Taking care of 2 babies without someone's head exploding?
December 7, 2013 7:21 PM   Subscribe

When I got pregnant, my brother and sister-in-law immediately offered SIL as our daycare provider as she'd be at home with their baby anyway. Sweet! Now I'm 2 months from going back to work, however, and she's getting (understandable) cold feet about the idea of caring for 2 babies at the same time. Not sweet. :( Looking for suggestions on how our families can make this work, because trying to figure out a different daycare/nanny option in the next 2 months is giving me hives (plus I'd love for my son to be cared for by family if possible). Wall o' relevant details inside...

Hope this covers the relevant/helpful stuff...

* Her daughter is exactly 7 months older than my son; when I go back to work, he'll be about 5 months old and she'll be almost exactly 1 year
* Both babies are breastfed; she's only nursing a few times a day these days and instead is eating a lot of solids, whereas my kidlet will still be breastmilk only for at least a while after the arrangement starts (he definitely takes a bottle, from my husband at least; she's never done bottles at all)
* She has childcare experience, but hasn't dealt with multiple infants before (she worked with preschoolers and up)
* Her daughter is a stubborn but sunny child; my son is something of a cranky fussbudget (sigh)
* Her daughter is already confidently standing and crawling around like crazy and is very likely to be walking by the time I go back to work
* Son would be dropped off at her house around 9AM and not picked up until around 5:00PM, so we're talking a good 40 hours a week

The general suite of questions are: What can I do with my son in the next 2 months to help him be as easy on SIL as possible? Tips for her on managing 2 babies at once (keeping them entertained, good activities to take them out to, napping schedules, feeding schedules, etc.)? Thoughts on fair compensation for her time (we live in Seattle) or other ways we can show our appreciation for what she's doing?

Some various thoughts husband and I have already had (although tips/advice related to any of this would be very welcome, as is advice on which of these would be the most useful):
* Make sure son will take a bottle from someone not my husband and have husband show SIL how to bottle-feed
* Work on getting son to nap in a pack 'n play (currently almost all of his naps are on me while I walk with him in a wrap, or danced/bounced to sleep in a sling and then I hold him while I read or watch TV)
* Work on getting son to nap longer (currently almost all of his naps he wakes up after about 45 minutes, unless I'm holding him in a sling and the stars align for me to ease him through the sleep cycle transition.. which doesn't always work)... but maybe by 5 months this will happen semi-naturally?
* Work on extending son's daily cycles (currently he tends to wake up, eat for about 20-30 minutes, be awake for about 45 minutes, and then sleep for about 45 minutes, for a 2 hour cycle overall... it's kind of grueling on just me and I can't imagine her managing that kind of breakneck pace while also juggling a one-year-old!)... but maybe by 5 months this will happen semi-naturally?
* Bring son over to their house often during the remainder of my leave so he's used to being over there (particularly napping over there, but also used to his aunt and cousin)
* Get her a double stroller so she can walk out with both kids, and buy an extra carseat base for her to use
* Hire some sort of helper for her either full/part time
* Any time that they need a baby sitter for an evening, we volunteer unless we absolutely aren't available
* One of us periodically takes days off work and take both kids so that she can have a complete day off baby-care

Advice us, o hive mind?
posted by laeren to Human Relations (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
All of the fix-it ideas you mention sounds a lot more stressful then hiring someone else to care for your child. It can be done in two months, particularly if you hire an individual to come to your house (getting space in a center might be more difficult). Plus, I'm not sure it will work- no matter how easy your kid or her kid is, caring for two babies is hard work, particularly once one of them starts walking. My advice is to listen to your SIL very hard (how bad does she want to do this? Is this something she wanted to do because she liked the idea, or because she needed/wanted the money?), and take your cues from her. If she doesn't want to do it anymore, don't push her; backing out now is better than her backing out two months from now.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 PM on December 7, 2013 [26 favorites]

fair compensation for her time (we live in Seattle) or other ways we can show our appreciation

This is the part of your post that stands out -- day care is a for-real full-time job and is it possible SIL is aware of the contemplation of "other ways we can show our appreciation" and that might be freezing up the feet, so to speak? I can see a lot of ways this would not go well if you did anything other than pay her the going market rate for your area. With some 'we babysit in evenings' stuff as mentioned because, well, family, and free babysitting among relatives is normal. But free day care is not.
posted by kmennie at 7:33 PM on December 7, 2013 [11 favorites]

Maybe I missed it, but are you paying her? 40 hours a week of baby care is a full time job, it's possible that when she offered she had no idea how difficult taking care of babies would be. Offer to pay her the going rate for day care and she might feel better about it. This is not something I would do even for my best friend for free!
posted by katypickle at 7:39 PM on December 7, 2013 [15 favorites]

You absolutely have to pay her for this. Is she having cold feet like she's nervous, or like she doesn't want to do it anymore? Two infants is a serious amount of work. If she doesn't want to do it anymore then please give her a graceful out and find an alternative. It wouldn't be fair to your son or her if she was doing it because she felt she ought to, rather than wanted to.

If she is still willing but nervous, then perhaps the best thing you could do would be to start off part time, so she only takes care of two for a couple of hours a day at first.however she may change her mind at this point, when she realises how much work it is.

The most important thing is for you to find out ASAP how she honestly feels about the whole thing. If she has cold feet, maybe get a nanny for a year or so, and see if she wants to take care of both when they are a little older. Easier and the age group she is used to.
posted by Joh at 7:48 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I knew I'd missed a relevant detail... Yes, paying her has always been in the cards since the beginning! But we'd never discussed an actual specific rate, so now we're trying to figure out which way to go: Low range for our area because family (which is in the vein of what they'd originally offered)? High range because of difficulty? None of us in either family has any idea at the moment what the range even is. Anyway, better worded would be "AND other ways we can compensate" rather than "OR"!

As long as I'm popping my head back in, I'll add that advice on finding a nanny in Seattle would also be welcome...

Okay, walking away for awhile now.
posted by laeren at 7:49 PM on December 7, 2013

Yes, as a former nanny I put a hearty vote in for paying for a 12 or 13-yr old 'mother's helper' for... a few hours an afternoon or two a week? AND/OR a real (college-aged) babysitter for her for one afternoon a week so she gets a break? agree on an hourly rate together, and then let her pick. If you don't know someone who knows someone who has a kid that's interested, try the local college... you could aim for someone studying early childhood education or the like, but fit and comfort level is also important. I was a camp counselor and had younger siblings and was studying art... and did a great job with the families I worked for because we shared similar values and hey...art projects!

AND you should definitely offer to babysit her kid for their date nights!

Every once in a while get her a gift certificate for a mani/pedi or massage or movie or something, and include a note that you'll babysit while she does out by herself.

Offer to run errands - even if you don't pay for it, collect and deliver their groceries. I used to babysit for someone who used that time to go grocery shopping ALONE. Really. Talk to her and see if there's some practical hassle you can eliminate for her.

Make sure she has TiVo or something...

If you have questions about hiring a nanny, let me know! It is totally do-able if your SIL backs out. (And it's absolutely better if she backs out NOW, rather than in 2 months!)
posted by jrobin276 at 8:07 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my area (Portland), I'm paying 975/mo for full-time daycare of my 3-year-old. This is mid-range on typical costs. That works out to about $5/hour. Which is why center daycares are often more economical than nannies.

Some friends of mine have hired a nanny for full-time in-home. She's got a Montessori background and I think they are paying $35k plus paid holidays/sick time. It's 2 kids under 2.

We pay our sitter $10/hour.

I would suggest that you ease into this and have an agreement that you will revisit the whole arrangement when your kid turns 1. It is a lot of work and two kids limits the kind of things she can do during the day. I'd start by having her do a few hours a day for a few days a week, maybe 1 full day. And while your kid may be fussy for you, I'm sure that he will have his own character around your SIL. So I wouldn't worry about that too much. Just do a trial run and also explore the care options in your town. There's a lot of great things about the daycare setting and you guys could even do a split kind of thing where your kid is in care 1/2 time and with the SIL the rest of the time.
posted by amanda at 8:17 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, my state sets the day care provider ratio for children under 1 year as 1 adult to 2 infants, in recognition that this care is extremely time-intensive. So I think your SIL's nervousness is based in reality, especially if she's never done child care before (which, if she doesn't know how to bottle-feed, I'm guessing is the case).

Honestly, I think the best thing you can do is start looking into backup options and have a real conversation about what she's worried about in which you offer options but are careful not to guilt her into providing care. (Not that you would, but she's probably already feeling a bit guilty about going back on the plan.)

Even if she doesn't want to do the care now, you can revisit this in 6-12 months. At that point both kids will have much more established routines and will be able to play with/near each other, which reduces the workload of 2 rather than increasing it.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:26 PM on December 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

A toddler is harder to care for than a baby; caring for both is really really tough. (I had my children really close together and boy howdy.) I would look into other arrangements simply because you don't want her resenting you or your baby.

You absolutely need to allow her to say no if she doesn't want to do this.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:50 PM on December 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

I can't speak to your other issues, but in regards to the bottle feeding issue... Would it weird you or SIL out too much to have her just breastfeed your baby when he's in her care? It would probably be easier for everyone involved!
posted by sanitycheck at 9:27 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

If she doesn't feel like this is what's best for her family, you should absolutely respect that. It will be easier for all of you if you find a daycare or nanny for your son and don't try and force a situation that will, at best, lead to resentment.

Definitely pay her a reasonable wage, don't scrimp because she's family. Ask around in your area, I live in Boston and for a full time nanny $12/hr would be the cheapest you could reasonably find.
posted by sonika at 9:29 PM on December 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am acquainted with three professional nannies who took their infants to work with them after maternity leave (working with children of various ages), and all made it work. Plus people nanny share with similar age children all the time, it's really common. The difference between what I am describing and your situation is that the nanny is a professional who is skilled, qualified and experienced, and it sounds as though your sister-in-law isn't. I would definitely start looking for other options just in case she decides she can't do it (for whatever reason), and even if she says she can do it, build in an alternative caregiver for at least a few periods per week so she gets a break.
posted by goo at 9:44 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

This would be a hard thing to do even if she really wanted to do it. If she's not excited about it, it could well wreck your family relationship.

Having your baby looked after by a qualified professional whose job it is to look after him, is not a worse option than having him be an afterthought to distracted, busy relative who kind of wishes she'd never agreed to it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:42 PM on December 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

This arrangement isn't fair to her daughter, your son, or your SIL.

You said she's getting cold feet, but here you are looking for ways to make this OK.

You have 2 whole months to find and hire a proper nanny. I HEARTILY suggest you do just this.

Your niece deserves her mom's 100% attention during this crucial time in her development.

Your son deserves an experienced professional who is 100% dedicated to him while you are at work.

There are plenty of EXCELLENT nannies out there who will take stellar care of your child. Go find one you like. It'll be just fine. I promise.

Please be gracious and let your SIL focus solely on her daughter.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:48 PM on December 7, 2013 [27 favorites]

I am a nanny for 2 babies that are about 4 months apart. They were 6 months and 10 months old when I started working with their families a few months ago, and wow it's tough! I only do this about 20 hours a week and really couldn't imagine doing it full time. It gets harder as they get older In a few months they are both going to be eating solids, crawling, walking and getting into everything. It takes a lot of energy to keep up with two young ones. And what if she couldn't handle it? It would be stressful on your baby to switch from one sitter/routine to another when your SIL throws in the towel.

I highly recommend hiring a nanny. Care.com is a great start. I have found a couple of nanny and babysitting jobs through them and they will do a full background check on the potential nanny for you. With regards to actually hiring a nanny, do the interview in your home, let the nanny interact with your baby during his/her time there, ask if he/she is infant CPR certified, and check references. It can absolutely be done in 2 months.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 4:09 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Well, it is difficult to do a pay rate because it's complicated, but often nannies who get to bring their own kids and get to work in their own home charge a bit less, because it's less convenient for you and your kid doesn't get one-on-one care. I'd ask her what she thinks is fair and then I'd pay her more than that and I'd also be generous in other ways.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:45 AM on December 8, 2013

Instead of hiring a nanny, can you hire a maid but instead of working at your place, she works at your SIL's? SIL is still in charge of both kids, but doesn't have to DO ALL THE THINGS herself. The maid can do housework plus some baby things that both moms are comfortable about. If there's a difference in money from nanny payment to maid payment, then that can go to SIL, but with a Maid in the house, she's still being somewhat compensated if she doesn't have to do laundry, cleanup, or fix lunch anymore.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:34 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is she interested in doing it and you guys are both doing some problem solving, or are you trying to talk her into it? If it's the latter, I'd find a nanny instead; you don't want a reluctant caregiver.

> advice on finding a nanny in Seattle would also be welcome

It's been a few years since I've had to find babysitters, but I had the best luck with sittercity.com. I found a few great babysitters that way, and had fewer flakes and/or sketchy people than I did with craigslist. Look out for their automatic renewals on your credit card, though.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:34 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

> Low range for our area because family (which is in the vein of what they'd originally offered)? High range because of difficulty?

I paid in the high range because of difficulty (one of my kids has Issues), and because I wanted the sitter to treat it like a professional job. When in doubt, be generous.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:37 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

"and she's getting (understandable) cold feet about the idea of caring for 2 babies at the same time. Not sweet. :("

Respect her boundaries. She's already told you no, albeit in a really passive wishy-washy way so as to spare your feelings, but you're choosing not to hear it because we tend to hear whatever we want to hear.

Please don't force the issue and use Guilt or Manipulation (including you not doing the work to find adequate childcare) to make her watch your newborn.

Find someone who really wants and needs the very important job of caring for your son. Use Care.com. Ask around.

If you hire a 40-hour per week caregiver in the state of WA, you need to meet all of your “nanny tax” obligations, including:

Register for federal and state tax accounts
Complete and file New Hire Report
Calculate the correct amount of taxes to withhold each pay period
Track gross pay, net pay, and taxes withheld
Prepare state tax returns and remit taxes quarterly
Prepare federal tax estimates four times per year and remit both the employer and employee taxes
Prepare year-end summaries to state tax agencies
Prepare Form W-2 and distribute to your employee (and any former employees who had wages during that calendar year)
Prepare Form W-3 and send to the Social Security Administration (along with Form W-2 Copy A)
Prepare Schedule H to accompany your personal federal income tax return
Respond to IRS and state notices/inquiries
Monitor ever-changing household employment tax law

Even if you pay any single individual less than $1,800 (year 2012) in a calendar year, and therefore you are exempt from the nanny tax obligations listed above - however, you are still legally considered a household employer and, therefore, must meet all applicable labor laws. You can outsource the above to one of many reputable tax and accounting firms who specialize in this.

You have to pay a WA state-mandated minimum wage of at least $9.19 an hour (the highest in the nation). In Seattle, I can't see paying under $15/hour at a BARE minimum, and providing paid sick days and paid vacation, too.

Nthing find a daycare if you are not wealthy. There are many good ones - I like Montessori and Bright Horizons.
posted by hush at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

I would sit down with her and talk about other ways for the 4 of you to collaborate on child care that everyone is comfortable with. There may be economies of scale you can take advantage of that don't involve her doing most of the work.
posted by bleep at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bleep makes a good point. My friend has a 3 year old and a niece a few months older, so she shares a non-residential nanny with her SIL. The nanny cares for the kids together either at my friend's house or SIL's on four week days, and this has worked well since the nippers were less than a year old. Could a similar arrangement work for you?
posted by freya_lamb at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2013

This isn't SIL's current profession, she's family, and she's just starting to realize the enormity of the favor she's offered to do. When you were just pregnant, it was a vague far-off favor that was all sunny and happy and babies playing together. Now she's registering the poopy, crying, exhausting, and interminable reality of it all and she doesn't want to do it. The lack of clear communication on both sides and the muddied family waters have led to her feeling a lack of ability to easily back out.

And if at the outset you're already communicating in ideals and cold feet and guessing about key elements of the relationship, it's likely the communication will not get better as the situation progresses. One possible end scenario is that she'll watch your child for a while, feeling more and more resentful that you wouldn't listen to her, and then something will happen that will cause her to snap and you'll have your child dumped back in your laps with no notice instead of the two months' notice you've got now. And then you'll be upset with her and she'll see you as ungrateful and and and nothing good.

I think the best choice by far is to remove her involvement entirely, but you know your family best and if you really want to attempt to salvage this situation, I would sit her down and communicate as clearly as you would in any other business relationship and with just as much expectation that either side can leave/back out if it doesn't suit them after all. Tell her exactly how much you'd be willing to pay her, how many hours it would be, what perks she's receive in addition, what notice she'd be expected to give if it wasn't working out, etc.

My guess is that during this conversation or shortly thereafter, it will come out that she's just really not interested but wouldn't mind occasionally babysitting in a pinch.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:50 AM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

You look after both kids Mondays.
SIL looks after them Tuesdays.
Your partner looks after them Wednesdays.
Your BIL looks after them Thursdays.
Fridays you get a nanny.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:14 PM on December 8, 2013

We did a nanny share with another family when our kids were similar ages to yours.

It lasted two weeks.

The nanny simply wasn't able to simultaneously meet the very different needs of these kids at very different developmental stages.

In our arrangement, I was watching both kids myself for one hour per week -- one hour! -- and I found that to be completely exhausting.

On the other hand, the process of employing a nanny on our own, or slightly later finding an in-home daycare that we loved, was much easier (and quicker!) than I anticipated. That's the route I'd go if I were you.
posted by wyzewoman at 12:25 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, getting the "abort mission" message loud and clear. Thanks to those of you who didn't imply that I'm a fool or an asshole or selfish jerk for having wanted their kind offer to work out. I'm seeing brother and SIL tomorrow night and will let them know that we're look into totally different options unless they're really really actually into the idea, and even then only maybe a day or two a week.

I'm dealing with a huge amount of guilt/shame about wanting to go back to work instead of staying home raising my child, and I'd been assuaging it quite a bit for most of the year by thinking happy thoughts about him being taken care of by family even if it wasn't me. Losing that has me in something of a tailspin. Combined with everyone telling me since before I got pregnant that it'll take a year or more to find good child care, I'm absolutely panicked, so thank you to people who provided links / encouragement that finding something in only 2 months is doable.
posted by laeren at 5:16 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will second the rec someone gave above for Bright Horizons. I was where you are -- the thought of leaving my baby with strangers drove me to tears; but so did the thought of never having a career and a life outside mommydom again -- and when I toured my local Bright Horizons, it was the first time I felt like things were going to be ok. And they were! I was surprised at how quickly a spot opened up, even though I was on down the waiting list a bit when I signed up. Good luck to you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:28 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's stressful, but I assure you it will all work out well! You will find a wonderful caregiver who will provide your child with a nurturing, loving environment. One more loving person in your child's life is like an extra dose of love! Plus baby will have a wonderful loving family life at home. Lucky baby!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Are you a member of any of the local neighborhood parent yahoo groups ? There are a oodles of them in Seattle (Greenwood, Ballard, Columbia City, Madrona - the list goes on and on), and they often post about available nannies. There are also occasionally requests for a nanny-share, so you can share the costs.

You sometimes have to give your address to get access, but other than that it's easy to join. And they could also provide you local daycare tips for your neighborhood.
posted by frizz at 8:22 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm dealing with a huge amount of guilt/shame about wanting to go back to work instead of staying home raising my child, and I'd been assuaging it quite a bit for most of the year by thinking happy thoughts about him being taken care of by family even if it wasn't me. Losing that has me in something of a tailspin.

Totally, totally understandable and normal. Its SO stressful finding care for your little one when you go back to work. Its a big leap of faith handing over your child to a caregiver, but it will all work out in the end. I was at the end of my tether when I finally found an awesome daycare. Even then the first day was terrifying, but it worked out amazing. Seven years later my younger son is in his last year there, and my daycare provider is like family to us.
posted by Joh at 10:31 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

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