without trusting them completely on the matter.

So, while I can see your point in being worried and frustrated, if there's anyone you should trust to use good judgment in looking out for your son, it'd be your mother. It's not unreasonable for you to stick to your position, but I'd personally suggest going with your mother here.
posted by Saydur at 12:00 AM on September 25, 2008


Regardless of how irrational a position may or may not be (I don't think yours is), the best response is rarely to treat it as such. There was a thread a week or so ago about arachnophobia, and I think it's relevent here- you wouldn't force an arachnophobic person to hold a spider, even if you know it's safe. It's not because they don't trust you, it's because, for whatever reason, they aren't comfortable with it.

I think your mother is fighting the logic of your position, whereas you're defending the emotion of it. She's saying that she is trustworthy enough to pick a carer for your child; you're saying you don't feel comfortable with someone you don't know taking care of him. These are two separate issues.

What if you said: "I know it's silly, I know this person's probably wonderful and that you wouldn't ask her otherwise, but I'm just irrationally paranoid about strangers and I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I could get a friend of mine to take care of him for the day".

If she won't budge, you will need to either suffer her mild resentment about the situation or deal with your fears about a stranger looking after your son. Could you just accept it this once and tell your mother that next time you'd prefer to find someone yourself?
posted by twirlypen at 12:10 AM on September 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


I think your mother is fighting the logic of your position, whereas you're defending the emotion of it.

twirlypen has nailed it. You and your mom have reached one of those legendary mother-daughter impasses and you've both dug in your heels.

I certainly understand your concern that your baby is left in the care of someone you know and trust. That is a reasonable concern. Having said that, if you don't trust your mom to make wise and responsible choices when her grandson is in her care, including her choice to have someone else help out for 30-60 minutes while she hits the gym, then you probably need to think about paying a professional (daycare) to look after your son. Your mom IS making time sacrifices to do you a favour, no matter what she insists. If you are not satisfied with the free service, then you need to pay for it in order to get exactly what you want (and you obviously have every right to want to be 100% comfortable with the childcare situation).

Good luck to you!
posted by salmonking at 12:39 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your son is still very young. You may find that your attitude changes over the months and years. Once you start routinely leaving a child in the care of others (school, activities, playdates, etc.), it becomes easier to trust that all will go well. Your mother, of course, has been through this routine, and is more relaxed, as you would expect.

You have an absolute right to your feelings. I'll point out one advantage of your mother's approach. There will come a time when you want to leave your son with someone outside your family. If he's had some experience, then this won't be such a challenge.

Best wishes to all. Your child is very lucky to have so much love.
posted by ferdydurke at 12:41 AM on September 25, 2008


No fucking way. My mother would never pull that shit on me. We weren't out of her sight (bar controlled environments like school ect.) except if we were at my great grandmothers - who I suspect was the one who taught her that :) No parties, sleepovers nothing! We'd never seen an actual 'stranger' before until one day mum got a flat tire and some guy pulled over to help her. (My brother poked his head out the window and asked him if he was an axe-murderer??)

At the time I was like "We never get to do anything!!" But the other day I actually thanked my mum and told her I'd be doing the exact same thing with my own kids. Because did we ever get molested? Hell no we didn't!!

And just quietly, after sitting other peoples kids and experiencing that flash of *they're up to something* and suddenly understanding how the hell my mother always knew... I'd hope my mother would understand that I just think something's a bad idea and it's nothing personal - but it's just not happening. But even if she didn't that's not my problem, because it still wouldn't be happening.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:12 AM on September 25, 2008


At the time I was like "We never get to do anything!!" But the other day I actually thanked my mum and told her I'd be doing the exact same thing with my own kids. Because did we ever get molested? Hell no we didn't!!

FFS, you know who else didn't get molested? Almost every kid ever, including me and my siblings who were almost never in my parents sight.

To the OP:

I think twirlypen has hit it - your position is illogical, but you may not be able to get past your emotional reaction. Up to you, really.
posted by jacalata at 1:26 AM on September 25, 2008 [12 favorites]


For someone who "insists that she would be crushed if she couldn't care for him on those days", she doesn't seem to take the chance of caring for your son very seriously...

I'm siding with you on this one. Your son is your child, not hers. She got to make whatever decisions she wanted to make regarding childraising when she had you. Now it's your turn.

Your mom either empathises with you over your fears about leaving your son with a complete stranger (and remember that she's probably been in the same situation, and one would hope she cared as much as you do), or deals with not seeing him because he's going to daycare. If she can't look after him because she wants to go to the gym, then she needs to decide which is more important to her.
posted by Solomon at 1:50 AM on September 25, 2008


Your position is entirely logical, and emotion has nothing to do with it. Trusting your mother is a completely different thing to trusting a complete stranger. Yes, the fact that your mother trusts this third person gives them person some credentials, but certainly not enough to look after the single most precious thing in your entire life.

I wouldn't lend my car to a friend of a relative, so letting them have custody of my son would definitely be a 'thanks, but you can totally fuck off' proposition. Perhaps a useful test is "would I help this person move house?" If your relationship isn't even close enough that you'd help them haul inanimate furniture, why trust them to look after your kids?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:54 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's really rough on most one year olds to handle being cared for by a someone unknown. That's the prime age for mistrust of strangers, and it's developmentally normal. It may seem like a short period of time to your mum and even to you, but likely your child would experience it fearfully.

I'm convinced your mum has the best of intentiona. Were it an emergency, the child would be kept safe but would still (naturally) be distressed.

I hope you and your mum can discuss this when it's not an immediate concern. Perhaps she does want and need a backup on occasion. Maybe she could choose someone as that backup and integrate that person into your child's life beforehand?
posted by reflecked at 2:07 AM on September 25, 2008


I don't think you are being unreasonable at all, and I think it is sneaky to shift things around and say that the issue at hand is a lack of trust in your mother's judgement. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but from what you've written it sounds to me like the issue isn't your questioning of her judgement so much as her unwillingness to fully respect your authority as a parent in your own right. You are not being ungrateful by wanting to set some boundaries regarding the care of your baby and that fact that your mom is choosing to make sacrifices to do this favor for you should not diminish your right to make the executive parenting decisions. Also, I would be kind of freaked out if my mom said anything to the effect of "I should have just done it and not told you". Not to be dramatic, but that statement would possibly lead me to re-evaluate how much I need her help.

So, I'm not sure if "who is misguided" will square with "who needs to budge" here. I don't know how much it is worth it to you to have her help or how much it would disturb the peace if your family to make an issue out of this, but my opinion is that, while it is entirely correct to keep on letting your mom know how much you appreciate her help and value her contributions, you should not let her push you around (or make you feel guilty about any of this). Also, I second what others have said above about the fact that paying daycare professionals really isn't the same thing as your trusted caregiver choosing a substitute caregiver for any period of time.
posted by mustard seeds at 2:10 AM on September 25, 2008


Contrary to above opinions, I don't think you're being illogical at all. You have been told that, unbeknown to you, someone you don't know will be caring for your son, perhaps regularly and because of a non-emergency situation (the gym?!? c'mon!). As a parent your job is to go ape shit. Because it's your Mum and you love and appreciate her, your version of ape shit will be calm, controlled and respectful, but ape shit nonetheless.

First of all, your caregiver (Mum or no) did not present this as a request but as a statement. That might have flown when you were an adolescent, but you (I think) are an adult and you're talking about the care of your infant. Second, there's a whole set of relatively mild and frequent situations that could arise (i.e., I'm not talking about molestation!) where this would be a big problem. What if your Mum had an accident and didn't come back from the gym? What if you passed out at work? Would you or your employer know how to get in touch with this woman to let her know you'd be away additional time? Does this woman know how to best get in touch with you or your son's pediatrician if something typical happens like a fall? What if you simply decided to come home early and found him with someone you don't know at all? What then? Um, your Mum has put you in a position where you have no idea. And that's not ok.

It's not the basic level of care that you hire or trust caregivers for, it's for knowing that they'd make roughly the same philosophical, emotional, logical, practical decisions as you in the edge situations. Those edge situations happen all the time with kids. Worst of all, it basically sets up the precedent that it's ok for the caregiver to pass off care of your son to someone without you or the previous caregiver knowing or having any say.

Put it this way, your Mum would be up a creek if this woman abruptly left your son with Joanie-so-and-so, so that she could go read the paper at the coffeeshop.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:18 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey Lottie. I'm a Sydney mum of a toddler (ToddlerTaff turned two on Tuesday!) and I have to say I'm with you. As a fellow Sydneysider/Australian, I thought I'd chime in with a culturally similar perspective. Twirlypen did, in fact, get it right. You're discussing this on entirely different levels... emotional versus rational.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't want someone I didn't know being delegated to look after ToddlerTaff and, as I said, she's two. Explain it to your mum in terms of the irrational phobia thing as someone above pointed out... but don't back down. Be apologetic, promise you'll relax more as LottieTot grows older.. but that as a first time mum you've still got a way to go.

It may be more apologetic than you actually feel, but she's your precious mum and you want to preserve the relationship so that you and LottieTot are always as happy as you have been till now.

I've found that making my neuroses known to be full blown neuroses, and acknowledging them as such, makes it a lot easier for people who don't agree with my "rational"e to accept them and move on.

I just tell them I'm neurotic, apologise for it but don't back down.

Good luck possum. Mums and Tots are precious.
posted by taff at 3:07 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Know that cliche "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth?" Well, you're doing it.

I think you need to find someone else to give you free childcare.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:08 AM on September 25, 2008


No one can substitute for a loving relative.

Ask that she not do this until the child is a little older. Explain that it causes you to worry so much that it is distracting you from everything else.

Mayor Curley is not the one you should be going to for childcare of any kind. Anyone who needs to get rid of a sick horse should send it that way.
posted by ewkpates at 4:21 AM on September 25, 2008


Wow I'm really dismayed at some of the answers in this thread, unless of course some of the answerers live in Axemurdererville and Molestertown.

The real answer is that it's up to you. You get to decide. Maybe you only want left handed septuagenarians looking after your infant---that's really up to you.

On the other hand, I think you're completely over analyzing a plate of beans. I think that really what you've got on your hands is a severe case of mommy anxiety more than a case of Stranger Danger. If you really don't want to ever let anyone you don't personally know look after your child, that means no daycare, no sleepovers, no public school. (Someone called school a controlled environment. One-to-one care by an older lady + a 1 year old is less controlled than a 5 year old in a building with 1000 kids?!) Besides that, most molestations and abuse happen by people the victim knows. "I know him too well for that" is a recipe for disaster, and it's why parents are often inclined to not believe their children.

Now, with that said, do what you feel you need to do. Seriously though, I would go along with it, just so you can see that it'll be fine. Who knows, maybe this lady is going to make it so that you and Mom can have Thursday Afternoon Coffee's together?

(I say this with all the normal caveats, like NO SMOKING 'ROUND MY BEBE.)

We've sort of had this conversation before---albeit with neighborhood freedoms. MeFi is QUITE SPLIT over this issue.
posted by TomMelee at 4:47 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think you're being illogical - the problem is your mom, without asking you, wants to hand off child-care to someone you don't know, and doesn't see a problem with the fact that she's not even asking you if it's okay. This really isn't about childcare - it's about treating someone like a fellow adult, asking instead of dictating.

Here's my thought.

You say to your mom, "I'm not okay with you handing off MicroLottie to someone I don't know, without checking with me first. I appreciate the child care you're providing, and I want to make sure you have the time to do what you want to do too."

MOM: "Don't you trust my judgement?! Why should I have to ask?"

"Mom, this has nothing to do with your judgement. I'm asking you to respect my feelings, and check with me before you plan something like this. It's important to me that I know who is taking care of my child.

I have an idea. Why don't we invite Mrs. X over for lunch, and she can keep an eye on MicroLottie while we're both there. That way, I get to know X better, and I can see that she's taking good care of MicroLottie. Once I feel comfortable, I can make sure X has all the right phone numbers, etc... and then if you want to leave her with X, I'll feel much better about it. How does that sound?"
posted by canine epigram at 5:39 AM on September 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


You're overreacting. You're acting like your mom's friend is a heroin addict. If you trust your mom with your child, you ought to be able to trust your mom to know who can look after a 1-year-old for 30 minutes with no life-scarring ill effects.

Unfortunately, it takes having a second kid for some parents (including me) to realize how overprotective they were of the first. (Overprotective defined as, bollixing up parts of your life to protect your child from slim risks.)

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: "You're my mother, and I can trust you to care for my child, including recruiting qualified, caring helpers if need be."
posted by sacre_bleu at 5:41 AM on September 25, 2008


My mother used to babysit a little toddler. He was adorable, and very friendly, and it took him very little time to get used to me (like 15 minutes). I'd play with him and take him to the park. Mum told me whenever I wasn't there he'd ask for me.

I think you are being overprotective. Rest assured that your mother wouldn't choose someone untrustworthy and won't do this again if your little boy can't handle it.
posted by orange swan at 5:43 AM on September 25, 2008


You've asked two questions:

1. who should be able to watch your baby?
2. do you or your mother get to decide the answer to question 1?

The first question is about the mommy anxiety people are talking about in this thread --- you're a new mum and maybe more anxious than a mother of three or a mother of an 8-year-old. Your mother's friend is probably quite qualified to watch your baby and your comparison to the trained professionals in the daycare is irrelevant. It's a short time and he'll surely be fine. Your mother is right that you should trust her judgment (it appears that you do, or you wouldn't be leaving your child with her, but consider whether you are micromanaging his day via telephone or otherwise when he is with her).

Your mother needs to respect your authority with respect to your child though. You have asked that she check with you before she leaves the child she's responsible for with someone else. I don't think this is an unreasonable or overly emotional request. You want to know who your child is with. Perfectly rational for a responsible parent. Would you have approved though, after you asked a number of questions to figure out how I felt about it, such as where is she taking him? Is she driving anywhere? How long will you be? Will she be alone? Or with other people? If your mother knows you to be a chicken-little, then maybe she just wanted to avoid drama. Be honest with yourself about whether you would have made a big deal about it had she come to you first.

I think you already compromised, and you already addressed both questions, when you said I have said now that it's OK for her to stick with her plans, I just would have liked a chat first. Your mother should honor that request in the future. As for this time, if she wants to be dramatic and give up her time at the gym, that's her choice.
posted by headnsouth at 6:01 AM on September 25, 2008


....there's a whole set of relatively mild and frequent situations that could arise (i.e., I'm not talking about molestation!) where this would be a big problem. What if your Mum had an accident and didn't come back from the gym? What if you passed out at work? Would you or your employer know how to get in touch with this woman to let her know you'd be away additional time? Does this woman know how to best get in touch with you or your son's pediatrician if something typical happens like a fall? What if you simply decided to come home early and found him with someone you don't know at all? What then?

Presumably, that's why her Mum selected this lady, yes? Because the lady would know how to handle such situations should they arise.


Personally I think both parties are wrong.

Lottie-Mum was wrong to make these arrangements without taking her daughter's wishes into consideration first. She probably could've just said to Lottie "I've got an appointment next week that'll take about an hour. How do you want to handle care of Lottie-Tot while I'm gone?" I'm sure between the two of them they could have worked out a solution. It's extremely inconsiderate, given how emotional people can be about their children, to simply make other arrangements for childcare without the consent of the parents.


But Lottie has, as TomMelee put it, a bad case of mommy anxiety. You said it repeatedly in the OP: you don't know this woman, but your mother does. That means that after all the time your mother has spent to care for your child, presumably making life and death decisions on a regular basis, you are now effectively saying, "Sorry Mum, but you're a complete idiot when it comes to this decision." If I were Lottie-Mum, you're damn right I'd be offended.


Were it me, I'd meet Lottie-Mum halfway. The upsetting factor here seems to be that you don't know this lady. So, try to get to know her. I'd ask for a face-to-face meeting with the prospective babysitter (or, failing that, a phone call), have her over to tea or something, and try to get to know her and her approach to child care, maybe see how she and the tot interact.

Explain that your child's not been cared for by non-family before and you want to get comfortable with her. Go in with an open mind; after all, this lady has agreed to help both you and Lottie-Mum out at no fee. Satisfy yourself that she knows what steps to take in the event of a cocoagirl-level childcare crisis ("Suppose you're babysitting my child, and half-a-dozen major credit brokers approach looking for a $700 billion taxpayer-funded handout. Do you have the cellphone number of my representative to call in your protest?"). In short, conduct an interview, and if you end up nixing the idea you can at least tell Lottie-Mum that you tried but this lady just wasn't a good fit for the Lottie-Tot.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:19 AM on September 25, 2008


I think your concerns are valid and I'd probably be freaked out too. But as you can see from this thead, an almost equal number of people here think you are being overprotective. So your mother isn't wrong, either.

Neither of you needs to budge on your positions if you provide your mother with an alternate plan for when she needs to take time for herself. You can audition a babysitter or two (Mrs. X, if she's interested) who can fill in when your mother needs a break. It could be a couple of set hours each week or your mother could give a week's notice for you to arrange babysitting (which really needs to be paid).

If I were in your shoes, I'd apologize to my mum for not being more thoughtful by not having a backup plan for times like these. Thank her for her generosity and let her know that you'll spring for a paid babysitter to give her some free time anytime she needs. Um, not tomorrow, but starting next week. ;-)

Everybody wins. Mum feels appreciated, and you feel secure and continue to get free, loving childcare.
posted by bumblebeat at 6:33 AM on September 25, 2008


"Mom, I'm so incredibly appreciative of your help. But I'm also a new Mom, learning as I go. I miss my baby when I'm at work, and I feel safe because he's with you. Of course I trust your judgment, but of course how could I trust anyone else the way I trust you. I don't have your experience, so it would make me feel better if we talked about the baby's day. "

The baby will be fine. They're incredibly study and resilient. As a new Mom, you're (rightly) very cautious. As an experienced Mom/GrandMom, your Mother is (rightly) confident in her choices.
posted by theora55 at 7:14 AM on September 25, 2008


Speaking as a parent, it's absolutely not okay to allow someone to take care of your child outside the boundaries that you've established. Whether the child is in danger from neglect, molestation, whatever is beside the point... the fact is you know nothing about these other people. When all is said and done it's your child and what you say is the law. Your mother is thoughtful to ask, but her reaction is WAY out of line.
posted by crapmatic at 7:15 AM on September 25, 2008


The issue is nothing to do with the friend. It has nothing to do with the friend being a child molester or a heroin addict. This is the issue:

I was very upset that I was being told, not asked if this was an OK arrangement.

This is a 100% reasonable response to the situation. Your mother has treated your child like it is hers to do with as she wishes and has not (and will not) considered that she requires your permission to make decisions about your child. It is not her child, it is your child and she absolutely should have consulted with you about leaving the child with someone else.

If I lend a friend something of mine, I expect them to treat it with a reasonable amount of care and be respectful of the fact that its my property not theirs. If I found out that they lent it to someone else, particularly if it was someone I didn't know, I would be somewhat annoyed and might not be so willing to lend them something in future. If they'd asked me, I'd probably have said it was OK, much as if your mother had asked you probably would have said it was OK for her friend to watch over the baby for half an hour while she was at the gym.

The question becomes, how much do you value/need the free child care your mum provides? If it were me I wouldn't trust my mother to look after anything again. Not just because of this but because of her reaction, she is completely unwilling to consider your point of view and has in fact said she should have done it and not told you (which implies she will do so in future)
posted by missmagenta at 7:21 AM on September 25, 2008


If I were in your shoes, I'd apologize to my mum for not being more thoughtful by not having a backup plan for times like these. Thank her for her generosity and let her know that you'll spring for a paid babysitter to give her some free time anytime she needs. Um, not tomorrow, but starting next week. ;-)

I think this is a great idea, particularly if you're interested in your mother continuing to provide free childcare for you. Because she's your mother (who had enough judgment to raise you correctly) and particularly because she's working for free, you shouldn't lay down any "My way or the highway" provisions. She's not your employee, you're her beneficiary.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:44 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


For someone who "insists that she would be crushed if she couldn't care for him on those days", she doesn't seem to take the chance of caring for your son very seriously...

Wow, that's a nasty and stupid response. As a grandparent who frequently takes care of a couple of grandsons, I can assure you grandparents take it very seriously. I am sure, since you love your mother and are completely comfortable leaving your child with her, that she is a loving and caring grandparent who would never in a million years let anything happen to him and would never let anyone watch him unless she were sure they would take good care of him. The fact that you don't know that person is irrelevant. If you trust your mother, trust her judgment of people. Foremost in your mind should be these facts:

1) You love and trust your mother.
2) Your mother loves your son very much.
3) You are getting free childcare, a precious commodity, from your mother.

Yes, you have a right to your feelings, and yes, new mommies are irrational about their kids' safety. But you need to think seriously about the consequences of pissing off your mother without good reason. Is it worth risking your relationship with your mother and your free childcare to satisfy your new-mommy paranoia?
posted by languagehat at 8:10 AM on September 25, 2008


Does this gym not have a daycare?
posted by desjardins at 8:16 AM on September 25, 2008


The way you phrased the headline is misleading. She is not sub-contracting childcare. She's asking a friend to watch the baby for 30 minutes to an hour. There is no money changing hands. Subcontracting seems to be an overly harsh way of putting this.

It's worth noting that your mum is probably of a generation that didn't take the baby everywhere. My mom is still surprised to see people toting their newborns to the grocery store and the mall. When Mom has us, you took your baby home from the hospital and he stayed at home until his 6 week check up. Kids didn't go everywhere and asking a neighbor to watch your child while you went to the market was pretty common.

Fast forwarding to modern times - when I dropped my girls at daycare in the morning, I didn't always know the all the caregivers. However, I knew the owner and knew that he hired people responsibly. I also trusted that there would be enough responsible people there to care for the children. It was tough, but I felt the girls were safe.

Do you trust your mother to make choices or not? She has some experience raising children, but if you feel as though you can't trust her decision making then you should not leave your child with her. Leaving your child with anyone (even your own parent) is tough. You're the parent now, if you can't feel safe with your mom watching your son, then you should put a stop to it.
posted by 26.2 at 8:40 AM on September 25, 2008


"I should have just done it and not told you"

This is the part that makes me *really* uncomfortable. I would very seriously consider not leaving my baby with someone -- even family -- who said this. Next time she thinks there's no problem, but that you might object, she's already told you that will decide for you without consent.
posted by argylekneesocks at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how many responders have babies or toddlers, but I'm shocked at the apparent consensus here.

I could write a book here, but I'll just say I completely agree with you that it's unacceptable. My mother watches my son once a week. We have a fantastic relationship, she and my son are like peas in a pod, and if she ever pulled something like this, she wouldn't be watching him anymore. Period, end of discussion.

For the record, molestation is very low on the list of things I would be worried about. A complete stranger has no family connection. What if your son was having a screaming fit for 30 straight minutes and this woman just couldn't take it and shook him? Does she have any health conditions that might be a concern for someone watching a young child? Do you even know the answer? Probably not since you don't know her.

she is basically saying "Forget it, I won't go" like I took the joy out of life for her.

Passive aggressive.

Can you suggest that she only watch him one day a week, and spend the other day doing all the things she doesn't feel she otherwise has time to do?
posted by peep at 8:57 AM on September 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Another note: please don't let any of the comments here convince you that you are being irrational or paranoid. You are not.
posted by peep at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


What if your son was having a screaming fit for 30 straight minutes and this woman just couldn't take it and shook him?

Listen, I'm a parent too and am sympathetic to the idea of being uncomfortable with someone you don't know personally watching your infant, however this statement seems like a baseless scare tactic. Why is this woman any more likely to violently shake the baby than a family member? Does not being related to a particular baby increase the likelihood that you will physically abuse it when you get frustrated?
posted by The Gooch at 9:54 AM on September 25, 2008


I think you are being perfectly rational, and I would be equally upset. Its not about whether this other woman is an appropriate carer or not, it's about the fact that it's not your mother's decision to make. You are the parent, you get to decide who cares for your child. Her "I should have just done it and not told you" response is the tell, and makes me wonder what other things she would consider doing that she knows you wouldn't like. Giving a toddler cookies when you know mom would disapprove - that's just grandparent spoiling privileges. Handing over toddler to someone the parent doesn't know - not a grandparent privilege, it's disrespectful. Grandma's relationship with the other woman means that she can offer up a recommendation "I think this person would be a capable carer", but grandma does not have hiring and firing privileges.

I think what this boils down to is that she is still operating in 'mum mode' around you, she still thinks that she can make decisions for you. She isn't treating you like an adult, and isn't respecting the fact you are your baby's parent and you get to have final say over important decisions like who is caring for your child. When she is caring for her grandchild, she is a grandma and a carer, she does not magically become the parent, with all parental rights.

I'm sure this is a generational difference, you should ask her what parenting disagreements she had with her parents/in-laws when you were a baby.
posted by Joh at 10:00 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does not being related to a particular baby increase the likelihood that you will physically abuse it when you get frustrated?

No, being related means you know the person already, and would presumably be aware if someone was an appropriate carer or not. I have family members that I would not trust to be responsible carers. Strangers - no idea! Could be the best carer in the world, or could be a nutjob. The point is that its the parent's decision to choose appropriate caregivers.
posted by Joh at 10:03 AM on September 25, 2008


The point is that its the parent's decision to choose appropriate caregivers.

I don't disagree with this at all. My point was that this concept stands on its own; no need to imagine unlikely, worst-case scenario scare tactics to prove its validity.
posted by The Gooch at 10:10 AM on September 25, 2008


Parent of three kids here.

nthing the notion of "if you don't trust your mother's judgment enough to be comfortable with her making decisions like this, then you probably should find someone else to watch your kids."

Either you trust her with your child or you don't.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


It has nothing to do with trusting your mum! It's trusting a perfect stranger that you seem to have trouble with. You trust mum, mum trusts friend when she goes to the gym, friend trusts neighbor when she starts to get a headache, neighbor trusts spouse when gets a phonecall...well, where does it end?

When your mom agreed to watch the little one, that was the agreement--SHE watches him. If she has something she wants/needs to do, all she has to do is tell you, and you'll find appropriate childcare arrangements. If she is acting as a babysitter, treat her as such. I'd fire a babysitter who handed off my kid while in their care, I don't care how competent the replacement was.

Know that cliche "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth?" Well, you're doing it. I think you need to find someone else to give you free childcare.
no, no, no. Whether or not you are paying her is not the point at all. Just because this is a huge favor to you and you benefit from it does not mean the job should not be taken seriously.

It's not her responsibility to find someone, it's yours. She doesn't need to be comfortable with the replacement, you do.

Maybe you could remind her how much you appreciate the days that she spends with your son, and how aware you are of the time commitment it takes of her. And that in that vein, you'd like to make sure she is still taking plenty of time for herself so that she continues to enjoy that time as much as she has thus far. And then use someone else you trust so she can go to the gym.
posted by agentwills at 11:15 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does not being related to a particular baby increase the likelihood that you will physically abuse it when you get frustrated?

Evolutionary psychology says yes. Although that's not likely, let's look at some scenarios that are:

At this age, children are relatively mobile and love sticking things in their mouth so they need to be watched constantly. God forbid she thinks swatting a little hand is a good way to keep baby out of trouble. Or her home is not childproofed and baby gets ahold of her pills.

Stranger anxiety happens. So, screaming for an hour on end happens. Tthat's not fun for baby. The caregiver isn't doing anything wrong, but baby is still completely miserable.

Teething is likely. What if she gives baby something frozen to chew on? That's a choking risk. And so on.

There are lots of ways a good-hearted person can harm a baby, things Mom knows to avoid and a random caregiver may not. Mom has every right to protect her child as she sees fit, even from "good" people who may not have the knowledge and experience to care for a one-year-old child.

It's not "new-mommy paranoia" (how condescending) to worry for your child. Moms have that sense of attachment to their young children for a reason. They can't even say "that hurts" or "I'm scared". They need protection, and OP, you have every right to protect your child.

I hope you can work something out. I think the suggestion of a back-up babysitter or perhaps friend is an idea worth looking into, or even mom leaving baby with you on your lunch hour so she can get a break.

Good luck.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:46 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tricky. If my kids' trusted grandmother did this, then I would be royally pissed off not at the decision itself, but with not being asked and being denied the opportunity to air my doubts and anxieties. Knowing the trusted grandmother as I do, I think she would make a good choice of substitute carer but I would like to hear the reasons for that assessment. Your mother's expressed wish that she had just done it without telling you reads like huffy hyperbole to me, the result of feeling second-guessed, and not some declaration of independence from your opinions and concerns and an assertion of mother-knows-best.

I should add that my confidence in my mother-in-contested-law's judgement in this hypothetical situation is made firmer by the fact that my kids take to new people well - after a period of introduction and assessment on their part. In other words, I am confident that my kids would be fine with someone new if they were introduced and got to spend some time with them and me or gramma first. This goes for blood relations and friends.

Maybe you feel the same way I would. I dunno. But if you do, the solution seems clear. Ask your mum to consult you about changes to the arrangement. Honestly assess your concerns and see if you and she can work out how to ameliorate them. In this specific situation, make sure that if the substitute carer calls you or your mum if your child gets upset and can't be calmed. Always do the best thing by the kid.

This situation must make you feel like crap. I hope you guys work it out OK.
posted by firstdrop at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2008


The only remotely questionable thing here is that Granny did this without at least mentioning it. I'm sensing that the answer would have been "NO!", but whatever. That's not shady, it's not underhanded, it's nothing more than someone who's been a parent for the majority of her life assuming that she was capable of making a decision about her grandson. The only thing she shouldn't have said was that she shouldn't have told you, but I'd wager a bet that's because she new the OP was, like most first-time-parents-especially-in-these-days, a little over the top about who looks at her child at what moment.

She didn't "pull anything", this isn't a "TIME TO FIND A NEW BABYSITTER FOREVER" situation, it's a "Grandma over estimated how much I trust her and I overreacted to something she thought was harmless."

I'd much rather leave my infant with one of my mothers cohorts than I would trust a babysitter.

Tell her you're sorry for overreacting and not making it clear what your expectations were, and thank her for continuing to watch your child. Let her know that whenever it's inconvenient for her, you'll make other arrangements.
posted by TomMelee at 2:15 PM on September 25, 2008


When your mom agreed to watch the little one, that was the agreement--SHE watches him. If she has something she wants/needs to do, all she has to do is tell you, and you'll find appropriate childcare arrangements. If she is acting as a babysitter, treat her as such. I'd fire a babysitter who handed off my kid while in their care, I don't care how competent the replacement was.

Actually, I didn't see any of this in the OP question.

- It's sounds as though you never discussed this at all.

- She's not a babysitter; she's his grandmother. You can terminate her providing free childcare, but you can't fire her like a employee if you expect to maintain your close relationship to her.

- Do you have alternatives to her providing care? If she decides to go to the gym or the doctor, then do you have an alternative readily available? How much notice does that alternative require?
posted by 26.2 at 4:49 PM on September 25, 2008


All of you saying 'trust your mother's judgement' seem to be ignorning the fact that this isn't even close to being her decision to make, so her judgement in this matter is entirely irrelevant. It's lottie's decision to accept her mother's offer of free childcare. If her mother can't do this for some reason, it's lottie's decision who picks up the slack. Her mother may well make a recommendation, but it's not her decision, and making it without consulting lottie was inappropriate.

Imagine if lottie's mother asked her to housesit while she was away. Mum comes home and finds a complete stranger in the house. "Oh hai - lottie couldn't do it after all, so here I am!" I seriously doubt her response would be a calm "Oh, that's fine dear - any friend of lottie's is a friend of mine."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:19 PM on September 25, 2008


I guess there's a fundamental divide in people's attitude to the transitivity of responsibility, because in my family getting a friend in to take over the housesitting would be fine.
posted by jacalata at 5:34 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Absolutely what jacalata said. Then we'd probably feed that friend and pour them a drink.
posted by TomMelee at 6:30 PM on September 25, 2008


OK, how about this:

You trust your 17 year old son implicitly. You let him drive your car whenever he needs to. You find out that on a weekly basis, he lets one of his close friends, whom you do not know and have never met (is he licensed? does he have insurance? does he even know how to drive?), use your car freely for an hour.

What the fuck? Who would be OK with that? And this is a child, not a car. Where does it end? The friend's daughter comes over, then her boyfriend? Does responsibility and trust just transfer person to person, ad infinitum?
posted by peep at 6:38 PM on September 25, 2008


right, I think I understand the issue.

You trust your 17 year old son implicitly....he lets one of his close friends, whom you do not know and have never met (is he licensed? does he have insurance? does he even know how to drive?), use your car freely for an hour.

When I trust my 17 year old son (let's say brother) implicitly, that means I trust him to have checked out his friend. No fucking way is he going to let some kid without a licence/insurance/driving ability near that car! My trusting him to look after the car, or child, includes trusting him to not just leave it with someone untrustworthy. Yes, responsibility transfers down a chain - but each person in the chain is also responsible for every step afterwards.
posted by jacalata at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2008


I fail to see the connection and continue to agree with jacalata regardless. I think that there's an assumption that granny's doing something out of spite or a lack of respect, whereas I think granny simply failed to grasp that her actual responsibility and trust leash were much shorter than she suspected.
posted by TomMelee at 4:39 AM on September 26, 2008


Thanks for the well considered answers everyone. In a way, it's as complex as I thought.

I feel should say that I'm actually very relaxed about the choices that the various people who care for my son make, and feel I'm not at all overly protective or paranoid - I work full time which means most of the week I'm only partly aware of what he's up to, as variously he's in childcare, with my husband (his Dad) and with Grandma. He's a chilled little kid who gets tons of interaction with lots of different people. If Mum gives him cake for lunch everyday (which I wouldn't), that's fine, I call that Grandma's privilege, but for me, other people who I don't know caring for him is a different matter altogether.

Mum is providing free childcare because she insists on it. I have offered to put him in childcare on the days Mum cares for him in the case that it's too much for her or needs the times to do her own thing, and well, she freaks out completely thinking she won't get the days with him, so I don't mention it. All I can do is deliver her gifts and send her to spa days - it's all she'll accept. This is all moot though, because we have only ever disagreed over this particular point. More often than not, I ask her what she would do in certain circumstances - she's taught me a lot as a parent.

That doesn't change the way I feel though - I trust her, but I don't trust other people I don't know, and the people they know that I don't know etc. I think the house-sitting analogy was the best way of explaining how I feel. If my folks came home and found someone else but me house-sitting, they wouldn't be feeling thrilled because they trust my judgement, believe me. Keeping in mind Mum said she probably shouldn't have made mention of the arrangement at all - I think that's the sticking point. I really don't think anything would go wrong, but what if it did? How would someone know to reach me? This woman surely does not have my contact details.

I should mention also that it isn't fair on the carer to be put in a position where she is caring for a child when his mother doesn't know where he is. If someone asked me to care for a child and said something to the effect of "X doesn't know baby is here" or "X is uncomfortable with baby being here because you haven't really met before" I would say "um, thanks but no thanks". I'm sure Mum wouldn't have made any of this clear to the carer. Mum is a wonderful person, but she is my childs grandmother, not mother.

Had Mum asked, by the way, I would have said yes, because I would have had satisfactory answers to all my questions. That was all I was looking for - to be able to make the choice for myself, not to be excluded from the decision. As it was, I told her to go ahead and go to the gym. She was upset and hurt that day, but the next she called me and told me she understood where I was coming from, and said she would ask in future. I said sorry that I made her feel like I don't trust her, and thanked her again for all the wonderful care she provides. She said that she waits all week to spend time with the boy. Everyone's OK, and it was probably a healthy hurdle to get over, in terms of understanding each other, and I'm glad I stood my ground, because I still feel the same way about the matter.

My Mum by the way, is freaking awesome, and baby and I love her.
posted by lottie at 1:55 AM on September 27, 2008


The way you phrased the headline is misleading. She is not sub-contracting childcare. She's asking a friend to watch the baby for 30 minutes to an hour. There is no money changing hands. Subcontracting seems to be an overly harsh way of putting this


I agree, and I hesitated before posting it, but thought it was a general enough indication of the specifics in my problem. I guess I used "sub-contracting" more as a half joke, because earlier in the day when I had been chatting with a friend about the problem, they had pointed out that Person A could hand Person B the baby only for baby to be handed to Person C (an extreme concept, sure, but possible... I wouldn't know).
posted by lottie at 2:10 AM on September 27, 2008


I forgot to mention that she did go to gym, and mystery friend did care for baby and all went well.
posted by lottie at 2:13 AM on September 27, 2008


I think you handled this all wrong.

One of the biggest perks about having children is the ability to force family members to do your bidding simply by hinting at a reduction in the amount of time they can spend with the baby.

It wanes a little when they get older so I'd milk it for all it's worth ;)
posted by fullerine at 2:27 PM on September 28, 2008


I forgot to mention that she did go to gym, and mystery friend did care for baby and all went well.

Did you meet the mystery friend, finally?
posted by magstheaxe at 5:53 AM on September 29, 2008


No - didn't meet friend, but reached an agreement with Mum that she would talk to me if she wanted to do the same again.
posted by lottie at 6:37 PM on September 29, 2008


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