When my grandson was seven months old, I began caring for him during the day while his parents were at work. My husband and I met with my son and his wife to discuss the arrangements, including compensation. I’m one of those weird people that believe family doesn’t always mean free. I was providing a valuable service and wasn’t out of line in requesting reasonable payment. I researched prices at several daycare facilities in our area and offered my services for less than half of the lowest dollar amount I found. In addition, we would provide all essential items (food, wipes, diapers, etc.).
My son and his wife said the fee was more than they could afford to pay, but asked if I would accept $150 per month. (My original offer was $100 per week.) I had a feeling that I was being taken advantage of, but I chose to ignore my instincts and convinced myself the only thing that mattered was my grandson’s care. After considerable conversation, my husband and I agreed to the amount, with the stipulation that they provide all of the necessary items for their son (the essentials).
Regardless of the steps I took to ensure we all understood the deal ahead of time, things didn’t work out the way I had planned. They provided food for the first three weeks. Oftentimes, there were no diapers or wipes in the diaper bag, or the can of formula would be empty. The pajamas and clothes always seemed too small and the socks almost never matched. From the beginning, there were several indicators that I either missed or refused to acknowledge; the problem should have been clearer to me.
I became so frustrated with their lack of consistency bringing what was needed that I eventually bought as many supplies as possible for my grandson to use while at our house. I honestly can’t remember being reimbursed for anything, and if I was given money, it was for something used in their home (a box of diapers, for example). As my grandson grew, I continued to add to his collection. My main goal was for him to be comfortable in our home, and to have whatever was needed for me to give him proper care. (Side note, my definition of proper care varied greatly from his parents’ definition, adding to my irritation.)
By the time my grandson was three years old, I had unintentionally established his presence as a permanent fixture in our home, even when he was gone. When our friends would visit, they would tease me about the toddler size utensils in the kitchen drawer, the Elmo potty seat and book in the powder room, the fact that my grandson had a bedroom to himself. When a contractor came to our house to do some work, one of the first questions asked was, “How old is your little one?”
My husband and I were providing free daycare, meals, snacks, clothes. We were paying for enrollment fees for swim lessons and other activities, had established a college fund and savings account for our grandson. We went above and beyond the original agreement and we did it willingly, out of immense love for a very special little boy. If it sounds like I’m complaining, then I’m not using the right words. I don’t regret contributing to our grandson’s wellbeing. The problem was that I kept giving to his parents, unintentionally enabling them, causing a perpetual cycle that would prove almost impossible to stop.
To be continued…