You have to love the enthusiasm some grandmas have for their grandchildren. When it comes to a special kind of love and affection, kids can often get it from good ole grandma. Nothing is too good for her sweet little munchkins. Hello to hugs, kisses, and freshly baked cookies!
Oh, I almost forgot. You can pay her for her time via cash, check, or PayPal.
This 25th edition of Squirreling Gone Wild shares the story about a grandmother who seemingly went from a friendly volunteer to a shrewd businesswoman in a short period of time. Give this grandma an inch, and she’ll take a mile.
Grandma is the mother-in-law of one of my friends. She’s apparently been a fairly nice in-law, and a decent low-maintenance grandmother. She loves the kids, but doesn’t get excessively involved. In short, she’s been good to my friend since he’s known her.
The one comment my buddy has made, however, is that in the past she never volunteered to watch the kids or help out too much. If she’s asked to help, she might do so once in a while, though other times she and Grandpa will have excuses as to why they’re busy. They only live 5 minutes away, and Grandma is retired.
Nevertheless, it’s all been good overall. Family relations have been fine.
The Daycare Situation
My friend and his wife (we’ll call them James and Caroline here) are both working full-time, and have two young kids. Until last year, they’ve sent the kids to daycare. However, with the oldest being in school and having a few extracurricular activities now, the situation has changed in terms of logistics. Plus, money has gotten a bit tighter for them. Therefore, they wanted to find a way to cut back on expenses.
Enter Grandma. She volunteered to pick the oldest kid up from school, and care for her in between school getting out and when her daughter – the kids’ mother, Caroline - got home from work. Essentially, that’s about 2:30pm to 5:30pm. It wasn’t directly discussed, but it was assumed that the younger child would remain in daycare.
So, James thought it would work out well for all if they did this. He and Caroline would save some money on after school care for their oldest, and Grandma would get a chance to spend some quality time with one of her grandchildren.
It seemed like a win-win.
After they all agreed on Grandma picking up the oldest kid and spending a few hours with her, James did the math and determined that it would be around 15 hours a week that his mother-in-law be helping out. That would clearly save James and Caroline some money. Or so they thought.
After a few days of “helping out”, Grandma informed her daughter Caroline that she thought $15 per hour was a good fee for the part-time nanny work she was doing. Caroline was surprised, but couldn’t tell her mother anything negative about it. She just didn’t have the strength to do so. Plus, her parents lived on a fixed-income, so maybe some extra money could help them.
When James found out, he was floored and upset. He wondered how Grandma could act like she was helping out, then spring it on them later that she expected to get paid? Caroline agreed, but it was her mother, and she wanted to keep the peace. So, James grudgingly went along with it. He didn’t like how his mother-in-law set this up, as he felt it was a bait and switch. However, the bottom line to him was that he didn’t want to upset his wife. They agreed to pay the $15 per hour.
Grandma Ups the Ante
After agreeing to pay her, my friend realized he was going to be paying $225 per week for this “after school care”. At this price, he could have sent his oldest kid to some form of daycare for the entire day. They had spent a pretty penny on daycare for her, but this amount wasn’t too far off the previous all-day expenditure according to him. As he described this to me over the phone, it was clear that he had gotten more annoyed by this as a few days elapsed.
After 2 weeks or so, my friend and his wife paid Grandma. A few days later, Grandma called Caroline and complained that she was really hoping for more hours than this with the kids. Apparently, she was hoping to replace some of her income from when she was working a few years prior. At least that was her logic.
Caroline proceeded to tell James that Grandma was willing to drive both kids to their respective destinations in the morning, as well as take the oldest to late afternoon/early evening extrcurriculars a few days a week. This amounted to an extra 10 hours per week, according to her calculations.
James wasn’t buying any of it, as he thought it didn’t take an extra 10 hours to do such things. Plus, this put the weekly hours for Grandma at 25, and her pay at $375. My friend got his wife to get her mother to agree to a lower rate – if I recall correctly, I believe it was $330. Regardless, the “help” from Grandma turned out to be really expensive.
After that point, my friend had picked up the story with me a few weeks later in a subsequent call. At this point, he was mad. He was frustrated to the point of getting worked up on the phone, and didn’t share dollar amounts anymore.
James was furious at that point. His view, one that many might share, is that grandchildren shouldn’t be money-making opportunities for grandparents. Frankly, I totally agree with him. My parents have helped out quite a bit, and have never asked for anything other than an acknowledgement of their work, and appreciation. If I ever tried to pay them, they would turn it down immediately with no further discussion. They do it not out of obligation, but because they want to be helpful. Grandparents that don’t want to are fully within their rights, of course.
However, it wasn’t over yet. He told me something new that was quite amusing. After doing her additional driving, Grandma informed Caroline that she thinks that she should be compensated for her driving by getting a small gas allowance – particularly since prices have gone up. Additionally, she took the oldest granddaughter out for food a few times, and thought she should be reimbursed for that. The food was of the fast-food variety (which my friend hates as well, since he doesn’t want his kids eating junk food).
The Final Outcome
James is not a happy camper about all of it. However, he just deals with it at this point. Maybe there was some miscommunication at the beginning of all this, if you give the mother-in-law the benfefit of the doubt. He does like the in-laws well enough otherwise, and doesn’t want fights with his wife. That’s also another problem – what if he gets so fed up with this, or doesn’t like some things about the care his kids are getting? Maybe he would prefer a different solution anyway. At this point it would be very uncomfortable to ultimately ‘fire’ his mother-in-law. He feels trapped.
Additionally, James is spending more than he wants to and he really doesn’t like the idea of spending money on his inlaws anyway. He considers their finances to be their problem and not his.
Believe it or not, I’ve seen a crazier situation than this. However, this one struck me as interesting because of how it’s perceived that Grandma just chiseled away at them over time, and there some gray areas as well.
Again, this is something that might not be a big deal to some, and might seem totally fine to others. All depends on what role one sees with grandparents and their grandchildren. To me, it seems strange to pay your parents to watch your kids – and have your parents not only take the money but ask for it too. They’re certainly not obligated to spend their time this way, and absolutely shouldn’t be taken advantage of – but the idea of grandkids as a moneymaking opportunity is a bit different to me. The gas adjustment and food compensation really seemed over the top for me. I’m biased, but I can understand how James is uncomfortable with all of this.
My Questions For You
- How would you have handled the situation if you were James and/or Caroline?
- Do you think Grandma was being over the top, or do you think she should expect to be compensated for her all her time and incremental expenses?
I welcome all viewpoints, whether you agree or disagree on my take. I’m sure there are logical views all around.