parent opinion

"It's only fair." 5 mums weigh in on whether you should pay grandparents for childcare.

If you have kids and are back at work, you’ll understand the daily challenges of the work/family juggle. Getting your little ones dressed and out the door to daycare takes time and energy – and then there’s the huge expense.

If you are lucky enough to have a grandparent willing to help out, do you see that as a wonderful gift, or do you pay them for their time?

Mamamia spoke to five mums about whether or not they pay their parents and parents-in-law to care for their grandchildren, and the reasons why.

Team Mamamia share the worst things they’ve ever said to their mother-in-law. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

Christina, mum of two, pays her mum in cash.

Christina had an idyllic set up when she went back to work after having her daughter Harriet in 2012.

“At the time we were living in Sydney and I was working for Tourism Victoria, three days per week.

“Daycare was really expensive and hard to find, so my mum offered to come down twice a week from Newcastle to look after Harriet. My parents-in-law did the remaining day.

“It was amazing as I would get up and get ready to a point but then when mum arrived I would hand Harriet over and simply grab my bag and head out the door to catch the train. So much easier than packing lunches and worrying about drop offs in Sydney traffic!”

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“Daycare was really expensive and hard to find." Image: Supplied.
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The convenience as well as the reassurance that their daughter was receiving gold class home daycare with the grandparents led Christina and husband Joel to pay for the privilege.

“We felt strongly that if we were both out working and earning, it's only fair to pay mum, however much she loved her kids and grandkids.”

Now that Christina and family are living back in Newcastle, her mum still picks up the odd day to look after Harriet and younger brother Otto.

“Harriet is at school and Otto is at daycare three days per week. During the school holidays or if I pick up an extra day of work, I know I can still ask mum to help and we just transfer money across to her.

She is busy with six grandkids these days so we try not to ask too much!”

Jade, mum of one, does not pay her parents.

Jade’s two-year-old daughter Aubree is in paid childcare four days a week, but on Fridays, she goes to Jade’s parents’ home.

“I don’t pay mum because she does it as a favour for us, so we’re not spending additional money on childcare. As we receive a childcare subsidy, we pay $30 per day, which includes nappies, meals and the delivery of an educational program. When Aubree goes to mum and dad's, I bring over nappies and food and my daughter just plays all day.

“In theory we could subtract the cost of the food and nappies and give my mum whatever was left, but then it wouldn’t leave much and it defeats the object. As a household, my parents also have a much higher annual income than my husband and I do.

“If my mum did ask for me to pay her $30 for the day of course I would - she’s my mum, but they see this as a way of helping us out, and they LOVE having their granddaughter for a day each week!”

Jamie, mum of three, pays in gift cards.

Jamie is a Brisbane-based mum of three who uses a mix of daycare and grandparent care during the week. Her mum does the majority of the regular care shifts while the in-laws provide essential back up care.

“Next year we are planning on paying my parents with gift cards to care for the kids one day a week. Our eldest two kids are already in childcare (my third is just a newborn) and as we are not eligible for the childcare rebate, it will save us $250 for the day.

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“They wouldn’t accept any money so we decided to give them vouchers and gift cards for nice restaurants, shows or fun experiences they wouldn’t normally get to enjoy.

“We know we are very lucky to have this setup. Not only does it financially help us out but the kids are very fortunate to have this regular connection with both sets of grandparents that has resulted in a really beautiful relationship.”

Alana, mum of two, does not pay her mum

Alana and husband Brad live and work in Newcastle, NSW. They are lucky to have both sets of parents living close by.

“My sister doesn’t have kids so mum and dad have been on hand to help me out with my two girls since they were born. It started with occasional babysitting, eventually turning into one full day of care per week.”

Alana and Brad have always used a daycare service as well to ensure they didn’t overwhelm the helpful grandparents.

“It was lovely to have one day each week where we didn’t have to rush the girls out the door to daycare. Mum would pick them up, sometimes still in their pyjamas, and take them back to her place.

“Not only did this arrangement help save us money, but it was great to know they were having a quiet, 'at home day' with my parents every week.

“Louella my eldest started school in 2018 and the youngest Saphina starts next year, but mum and dad will continue to help with school pick-ups and after-school care.

“Both sets of parents now have a close relationship with our girls and we are very grateful that they have been able to help our family in this way.”

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“Not only did this arrangement help save us money, but it was great to know they were having a quiet, 'at home day' with my parents every week." Image: Supplied.
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Nicole, mum of three, pays her mother-in-law daycare rates.

With three kids not yet at school, Sunshine Coast based mum Nicole normally uses daycare twice a week when she works.

“I found out recently that the kids’ day care will be closed for longer than usual over the Christmas period due to some renovation work so we had to consider our options.

“We looked at hiring a nanny but decided to ask my mother-in-law if she was interested first. She said ‘yes’ so we will be paying her the same as we pay daycare for all three kids for six days over the three weeks in summer holidays.

“She normally works and is taking a few days off to help us out, so paying her for her time is the least we can do. We haven't done it before and with no family living close by we normally just manage the demands of work and family life by ourselves.”

Nicole strongly believes that grandparents should not be expected to care for kids for free.

“Watching three young children is a big job and she deserves to be paid. She does occasionally help out with babysitting here or there and doesn’t ask for, or expect payment, but I feel like this is a different situation.”

Do you pay your parents or in-laws to look after your children or do you think it should only be done for love? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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