Mother-in-law as nanny: Can it really work?

Are you a first-time mom preparing to go back into the workforce? Making decisions about your baby's care while you are at work can be incredibly challenging. Some parents are deciding to bring their extended family in -- often their parents or in-laws -- to help out. Does this kind of arrangement really work, and is it really the best decision for your family?

You may be about to enter a quagmire. While your mom or your partner's mom may be an authority on raising their own children, you and your partner are the parenting authorities for your child. The stakes are high. There is potential for conflict and competition between the three of you that could spell trouble.

It may be helpful to thoroughly explore your expectations with your partner to determine whether or not it is a realistic endeavor to use extended family as your primary child-care provider. Much may depend on the nature of your current relationship with this person you are considering. Do you feel the two of you have worked together well in the past - handling any differences that may have come up? Is there room for varying opinions in your interactions?

The key questions to answer in order to determine the probability for success in this endeavor are: 1) Will the person you have chosen to care for your child be open to respecting your authority? and 2) Given any differences, is she likely to be able to change enough to meet your expectations?

If after talking with your partner you both feel that the person you are considering respects your authority as parents and can defer to your parenting requirements even though she may have a differing opinion, by all means give it a try. But do not do it alone. Talk to your baby's care provider together -- as a parental team. If you are thinking of bringing in your mother-in-law to help care for your baby, remember that her bond with her son predates your relationship with her. She will be better able to hear your needs and requests if they are coming through her son as well as from you. Express any concerns you may have in a respectfully gentle, but firm, manner.

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