Q&A: MIL not taking good care of toddler

Ashley writes:

"I just got a phone call from DH and since I hung up, I've beenasking myself "WWMD?" Instead of wondering, I thought I'd just go
straight to the source. Here's the issue:

The background: My MIL has been watching Baby Girl one day a week
since I went back to work after her birth. Baby Girl is 13 months old
now – almost walking, crawling all over and trying to climb whatever
she can find. MIL has always been somewhat ditzy – to the point where
we don't feel comfortable letting MIL watch BG at MIL's house, but have
been fine with her at our house.

Today, DH got a call at work from MIL asking how to turn on the
TV. This is a weekly occurance and he didn't think anything of it. When
he didn't hear BG in the background he asked MIL if she was napping.
MIL responded that no, she was either in her bedroom or the bathroom,
she wasn't sure. DH told MIL that she needed to check and needed to
make sure the bathroom door was closed. BG likes to try to grab her
bath toys out of the tub and can lean pretty far in. We're worried that
she might fall in and hurt her head or neck. MIL agreed and then made a
comment about how she was doing something earlier and heard BG scream
from the other room like she had hurt herself. When MIL went into the
living room, she couldn't find BG. Comment #2 made red flags go up all
over the place for DH, so after he got off the phone with MIL, he
called me to ask what we should do.

If it MIL was a paid employee, we'd be looking for
another caregiver. But she's not. She's our daughter's grandmother, so
feelings are involved. We know we (DH, really, it's his mom & he
agrees) need to talk to MIL, we just don't know what that convo needs
to be. Does it need to be "Thanks for your help thus far, but we've
decided to put her in daycare on your day too" or should it be a clear
statement of our expectations and a warning? And if it's #2, how do we
check to make sure everything is really okay? I hate the idea of
worrying about my daugher all day while I'm at work.

So, WWMD? Thanks!"

(I've been so conditioned by US politics that I read "WWMD?" as "What Weapons of Mass Destruction?" Sigh.)

I used to teach and develop materials for standardized tests. One of the sample questions we used involved a clock that chimed the hour. At one point in the question, the clock chimed 13, and that meant that you couldn't trust any of the previous chimes to tell the hour, because the clock was faulty. So "the thirteenth chime" became shorthand for something that called a whole process into question.

To me, the scream and then not being able to find BG is the thirteenth chime. It's clear to me that you can't keep MIL as caregiver for one day a week. If BG was 5, it would be different. Or even 3 and old enough to tell you what was going on. But at 13 months old, she's the perfect storm of old enough to get into a ton of danger but not old enough to either get herself out of danger or tell you what's going on.

It also seems to me that stating expectations and warning her are probably not going to be effective. Since she loves BG, she's probably taking care of her the best she can already. It's not like a paid caregiver who may be slacking off because it's just a paid gig to her, who will step it up if she wants to keep the job.

The issue seems to be how to remove MIL from the situation without tearing apart your relationships with her. I'm going to assume that the direct approach ("We don't feel you are taking competent care of BG") is out of the question because MIL is probably operating at her max already. So now, do you approach it in a more gentle, oblique way? Or do you just rearrange the situation somehow so that MIL can't reasonably care for BG?

If I got the idea that MIL was trying to control you guys, BG, or the situation, it would seem like you needed to draw some definite boundaries. But I don't get that feeling from your email. So I might try to do something that made it impossible for MIL to care for BG anymore, so you could express regret about it but not have her in the situation anymore. I'm thinking about something like working different hours if you can, signing BG up for some kind of classes or program that conflict with MIL's time (or that she can't get BG to), or something like that. It's the same technique you use with a kid–instead of saying "I want you to go to bed" you say "The clock tells us that it's time to go to bed" and then there's no element of control in the interaction and it's not personal.

So what do you guys think? Again, I'm coming at this from the perspective that it seems like they really want to preserve the best relationship possible with MIL and not hurt her feelings in any way or draw any symbolic boundaries, they just don't want her to be sole caregiver for BG anymore.

80 thoughts on “Q&A: MIL not taking good care of toddler”

  1. Wow – red flags all over the place! I think that care situation needs to end now. I have no advice for preserving the MIL relationship because I have such a crappy relationship with my mother-in-law we literally haven’t spoken in eight years. But I think Moxie is on the money. If you could get her into another program and frame it as a great opportunity for BG and then say “sorry, but that program only happens on x day”.

  2. I think you’ve got to be more upfront than that, because a class for BG doesn’t help when MIL offeres to watch her on a Saturday just because she misses BG.

  3. I think I might just lie. “BG’s daycare feels she might do better with more consistency at this age so we’re going to put her in for that day.”And then, I would arrange a weekly meal/playtime with everyone together so that MIL and BG can continue to have a close, loving, and unnoticeably supervised relationship.
    Once BG is older she will be able to rate MIL out, but in the meantime I really think it’s just not safe, and Moxie is right – she’s probably doing her best already.

  4. The most important thing is that it has to stop b/c your MIL is not paying the necessary attention to Baby Girl.Personally, I might have freaked out about the not knowing where she was thing. But that might not be the most productive reaction.
    I think your husband should get a say in how you approach it. But your concerns are right on.

  5. I would lie too – if you want to preserve the relationship. Maybe tell her that the daycare insists on 5 days a week or she’ll lose her spot!

  6. I agree- blame it on the daycare. “They really recommend that older babies have the same schedule as much as possible…” or “We are going to lose our spot if we don’t do 5 days a week…” or “We can get a discount if we do full-time care…”. Then I would decline any babysitting offers she makes until BG is older and handle less direct supervision.My mom is the same way- she couldn’t physically handle taking care of my baby niece, so into daycare she went! I don’t know if it caused contention between my mom and my brother and SIL, but I think my mom was relieved.

  7. My immediate reaction to Ashley’s situation is that this story could’ve had a very tragic ending, and I’m so very relieved it didn’t. Baby Girl needs a new caregiver right away, and MIL needs to see a neurologist. It sounds like MIL is experiencing some cognitive deficits, and/or perhaps the onset of dementia.A baby should not be in the care of someone who is having trouble taking care of themselves. If an older person needs to call her son weekly to ask how to turn on the TV, I would strongly suspect the beginnings of short term memory loss.
    I think honesty is the best policy in a case like this, where there is most definitely a health issue in question. Just make the child care change and if push comes to shove, put it in simple terms of behavior: “It’s not acceptable behavior for someone who is responsible for the care of Baby Girl to not know exactly where she is at all times.” MIL’s behavior also needs to be accurately reflected to the neurologist and/or treating physician.

  8. I was thinking the, “daycare no longer offering part time” thing is probably the best choice too. But then again…it seems that saying something about how much trouble she can get in in a very short period of time is a good idea. Chances are there will be another time when she wants to watch her alone and you need to have had this talk. Maybe make up a story about how she got into something when you weren’t paying enough attention and she got hurt somehow. Or make up a story about something that happened to a friend’s kid while they were with a babysitter. “Jane’s daughter’s babysitter wasn’t watching her and she got into the bathroom and fell face first into the toilet…I mean, she could have died! How terrifying. can you believe that? I’m never taking my eyes off BG for a minute ever again.”

  9. I would lie too. My in-law relationship isn’t great, but honestly, I’d lie to my own mom in order to keep the peace at this point.Our day care has various programs (Gym, computer, music, Spanish) Each of these occurs on a specific day of the week. In fact, I used to not work Fridays, and when he started at this day care we soon found out what he’d be missing if I kept him at home on Fridays, so now I work Fridays and he goes to school, so as not to miss out on the fun stuff (gym and computers are Friday activities).
    Maybe yours has something on the day she misses that all of the sudden is available, and if she doesn’t go, she’ll miss out.
    If they don’t, then I’d go with the line about the day care thinking she’s do better with more consistency.

  10. I had to “fire” my MIL for exactly this reason. She would allow my then-nine-month-old to crawl all over the house, unsupervised, for up to 20 minutes at a time. (When I first heard about this I nearly had a heart attack.)I was just honest with her. I explained that I totally understood that the amount of care a young child requires can be totally overwhelming, and that it’s only going to get harder as he gets older. I told her that I needed to be completely assured that my child was always safe and that we were putting him full time into daycare. (I used the old, “if something as simple as a stray button found its way into the baby’s mouth and caused him to choke, I don’t think we’d ever be able to forgive ourselves” argument and she I think got it.)
    It was really hard and awkward but we all got over it and I never had to worry about lying.

  11. I have no insight into how to tell her. But, the TV at my FIL’s is insanely complicated since it is hooked up to a radio, DVD player, VCR, etc. He has to most confusing remote (I’m sorry, universal commander) ever. I can’t remember how to turn it on since not all the buttons are hooked up and I don’t want to mess up the settings. So that’s not a red flag to me.

  12. I think I would address the two issues separately: First, I would schedule BG so that MIL can’t take care of her anymore – many suggestions above were great – I like the “we get a better deal if we go full time to daycare” or something along those lines.Then at a different time I would address what seems to be a neurological issue with MIL. I think connecting the two would make her more defensive about possible neurological problems because she might see it as a link between her failure to properly care for BG, as opposed to something she simply needs to get addressed by a medical professional asap.
    I don’t think you should worry at this point about MIL wanting to pick up a Saturday or Sunday…..there is no problem with her coming over to visit BG on the weekends, just make sure you or DH are always around to supervise. You could have her over to “help” you with BG, but you would be there the whole time, allowing her to still have time “caring” for her grandbaby but all the while under your watchful eye. My guess is that if she can’t even remember how to turn the tv on from week to week, she probably won’t notice any obvious supervision by you while you are all visiting together.

  13. I think that is totally unfair to say she has Alzheimers or dementia. She proabably just doesn’t remember how much supervision a baby at this age needs, or she’s just a bit of a flakey person.Just put the kid into day care that extra day and don’t let the MIL be there unless someone else is. The way in which this happens is based on how defensive the MIL might get.

  14. @laura and hush, it kind of depends how much of an audio geek the husband is–I frequently have to call for instrux on operating our monstrous universal remote and I’m pretty sure I don’t have alzheimer’s. 🙂 That said, if it’s a simple on-off button, yes, absolutely, get evaluated.Haven’t had this exact situation, but my FIL has been asking to babysit Mouse since she was born and it’s only recently that I’ve felt it might be a reasonable back-up option. He has some mental health issues that are known and that were active for much of Mouse’s really early years, and there was just no way in hell I was leaving her with somebody who was bipolar and whose medication wasn’t properly adjusted, who decompensated unexpectedly…no matter the family relationship. These days he’s more stable and Mouse is nearly 5 so I’d consider it for short periods…but he’s still from another era as far as childrearing (not one where actually paying attention to the child is considered a good thing) and I wouldn’t leave her with him for an extended period. Anyway, he’s been very hurt by our refusal to do this, as he really wants to feel helpful–but it has been possible to maintain the relationship and we see him all together most weekends. We’ve been pretty honest that until he was stable and had been stable for a while, we weren’t comfortable with babysitting…and then, that it’s a big inconvenience for him since it involves an hour of travel each way by his preferred method…so it’s easier just to find somebody in the neighborhood. I agree about the daycare idea–and if grandma is mainly watching TV and not attending to kiddo, maybe she’s not actually all that into doing this? Sigh…good luck with it! Hope you work it out.

  15. @Brooke – of course your inability to use your FIL’s remote isn’t a red flag to you. But you should allow for the possibility that in some cases concerning much older people than you, who also display neglectful behavior towards a baby, make weekly requests for the same information without being able to retain it, and who are characterized by family members as “ditzy,” it is in fact a HUGE, GINORMOUS red flag worthy of a health evaluation.

  16. Sort of a combination of what hush and Julie said. First and most importantly, your gut is right–MIL is not safe to take care of BG and you need to change that situation right away. I’m not sure I would lay it all out with her, unless an approach like Elizabeth Engel’s would work. (Hey, I’ll just make this comment a mish-mash of everyone else’s!) But I do think a white lie based on something like scheduling could backfire so, if you’re not going to put it out there, I would pick something like the “regular schedule” idea.A lot depends on your MIL’s character. She might just be relieved and secretly be just as happy to end the care situation, or she might really cling to this time with her granddaughter. If the latter, you might have to be pretty blunt. If the former, you can be gentler or more evasive.
    And, yes, apart from this I would give some more consideration to your MIL’s mental health state and whether she needs any intervention for her own sake.
    It is fantastic that you and your husband are on the same page about this. A united front, when it comes to in-laws, makes an enormous difference. Your husband may also have a better sense about how best to break the news to MIL.

  17. OMG. I made no sense. I meant to say, a white lie based on a change to your schedule, or a class, could backfire, since that’s a change that could be viewed as temporary/flexible. If you make it something about what the daycare itself wants/requires, or something based on the kid’s need (i.e. benefiting from a consistent structure) it is harder to challenge/get around.

  18. My MIL has never babysat our son because she’s an alcoholic, and I could never trust her *not* to be drinking when she was with him. But if I had this situation, I would try:1. Lie about the daycare. “Gee, MIL, BG is changing every day! We feel like now she’d really benefit from being in the same situation every day. She really loves being around the other kids.” (Actually, that might not even be a lie.)
    However you handle it, I would thank your MIL profusely for the babysitting she did do (it’s awesome that your daughter had the interaction up to this point) and maybe give her a small gift to make her feel appreciated.
    As for the possible mental issues with MIL, is there a FIL in the picture? Other siblings? Anyone else who could give you their opinion on what may be happening? Does she live alone? Is she a danger to herself?

  19. My point was that the TV might, in fact, be very complicated, so it seems like a really huge jump from there to “She has early onset Alzheimer’s/dementia.” And we don’t know how old MIL is. She could be in her early 40’s (or younger!) or she could be almost 80.Of course it can’t hurt for Ashley’s husband to look out for his mom’s health.

  20. @Brooke – or the TV might be very simple!Do you really think I made a direct jump from “can’t use TV” straight to “has dementia”? Um, aren’t we leaving out the part about child neglect? (Actually, if you go back and read my comment it was: “It sounds like MIL is experiencing some cognitive deficits, and/or perhaps the onset of dementia.”)
    I don’t wish to argue with you, my friend, because the truth is, if you and others like Allison really think I’m so “unfair” to suggest that, on these facts, a person like Ashley’s dear MIL needs a health evaluation, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion…. 😉

  21. If one is considering paying for additional daycare, another alternative might be to find someone reliable to spend the day with the child and the MIL — that way, the baby gets to spend time with her grandmother and Ashley and her husband don’t have to worry so much — and no lying is involved.Sometimes the whole white lie thing works, but I agree, especially with family members, that it can be hard to work your way out of some corners, depending what you decide on… and even without the MIL having a daycare day, she’s still likely to volunteer for other babysitting times.
    And I have to chime in and say that I wouldn’t use the turning on the TV situation as a guide to anyone’s mental health, either… a lot of modern TV/home theatre equipment can be tricky when it gets handled by a universal remote. And when it’s maintained by a techie guy who likes to try new gadgets and change things with them 😉

  22. @hush-You weren’t the only one who suggested it. And you were indeed nuanced about it. My point is that it MIGHT not be crazy to have trouble with the TV. Especially since Ashley didn’t seem to think it was weird.And, yes, checking in about your parent/parent-in-law’s health is certainly not a bad thing. Especially if things seem off to you and/or they are older and/or they don’t get regular check ups.

  23. I agree with Hush and Moxie. And time really is of the essence. I think the most dangerous years for kids are 1-2.5 (at least in my house). So much opportunity to harm themselves and so little ability to understand why/how they can’t do something. I don’t think you need to be more direct than “It just seems that daycare is a better option/consistency, blah blah.” And the babysitting during evenings and weekends will work itself out as long as you keep seeing her all together.

  24. Normally when I read the comments on this site I agree with the majority of them but today I don’t.If we are going only on the story as told I’m surprised that so many are jumping right to the “remove her from the MIL care ASAP!” option. If Ashley already had misgivings about MIL watching BG and this is the last straw that’s one thing, but if this is the first/only incident I think (for me) I would take a different approach as I think as parents we can (me included) get totally freaked out about something we haven’t witnessed.
    If this was my situation after several months of being happy with the care and I was now worried about BG’s new mobility and MIL’s ability to keep up I might do a “test day” or two. Tell MIL you still need her to come over but that Ashley or her DH will be staying home from work to do X (home improvement project/work from home/whatever). Or have her come over for 4-5 hours on the weekend to watch BG while Ashley & DH work on some project but can still keep an eye on the care. This way you can see first hand how attentive MIL is to BG – maybe her comments were misleading or exaggerated – maybe the comment about BG “screaming from another room” was about BG crying for a snack in the greatroom while MIL was in the attached kitchen preparing it. I know my own mother trumps-up reports of stuff like this to me sometimes because she knew it would work me up (we are a very sarcastic family, so this is normal).
    But if this is the push from mildly concerned to worried beyond belief, then yes by all means go with the “daycare made us do it route”.
    (And, IMO suggesting that MIL has neurological issues based on a second-hand retelling of an incident is absurd)

  25. “She’s our daughter’s grandmother, so feelings are involved.”Hey, a lot of feelings would be involved if (God forbid) the baby drowned in the toilet or choked on somethin unsafe or…well, fill in the blanks
    Lie about daycare if you want to. Whatever it takes.
    Re the possibility of dementia: Well, to me the TV isn’t the kicker, it’s the carelessness about childcare. You could say it’s because she doesn’t remember, but…um…come on. She hasn’t been reminded? I’m sure she has.
    Either way, this is a potentially lethal situation, and the baby needs to be out of it, like, yesterday. No reminders, no strenuous warnings or reteaching, just get her out of there.

  26. Wow. How great to have had BG & MIL together this long.And what a bummer to have to swoop in so fast to separate!
    If you can lay it on day care, do.
    If you can get MIL to a geriatric specialist, do. Clearly we don’t know enough about your TV to comment effectively.
    Your MIL is lucky to have a kind and dedicated DIL to think about her in all this.
    Love the idea of a gift to thank her for/commemorate this time, and love the idea of shifting the weekly time together. Could you suggest what I wished I had (since my mom died before my first was born): can your MIL come over one weekend day (or morning or afternoon) to let you run laundry, vacuum, cook for the week, whatever, so that a) you are there b) she is taking care of the baby but c) you are still there? If you pitch that as the biggest way to help right now, that might take any perceived sting out of it.
    Good luck, good woman.

  27. I would not lie. I would openly link taking her off baby-duty with concern over her (dimishing?) faculties. In fact, the MIL might be more willing to get a neurological work up if she knew her ability to look after BG was seriously compromised by her health. Or ditziness. Maybe it’s just her character, but it’s still a problem… This is not a time for pussyfooting. Acres of diplomacy, yes. And if she’s this scattered when BG is 13 months, I’m not sure I’d trust her to look after an older, more active BG, either.My own mother would not be capable of looking after my twin boys on her own (due to failing eyesight, and being a bit weak physically, plus some spaciness), but fortunately we all know that and she’s the first to agree. I’m lucky!
    Just couch the convo in your real concern for *both* BG’s and MIL’s welfare and health. And yeah, how would MIL feel if something were to happen to BG under her watch? Or Ashley and DH if they let this slide? Maybe MIL will be secretly relieved, and if this is approached with kindness, not too many feelings would get hurt. Nobody’s saying MIL won’t see BG and continue a relationship.

  28. I agree with ikate. Since most are the comments are leaning toward absurd anyway (ie, alzheimers) I’m going to side with the MIL. I’m assuming BG is Ashley’s first child.I don’t know many parents that are absolutely always in the same room as the child.
    Maybe the house needs more baby-proofing and they could just have a talk with the MIL about danger areas? Maybe just tell her to keep the bathroom door closed?
    I feel that no one can care for my children as well as I do. But I have to work so I try not sweat the small stuff.

  29. No way, I could not be comfortable with her watching her anymore. You can’t change people and if they don’t have those instincts you can’t make them. I never left DD out of my eye site for more then 30 seconds at that age, as she was learning to do all sorts of crazty things all the time. Open things, climb things, walking etc. In particular when learning to walk she woudl trip/fall alot. I always had her with me and in my line of site. My house isn’t even totally babyproofed because I have not needed to, she’s not alone in certain area’s, ever.

  30. This is a really hard one.In general, I agree with ikate. It’s so hard to tell from an email like this exactly how bad the situation is. Even the DH who had the original conversation with MIL wasn’t *there* to witness the events, you know? Staying close by in order to watch MIL watch the baby is probably the best way for Ashley and her husband to really know how things are. And if anything happens during those “trials” that scares Ashley and DH, then it is worth it to change to full-time daycare, even if it means a white lie.
    That said, it could be that after this conversation, Ashley and her husband are never really going to be comfortable with MIL as a babysitter again, even if they have a “trial run” and it goes well. And they shouldn’t have to sit with rocks in their stomachs all day, once a week, indefinitely, just to preserve MIL’s feelings. So if that is the case (and despite me rationally agreeing with ikate, in reality it probably would be so, for me) then skip right to full-time daycare. It isn’t worth the worry. The baby can get time with her grandmother on the weekends with Ashley and her husband hovering nearby.

  31. The most shocking thing to me about this whole discussion is how much some of you are promoting taking chances with other people’s children!ikate, what’s even more absurd are your bizarre assurances that Ashley’s child is safe with this woman and that YOU’RE the one jumping to the conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about because Ashley’s DH said it secondhand!?? WTF?! That makes NO SENSE. Parents need to trust their damn instincts, not live in denial.
    New rule of thumb: if someone is concerned enough to write to Moxie wondering about the fitness of their caregiver then DUH!!! It means something about the situation IS NOT GOOD.

  32. This situation really sucks, and I can relate somewhat because I have kept my boys away from my mother’s house because I can’t totally trust her at a gut level because of drinking/smoking which I don’t want my boys around. I know the day is coming that she is going to ask to have them for an overnight, and the answer will be ‘no’.Maybe you or your husband could ‘work at home’ for a day, and say that you’re working, and not to be disturbed, but really you can listen in, peek out the door, and get a sense of what is going on in the household when you’re not there. That would at least give you some more information to base your decision on. Maybe she really is capable, but needs a few reminders/refresher on what’s really important to you at this stage of your daughters development. If you hear stuff going on that doesn’t seem good, you have a basis to make the changes that you need for your daughter.

  33. I have to say – if this was happening at the MIL’s house, then yeah – alarm bells would be going off for me. But honestly? Since it is at the reader’s house??? I wasn’t as horrified. My kids play all over our house without my constant supervision – my son is 3 and my daughter is 18 months old. My daughter has been going off where she wants since she has been mobile and even by herself alone on days my son is not here. And sure, sometimes, she bonks her head, cries and I have to go find her. Obviously, we have baby-proofed accordingly but we are comfortable with letting our kids roam in our house.So, the fact that the MIL is not constantly hovering over the kid doesn’t bother me. BUT – if the mother herself is bothered by it, then my opinion doesn’t really matter anyway. 🙂 In that case, I would say lay the blame elsewhere, like on the daycare – telling the MIL how you feel will do nothing but potentially ruin the relationship.
    I hope no one flames me for having a difference of opinion – I almost commented anonymously. 🙂

  34. I tend to agree with the folks that are worried and lobbying for the change the day care situation so the MIL is no longer taking care of the child on her own. My first thought when reading through the question was it had to be pretty bad if the husband was the initial one worried. It’s been my experience that the typical dad doesn’t sweat the small stuff so much so for him to express worry makes this more concrete of a not-so-great situation.If this were a question regarding a nanny or a day care situation, I think the answer would almost have been a universal “the situation has to feel comfortable to the mom and dad” – even if the day care/nanny is great, if the gut feeling of the parent is causing constant worry, we’d suggest she change her day care situation.
    I know it isn’t that simple because it is the MIL but I think to separate it out a bit helps. First decide if it is a child care situation your family can live with and it sounds like the answer is no. So now the second part of the question is how to best handle it without upsetting the MIL or damaging their relationship with her.
    As for the dimensia/neurological issues that people have brought up as a potential reason, I can only chime in that as I was reading the question, I was thinking how large can that house be? During that age, I had to constantly keep my twin boys with me. There was no knowing what they could be into even with lots of babyproofing of the house. Perhaps you could babyproof the house more (make sure the doors have the special handles so the daughter can’t open them, the toilet seat has the lock on it, etc.) – that said, those things only work if the MIL remembers to make sure to close the door each time, put the lock back on the toilet seat after using it, etc.

  35. You could bill it as some program that the daycare offers on that day – phonics or dance or music or something.1. I agree that MIL seems like she is not capable of watching BabyGirl safely – Since she loves BG, it seems like she would have the motivation to do the job “right”. And DH survived his childhood, so maybe she wasn’t always like that…
    2. 14 months is an age where a lot of crazy child accidents occur – (I can’t cite where I read it, but I know I did) There’s a dangerous mix of improved mobility and lack of judgement. These things can happen even with good supervision.
    3. I was thinking early phases of dementia too. You can check http://www.alz.org/index.asp and http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp for ideas of early symptoms. And bear in mind that the person suffering from early stages of dementia are really good at faking it in public.

  36. These worries are what has kept me from ever letting my mom watch my kids. I love my mom and she is certainly NOT suffering from dementia or Alzheimers, but I just know her well enough to know that watching kids like a hawk is not her strong suit.She has brought up the fact that she has never watched the kids a few times, and I always make up some reason (I thought you had to work…a friend had already offered to do it…I didn’t want you to have to drive home late at night, etc). But I know that someday she may pin me to the wall and demand to know why I have never trusted her with my kids.
    Hopefully, by then the kids will be old enough to not need such constant supervision (I agree with Moxie that this would be a different conversation if the kids were 5) and they can tell me if Grandma watched the Bachelor all night while they played with matches in the backyard…
    But its a touchy subject…for sure. My MIL does watch my daughter (19 mo) every once and a while, but she insists on rocking her constantly which means the baby falls asleep and screws up her nap schedule…a whole other issue.
    No answers here – just empathy.

  37. As someone with deeply flakey, elderly in-laws whom we do not allow to supervise (because it would not count as real supervision) our children, I am with the people who are saying no more babysitting for grandma. And while I would never tell people that checking out the cause of flakiness is a waste of time, I don’t see anything that necessarily indicates neurological impairment. My ILs have been like this as long as I’ve known them.Back in their day, close supervision wasn’t seen as a necessity. (“And you kids survived!”)

  38. It would be fascinating to hear what each of our mothers would say about this question, should we be able to rewind the clock and ask them when they were our age.I have two children and a house with more than one room… there are plenty of days where I am in one room with one child and the other child is in another, by themselves.
    I’ve left my son in the shower while going to meet the needs of his infant sister… how else does one care for two (or more) children at the same time?
    I do not always stay within arm’s reach of my children and I do not put such an expectation on my caregiver.
    If you don’t like letting your MIL watch your child then don’t let her, but this is not a horrible awful very bad situation, as reported.

  39. I’m not one for lying in a situation like this. I know you want to spare her feelings and preserve the relationship, but this is important enough that everyone really needs to be on the same page.If it was simply a lack of understanding about how fast the baby can move, maybe it would be ok to suggest a baby gate configuration that would keep the baby confined to the same room as MIL and set things up so baby can safely explore.
    I think a sitdown with MIL, and both parents is in order to discuss why you are concerned and the things that could happen. That you simply aren’t comfortable with her not knowing where your daughter is and how she got there, or knowing if/how she got hurt. yes, babies can move quickly but there are ways to minimize risk.
    Also, while she may not have anything going on cognitively that’s a problem I think it’s important to really think about if she’s functioning at a level appropriate for keeping up with a 13 month old. Maybe she just isn’t able to handle it, and that needs to be ok.
    In the shoes of these parents, my gut would tell me to arrange care for the other day and use the weekends as an opportunity for grandma and baby to spend time together – supervised.

  40. This part of Ashley’s comment told me all I need to hear: “If MIL was a paid employee, we’d be looking for another caregiver.”I debated about whether or not to share my brother’s family’s story, but given some of the opinions expressed here today, and at the risk of being alarmist, here goes.
    My brother’s FIL, who has since been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, accidentally caused the death of my 3-year-old nephew in 2006, while he and my brother’s MIL were babysitting him. My brother’s in-laws had offered to watch my brother’s 2 young kids for free a few days a week. My brother and his wife could not pass up the free childcare and the chance for the kids to bond with their grandparents.
    On that horrible day, while my brother’s MIL was taking a nap with my 2-month-old niece, my brother’s FIL was supposed to be watching my 3-year-old nephew. He wasn’t. My nephew somehow let himself outside, and meanwhile FIL got into the car and accidentally backed over my nephew in the driveway, killing him instantly. The harsh reality was, the signs of my brother’s FIL’s illness were apparently all there, but no one wanted to face it, least of all his own wife. After my nephew’s death, when my brother’s FIL was finally diagnosed, my brother’s MIL could not handle the guilt she felt, and committed suicide 7 months later. My brother and his wife divorced soon after that, which I guess happens to many couples who lose a child. It was all just so awful, and I’m sorry to be alarmist, but I know from experience that accidents can and will happen when the elderly don’t get the mental health screenings they need.

  41. the question for me is: who is the most vulnerable in this situation? and the answer is: the Baby Girl. it would be nice if there is an above-board way to spare the MIL’s feelings, but not at the expense of the Baby Girl’s well-being.i say “above-board” because although as tempting as it may be to decline the MIL’s care with a white-lie excuse, i think it would be better to approach the MIL with your concerns directly and speak from the heart.
    it’s a difficult situation, good luck to you!

  42. whoa! i too had a few reactions reading this, but jeez, the comments, ouch!first, my own MIL takes all sorts of medications that literally have her high all day and then she zonks out on sleep meds at night (judy garland, anyone?) that make me cautious about leaving the kids with her, especially since the time when one nephew was in her care and she slept through him waking up and helping himself to a pan of brownies, which he was able to cut with a paring knife that he climbed up on the counter to get (he was maybe 4 at the time?). great story, true story. what he had wanted to light a fire? who knows.
    but then there is this other, not so control-freak side of me (it’s there! it’s hard to find, but since the bean has been born it is definitely there!) that has to believe that just b/c i am on top of my kids 24/7 that they will not die if someone else is watching them. i wonder if this trust increases as you have more children- i mean, really, i was such a nervous anxious mama with the pnut, and now, having a second and seeing that the pnut is ok has helped me put some of my crazy in perspective. i’m in no way implying that child safety is crazy, i’m just saying i am not up the bean’s butt the way i was with the pnut. maybe it has something to do with trust in myself that i am a competent parent? i don’t know.
    third, i know that my parents and grandparents generation come from a TOTALLY different mentality when it comes to child raising and supervision. i mean, they think we are nuts with the hovering. totally friggin nuts, like we have gone off the deep end. do i agree with them? yes and no, i mean, i think carseats are a non-negotiable no matter how many of us survived w/o them, but maybe hiring a childproofing expert to come to the house to wrap everything in foam might just be a tad excessive. maybe they’re right, maybe we’re right, maybe it should be somewhere in the middle, but am i the only one who played in my room or the backyard unsupervised for hours? obviously not at 13 months (that’s when i was plunked in the playpen for hours, right?). my point is, before i’d go jumping to the whole “not only is your mother a horrible caregiver, she also has early onset alzheimers” (!!) maybe we could hear from ashley if that’s a tree that needs to barked up. b/c to me, not being able to remember how to use a remote that may need you to do 4 functions to get the damn cable on is not necessarily a jump to being senile. or, maybe i am senile.
    finally, ashley, i would trust your gut on this one- i am concerned with the “i heard a scream but couldn’t find the baby, (and didn’t keep looking til i found her!)” it seems to me perhaps your MIL is overwhelmed with the actual physical aspect of childcare of a little mobile one. to be fair, it is freaking exhausting! and when it’s not your kid it’s hard to presuppose their every move.
    i am loving the suggestions of full time day care b/c of the daycares/babies schedule, and having grandma over a weekend afternoon (semi-supervised) once or twice a month to keep up that connection they have. good luck, ashley, and i really hope it all ends well for everyone involved!

  43. OK, I read all the comments as of a few minutes ago, and what I am really mulling over issome of the vehemence of the comments…seems to me there really are a few valid ways to look at this situation, and the question is which reality is the one Ashley is experiencing.So here’s my question-is MIL incapable, unwilling or clueless? If incapable or unwilling to supervise adequately, to the level of ashley’s satisfaction, then game over, obviously. Even if just a strong hunch that she is incapable, that gut feeling is enough, for sure. If however, it is a question of different opinions (more laid-back versus more hands on parenting), which is a possibility, then the question is can that be communicatedfixed in some way. For example, could there be a discussion that, “wow, we are realizing just how mobile bg is, so we are putting up gates here and here, and are staying with her in these two rooms all day, would you do that?” be an option. Or, do you just completely not trust her judgement (back to not capable), in which case yes, use the she would really benefit from other kidsconsistent schedule, etc. routine.
    But, those of you with the super vehement reactions, if you care to, why? Is there no other side to this story? Is this back to all of our MIL feelings (which trust me I share), or what?

  44. @Chayary – I haven’t commented yet and don’t know that I will beyond this one, but I’m wondering which of the following “super vehement reactions” do you mean? –1) The comments insisting that it’s unfair and absurd to suggest there’s anything cognitively wrong with Ashley’s MIL, and perseverating on the tv remote??
    2) The comments telling Ashley that it’s ok to be a more laid back mom, it’s ok if your baby is unsupervised roaming around the house sometimes, and insinuating that she and today’s helicopter moms are probably too concerned and that the older generations had it right??
    3) The comments shouting danger!!! baby is not safe!!! and telling Ashley to change caregivers immediately??

  45. Can’t read all the posts, sorry if I’m repeating.What if you told MIL that the daycare has a new rule. Due to an increase in interest in the center each family is now required to commit to attend at least, fill in the blank, amount of hours each week or loose their spot.
    This way MIF can see this has nothing to do with her and everything to do with preserving BG’s place at daycare. Just a thought.

  46. I had another thought – if MIL is watching TV, she isn’t really interacting with BG (outside of nap time, of course). If you want BG to have more stimulating interaction/learning/etc., DC might be a better option for her anyway. I caught my first nanny watching Oprah several times, even though we had express no-TV while the kids are up rules. My second nanny is awesome, spends all her time on the floor with/near my child, doing art, music, building, reading, etc. with no TV on the average day.

  47. I think mom needs to trust her gut and find new care. If the safety concerns would cause you to fire someone, you should “fire” your MIL. If it’s unsafe, it’s unsafe, free or not.I found the 12-18 month period the most hazardous in terms of my son’s mobility, clumsiness, lack of judgment, curiosity, and general unpredictability. I imagine that mom and dad aren’t with BG all the time either, there’s “in the other room for a few minutes” (which we all do) and then there’s “no idea where she is.” The letter suggests that mom and dad know that MIL is doing more of the latter, not the former.
    My son is now 3 and spends plenty of time elsewhere in the house from me. But I’m keenly attuned to doors opening, chairs scraping, and water running (his particular avenues of mischief). I wouldn’t trust someone else to be letting him roam the house if I didn’t trust them to be similarly aware of potential signs of trouble.
    @Maryanne, so sorry to hear your story, but thank you for sharing it. I think it is important to remind people that toddlers can get into real trouble, if they aren’t taken care of by people who have enough awareness.
    I also think that older parents forget how much care young toddlers need. In fact, I think much of the “helicopter parent” complaint is because people forget how much they hovered over their own babies and young toddlers. And some kids are more apt to get into trouble than others, so each parent has to judge how much supervision their own kid needs.

  48. I haven’t read all of the responses yet although I’ve skimmed some..For the people that say “oh I’m not always in the same room” yes, I feel the same way. BUT, I know where he is. Especially when he was 1 year old! ANd we had plenty of gates and closed doors so I knew he couldn’t get into the bathroom and fall into the tub. And I wasn’t fiddling with the TV wondering where the kid was. I was maybe washing my hands or fixing a meal or something.
    I think you have to be up front with MIL. Even if you fanagle your way out of the one day a week care by changing your schedule, she’s still goign to want to watch her while you go out to dinner on a Saturday night, or offer to let you guys have a nice getaway for your anniversary.
    I think you have to say that you think that now that she’s a toddler, it’s just too much to ask MIL to be on top of it all and that you’re concerned because your DH’s conversations lead you to believe that your LO is not being watched enough given her mobility (which will just get crazier). You love your MIL, you want her to come over and play and all, but you just feel like she needs more supervision and maybe the structure of day care would be better for everyone.

  49. Firstly the TV belongs to OP and not MIL as it is in OP’s home. I’m not sure how my MIL’s TV operates either and I hope that doesn’t mean I might have early dementia. However if you are are worried about her mental health, be extra vigilant during the times you are with her to see if it’s just her being ditzy or if she really has a problem.Perhaps she just hasn’t caught up yet with BG’s progress. She might still be in the ‘baby’ mindset and not the ‘toddler’ mindset. I think the switch even for the parent can take time. Perhaps you need to remind her just what BG can do and what trouble she really can get up to.
    If you still doubt her ability to look after the child, you need to look for an alternative. I’d go for some kind of white lie. I know my MIL would react really badly if I told her my honest thoughts.

  50. My first reaction was go for fulltime daycare, find a way to break the news to MIL that would spare her feelings, and look into whether the MIL is suffering from dementia or even just some other form of foggy-headedness (for instance, anxiety-induced or sleep-deprivation-induced or prescription-side-effect).And to be honest, after reading most of the comments and rereading the initial letter, that’s my second response as well. I agree it’s possible that the MIL isn’t as irresponsible as all that — I let my 13 month old wander all over the house, including the bathroom, and while I usually have a sharp ear out, have once or twice been unable to find him when he was, say, behind furniture. But I’m not sure that’s the issue, exactly, and I think the situation could go either way. In this case, I think OP and her DH need to trust their instincts, since they have more of the whole picture than we do and have to live with the worry (or relief) every day.

  51. @Ashley I’m with those who think that if you’re not comfortable with the situation, you should end it, period. And for the record I’m a parent who figures there’s actually virtually no risk from a toddler, even a 13-month old, toppling herself into a bathtub — bruises and strained soft tissue? Sure. Serious injury? Phenomenally unlikely. Which I mention just to say … I am not sitting here thinking, “OMG, that child is in horrible danger!” But I am sitting here thinking that you shouldn’t leave your BG in a situation that you don’t feel comfortable about.Also, my father is in the early stages of Alzheimers, and the type of thing you describe with the TV is (or at least may be) exactly one of the sorts of symptoms he is experiencing. He can no longer remember how to use a cell phone, though he’s had his, and been using it reliably, for 3 years. So if the problem isn’t that the TV is complicated, then yes, this could be a sign of dementia and it would be worth looking into whether your MIL is a candidate for a neurological assessment — note that I am not saying she has neurological problems, as some of the posters above seem worried that people mentioning this issue are. I have no idea whether she does or not, but … based on admittedly precious little info. … it sounds to me like she might benefit from being seen by someone qualified to assess this.

  52. Wow, this is a tough situation, and one that I’m familiar with too. My MIL kept my son part time from 3-6 months and full time from 6-14 months. She did really well with him, and he loved spending time with her. Around a year, just when I was thinking that the boy might need something more stimulating, my MIL developed some very serious emotional issues that left me trying to find new day care within a week. I got lucky and ended up with a perfect situation, and it’s all worked out for me, but it is not an easy situation and depends greatly on the individual dynamics involved. There’s a lot of sensitive emotional issues here, especially since she wants to maintain a good relationship with MIL for her, her husband, and BG–as did I.I agree with Ashley that something doesn’t seem right here, and that it’s time to think about changing the care plan. However, I don’t think that it’s reached the mission critical, drop everything to find new care now that some are suggesting. If putting BG in day care for one more day a week works for their family and they’re happy with the day care, then I think that could be a good option. If that doesn’t work for whatever reason, look into finding another solution.
    As I experienced, it’s really tough to find good care on an immediate basis, so keeping the status quo (perhaps with some more check ins, reminders about keeping an eye on BG, etc) until the right situation is available is probably a better and more realistic idea.
    As to what to tell MIL, I think that really depends on their family dynamic. My MIL reacted very poorly to being told that we didn’t think her care was quite good enough anymore, no matter how politely and sensitively we phrased it. We ended up couching it more in terms of my son needing more socialization and activity now that he was older, even though he clearly needed to be in someone else’s care.
    As an aside, I’m really kind of disappointed in the tone some of this conversation has taken. Maybe we just got up on the wrong side of the bed today, but it seems like some folks have felt attacked and then responded in a defensive/critical way that’s out of character for Moxie’s site. I just hate to see that here, it was one of the few places that we could support each other and offer different opinions and suggestions without feeling like we were going to be hurt for it. I don’t normally comment here, but I’ve been following Moxie since I got pregnant and have learned so much from this wonderful community.

  53. We’ve been in this exact situation…MIL is well-meaning, but from a different generation where “watching” kids means simply being in the house (cooking, cleaning, laundry) while the children entertain themselves – with her intervening mostly for meals and diaper changes. With our first, the seeming flakiness freaked us out and we swept in with major childproofing and some set rules which were not to be broken under any circumstances. I blamed it on myself, telling MIL I was a neurotic mother of an only child and crazy overprotective and would she help me to feel better? She responded by insisting that FIL be there on those days to help her, and the result was two elderly flakes = one passably competent sitter. We all felt better and now, a few years later, we even send the twins over. It’s about clear rules, childproofing, and even setting up a schedule for them to follow. You can’t assume that previous generations know to think the way we do – they really did things very differently. Gates have been a godsend.That said, you have to do what feels right, and if trying these things still doesn’t feel reasonable, then you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

  54. Just don’t do what I did. I had similar issues with my MIL- I’d arrive and my daughter had taken everything out of every drawer in her dining room. MIL didn’t even know she was in there! She was playing with china, knives, you name it. And that’s only one example. The house wasn’t babyproofed and she’d spend 20-30 minutes on the phone!I just stopped taking my daughter there. It has made MIL upset and she doesn’t understand at all. She’s always offering to babysit (which now I allow occasionally at my house but daughter is no longer 9 mo, she’s 3).
    The relationship suffered. MIL has since found out my concerns and has even said, I’ve raised seven kids and 20+ grandkids, I know what I’m doing.
    So, I actually believe in going with honesty. The truth always comes out at some point especially when there are emotions involved. Tell your MIL your concerns and then find special time where your daughter can be with her while someone else is there. Your daughter needs better and more attentive care!
    Good luck!

  55. @ Laura Lou: Thanks for your meta-comment. I, too, was wondering why all the nice internets people were so ornery today.Hopefully this won’t add to any of that, but here are a couple snapshots from the IL’s most recent visit to see the Noodle (now 2): I was at work, mostly. DH on one occasion was helping FIL get set up on his email in the living room while MIL was planning some sort of soap bubble project with Noodle. DH entered kitchen to find MIL running the hottest water possible into one side of the big double-basin sink (admittedly, we haven’t set the H2O heater below 120, but we have childproofing galore in the bathroom and the kitchen sink is–usually–inaccessible). He urged her to drain the steaming basin and start over with lukewarm into a moveable plastic tub. DH back to living room to answer pleas for help with Yahoo account. DH back to kitchen to find Noodle on high counter next to knife rack! Feet in empty basin! Giant kitchen knives in both hands! Hitching forward toward basin still full of steaming water! MIL across room, head down, back turned, rooting around for bubble-blowing implements.
    Next night I was home and suddenly we were eating outside on the patio rather than just grilling and bringing in (first warm day in months). DH prepping in kitchen. Bench placed as visual barrier to grill which was in tower-of-shooting-flame phase. MIL freaked out by dust and cobwebs. FIL (un)helpfully brings out inside broom. I ask him to return it, ask MIL to keep an eye on Noodle while I retrieve outside broom from storage area. Return to find MIL “keeping an eye” on Noodle by staring silently from her chair as Noodle breaches bench “barrier” and heads straight for gorgeous flames, arms outstretched. I have never sprinted faster in my life. No harm done, after my heartrate came back down.
    The OP is so lucky that her BG has had this precious time with her grandma. MIL returned home with some stomach pains which turned out to be a life-threatening tumor. Noodle has never had much bonding time with the ILs and I hope things work out that she will have more. But it will always be supervised.
    OP should go with her gut and feel ok about doing so. No advice here for the diplomacy involved.

  56. Lots of good ideas here. I hope no one feels offended by what has been written…there isn’t enough information for any of us to be 100% certain about our advice so it’s no wonder that there is a variety of opinions. I’m sure most, if not all, of the commenters have the very best of intentions…it is just that child safety issues (and MILs!!) can get one’s heart rate up and diplomacy can be momentarily forgotten.Ashley – I hope some of what you read here is helpful and you feel confident and comfortable with whatever plan of action you take.
    The only thing I’d add is that if you do end up ‘terminating the services’ of the MIL, perhaps you could mark the event in a celebratory way…perhaps a nice family meal with a gift for Grandma, a photo of Grandma and BG, and a ‘thank you’ colouring project from BG. It could be viewed as a graduation on to whatever child care arrangement you come up with for BG. And I like the idea of a weekly plan for Grandma to come for supper or Sat. morning or whatever to have family time with BG so they can nurture their relationship with you present.
    Maryanne – thanks for sharing your sad story.

  57. Ashley’s gut is clearly telling her that things are not okay and I agree that it’s time to make some changes. The legitimacy of her wanting more attention paid to her child and/or her MIL’s mental health are irrelevant. What’s important is whether or not Ashley feels that her child is safe when she walks out that door.Honesty is the way to go here. As a previous poster mentioned, lying is a temporary fix. There will be other babysitting/sleepover requests and more and more excuses. It will eventually add up to a huge elephant in the middle of the room that no one is talking about.
    She will likely feel embarassed and upset about the loss of time with your child. You can defuse some defensiveness using the “it’s not you, it’s us” line about being ‘overprotective’ even though she is perfectly normal. Unless you want to explore any competency issues. Up to you.
    You and your partner will need to reassure her about your love for her and the ways that she will still get that intimate quality time with your child. Suggest a regular playdate for the two of them when you’re home but not necessarily hovering.
    It may be that she wants to help and thinks that this is the best way even though she’s overwhelmed. If that’s the case, let her know other ways that she can help you out.
    Tough one.

  58. “And if it’s [a warning], how do we check to make sure everything is really okay?”Saw an Oprah repeat recently about the “Power of Fear” and parents considering nanny cams because something didn’t feel right. The security expert was generally against nanny cams in situations like this. Why? Because if you’re concerned enough about the welfare of your child to need a ‘check’, then make a change immediately. Don’t risk your child’s safety one more day just to confirm your suspicions.
    Please, trust your gut here.

  59. What hush said.And especially what anon too said: “it had to be pretty bad if the husband was the initial one worried. It’s been my experience that the typical dad doesn’t sweat the small stuff so much so for him to express worry makes this more concrete of a not-so-great situation.”

  60. Who cares about the TV? Young people with tricky remotes and what have you, could you please take yourselves out of the equation – the concern isn’t about people like you, it’s about the older generations. Everyone over 65 should be screened for memory loss at their annual physical. Especially people whose grandkids aren’t going to be allowed to be babysat by them for free anymore because they can’t keep track of them.Whoever said the bathtub is no worry for a 13 month old because it’s empty is clearly overlooking how quickly little hands can turn the water on, and how precious little water is needed to drown in. I’ve heard of a kid drowning in a paint bucket – it doesn’t take much.

  61. @ChayarySuper vehement? Oooh, that’s me!
    Why? Because it kind of surprises me that there is a child in a potentially lethal situation (and let’s get real, we’re not talking about “OMG, she stepped away from the baby for ONE MINUTE,” we’re talking about “Crap, SHE CAN’T FIND THE BABY” here) and everyone is talking about the best way to preserve the MIL’s delicate feelings. The priorities seem a little wrecked.
    If you called your daycare and they couldn’t find your child, you’d yank them out of there in a minute and probably file a complaint. If your spouse couldn’t find your child, you’d read them the riot act. But because it’s a MIL…what? Her feelings are more important than the baby’s safety?
    At thirteen months, babies have an almost unlimited ability to get into dangerous situations, but their critical thinking skills and ability to get themselves OUT of dangerous situations don’t quite match up.
    The original poster feels uncomfortable with the situation for a very very very VERY good reason. Her instincts are telling her something important.
    Debating the remote control or parenting styles or implying that she’s worried about nothing? That’s not helping.

  62. Please, please – change your childcare arrangements as soon as you can. Please.Perhaps you can say (and it is perfectly justified at 13mo) that you want to make sure your daughter is now consistently cared for in the same location, as at this age separation-anxiety can kick in. Just a thought.
    But seriously, I have had a similar situation with my own mother, and although the conversations have been awful – upsetting, difficult, and hard to accept (for both of us), she and I have both had to accept that she is not capable of looking after 2 small children. She drinks too much, has early-onset dementia (she is only 62), and has never (due to family circumstance when I was little) had experience of being the sole carer of small children. She has watched my kids on a couple of occasions – never more than 2hrs alone – and each event made us say ‘never again’. The last straw was when she fed my then 6mo old daughter 6-hour old unrefridgerated milk, and then fell asleep with her in the same bed, almost suffocating her (had we not come back when we did, I would not like to think of the consequences).
    Yes I agree that we mollycoddle our kids more these days (and I try not to ‘hover’, much to the horror of my friends), but my parents never used a car seat or SEATBELT for either us kids, even when they were available. And my mother is not physically strong enough or mentally ‘with-it’ enough to do the job. It’s hard, as I see my kids friends go off to stay whole weeks alone with grandparents, but better envy than tragedy.

  63. I took my kid from my mom’s care when she was 8-9 months old. I stay at home with her now, and sometimes she goes over to Memaw’s house at age 25 months(kid dubbed Memaw, she was supposed to be grandma, lol)It was a combo of my ma making decisions that should’ve been mine, lack of attention and the fact that my daughter was ALWAYS crying when I called. I was left with the question of: is my daughter really that loud with other people, or are her needs not being met? I got somewhat frantic calls about candy being swallowed whole (8 months, ma, really?) and other things. My niece still stays with memaw.
    I wasn’t sure, so I dropped work. I hated work anyway so… yeah, no big loss. I think that my mom kinda knows that she scared me during that time period, but she doesn’t say anything, at least nothing that I can actually pinpoint. She’s a great one for beating around the bush and alluding to things. Drives me nuts.
    I am absolutely no help here, my bad.

  64. i agree that the current situation is unacceptable, but i also agree that the issue *might* be an intergenerational difference in philosophy (and/or inexperience if this is her first grandchild; i think my parents had to re-learn how to parent as grandparents because it had been so long), and therefore possibly fixable. i would suggest being honest, if you think she can handle it. start with all the positives: how wonderfully giving she’s been, how great she is at x & y, and then explain that you’re simply not comfortable with your kid wandering around the house unsupervised. explain the various dangers you’ve identified; scare her with horror stories. how she responds might help you figure out if she’s capable of changing her habits.

  65. How about continuing grandparent care but having another hired person there? It is not hard to hire someone a day a week to be a “grandmother’s helper” and it may cost less than daycare.This is what I have done with the grandparents who aren’t (in my opinion) independently reliable, and everyone wins.
    There are different kinds of trust involved. Having a totally loving grandparent in the home makes it much easier to have a relative stranger also there to help.
    It seems sad to give up on MIL altogether because she can’t handle all parts of the job. And she may be relieved to have some help.
    You can be as direct as the relationship will bear. What I have said is: “I really like having extra help around when I am with DS because DS can be a handful at this age, so I would like to arrange for the same for you on your day with him”. In my family that is code for “I don’t quite trust this situation but I value your presence in DS’ life and I don’t want you to lose face”. It was accepted accordingly, and quickly embraced when it became clear how much easier it was for grandpa.

  66. You could always lie and say that the daycare is not doing part-time schedules anymore – that she has to be enrolled for a full-time schedule and since you will be paying for 5 days a week, she should probably go 5 days a week – or something like that.

  67. Delurking to question the rather murky assumption that Ashley changing the child care situation would mean the loss of this extra special “quality” time between grandma and grandbaby. I mean, how “quality” can their weekly time together truly be if grandma is more concerned about not being able to watch television than about actually responding to the sound of her grandbaby’s screams from another room?Since this is the one incident that the parents actually heard about, it makes you wonder how lonely, not to mention unsafe, this baby girl is on those days that she is supposed to be bonding with grandma. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if grandma is not really into this arrangement anymore. She sure seems mentally checked out.
    On a related note, I also think we get what we pay for. When it comes to personal services like childcare, “free” and “very high quality” usually don’t go hand in hand. She might have taken a more professional attitude, and Ashley might have felt more empowered to set some rules, had grandma been offered some compensation.
    Finally, while I think Hush made some excellent points about potential cognitive/health issues – that’s really not Ashley’s problem.

  68. Wow, I’m surprised at the turn too. I think safety is such a hot button issue.Just to clarify what I said at the top of the thread – I agree that lying can be problematic. But I did not trust my mother to care for my son alone until he was well past verbal, and even so I only leave him for short periods and am pretty careful about orchestrating it.
    I never have brought this up with my mother. I felt there was more damage to be done to the relationship by going over it than there was in prevaricating for a few years past the worst of the “danger” zone.
    Obviously other people’s families work differently, but I’ve been surprised at how *easy* it is to do that. Because the core issue – do they get time together? Do they have a loving bond? – was addressed pretty simply by us all having time together. And they do and it’s lovely.
    And actually, that time has been nice for me. I have gotten know my mother in a whole new way and come to appreciate her differently. Which is surprising, considering our background.
    For the situation – I do think if both parents are feeling red flags, that would be enough for me. It’s not just a matter of catastrophic injury. It’s not a comment on whether any parent should be with their kids or not. It’s a feeling of safety and security for the child, the parents, and the MIL.

  69. Phew. I just skimmed the comments.Mine:
    1) Babyproofing is in order, first and foremost. Once they can reach into the toilet, lock the toilet. Closing the door is not enough, because they learn to open the doors, too. Or door lock, or whatever it takes to fully proof the house. That way if you end up with backup needs, you still have safe space. We gated the heck out of our house, because it is old and there are other kids who leave stuff around here and there. Gates allow grandma to sit still in one space and leave the child to roam under her feet without getting too far away. When there are multiple competing distractions, up the babyproofing until it doesn’t matter if there is a distraction.
    2) Talk about concerns. I’m all for talking about the idea that we don’t want our kids calling for help and not getting an immediate answer (or at least observation). Her generation didn’t hover around, but her generation was also prone to a lot of child injuries, and that was just assumed to be part of life. She may be ditzy, but she may also feel like she’s giving her grandchild a chance to live a free life, un-watched over, discovering the world on her own. Even if just one day a week, it could read as a high personal value. It is a concern, treat it as a concern. If you’re not sure how, read Protecting the Gift for help figuring out what is and is not important to cover, how to self-test how you feel about the situation, etc.
    3) Think about both severity and likelihood of risk when you’re looking at the scenario – most people tend to go toward EITHER the likelihood (what are the chances of that happening?) or the severity (if it DID happen, we’d all be devastated). I did risk analysis work for my former employer, and it really takes looking at both to be able to set a clear path. Either high likelihood or high risk is a flag. Right now, you have both – baby appears able to get quite hurt, baby appears likely to get into situations where she could get quite hurt. Work on both angles. There isn’t one solution for both situations, there are many.
    4) The mental angle – if gma has been like this forever, she has been like this forever. She may still need to be double-checked (even simple stuff like anemia can play havoc with mental focus). This is the age where you want to start knowing more about the doctor visits and test results, even if just to know what to look out for. In terms of grandparents, it is best to frame it (IMHO) as ‘we want you to be here as long as possible with as good health as possible, so you can enjoy your grandchild and she can enjoy you – we’ve realized how very important it is to us that our daughter remember your relationship, full of so many good things’ rather than ‘we think you’re declining’.
    5) My mom doesn’t take care of my kids quite the same way I do, but I also have set some boundaries around what is and is not okay with me. It is okay to say, ‘hey, this is our first child, we’re probably a bit overboard, but we do need to feel confident, and it is our mistake to make – if there are any regrets about following her around more closely, we’d like those to be ours to own.’ Or that kind of tune. You are ultimately responsible, not she.
    I think you can sell it any way you want, but I’d assume that there will still be times that your MIL will be watching your child at your house, and making that the safest possible experience would be my first step. After that, a half-dozen paths possible. I prefer to be honest about it, rather than lie, but I also have a specific relationship to work from that isn’t typical.
    Good luck. I do recommend the book Protecting the Gift for helping you set your radar effectively, and trusting it. If something is off, it is off, period. And I don’t wish worrying about toilet drowning on anyone (Mr B managed to lock himself in the bathroom on the first day he learned to open the toilet seat, and there was no way for me to open it – I had to call 911 to have them come break down the door. Whee. Fortunately, they were there in less than a minute. Small town. Still really scary. Toilet seat locks aren’t the whole solution, but they were a big chunk of it for us.)

  70. Two things: Ashley said they weren’t comfortable with MIL babysitting BG in MIL’s house…which means they were already in a discomfort zone.Followed by not having seen the BG for 20 minutes and BG is either in the bedroom or the bathroom…which means that MIL is negating the safety measures set up in Ashley’s home…which means BEYOND discomfort and into outright klaxon area.
    Here’s the thing. My MIL is married to a man who shouldn’t be driving, but who drives anyway. Should I let them take my son for rides? No, but I’m not going to insist he give up his license either. I’ve told them of my concerns and how horrible it would be if they got into a serious accident, and that they CANNOT take my son (or me) in their car. And it hurt their feelings.
    But then, they understood that I was actually looking out for them. No lying. Honest concern. And protecting my son.
    Ashley, be honest with your MIL. Let her take care of BG when you are around, but no more time alone.

  71. I don’t know why there’s a need to lie as others have suggested. Baby girl’s activity level obviously exceeds grandma’s abilities, and there’s no shame in that. It had to happen eventually, and in this case it was sooner rather than later. If walking is just around the corner, that may be the turning point you need.To make up for the loss of time together (which would be difficult for any grandmother), try to arrange a regular play date for the two of them maybe every other weekend (in your home, while you’re home). And who knows, maybe MIL will be happy to have her free time back!

  72. I kind of had the same situation with a paid caregiver, but she was a friend of my aunt’s, so I had to be careful about getting rid of her without hurting her feelings. We basically sat her down and said, “We appreciate your taking care of the kid while we are at work, but we think he really is lonely and wants to be with other kids, so we are putting him in day care full time.”It was half true, kind of eased her feelings (she apparently didn’t believe us until she heard from my aunt, that yes, we did put the kid in day care), and we got out of an unsafe situation the cowardly way.

  73. RE: the general tone – a lot of people locked into Safe here, and touched very lightly on Respectful and Kind – Safe IS FIRST, but often there’s a way to find a way through to all three, even when it is clear that there is only one crucial filter in the situation.Ashley is looking for all three. Leaving the situation as-is won’t go through Safe (which is defined by the responsible parties ONLY – my eldest could hare off in my mom’s house unobserved for an hour at that age without fretting whatsoever, because a) the place is super-stripped down and tidy and clean – odds of a button anywhere essentially zero; and b) he never put things in his mouth, he never touched things without permission, never never never – if he wanted to mess with something, he would come get someone, at 9 months old! Miss M, forget it, if it was within reach, she ate it, and within reach was three feet further than you thought she could reach, if it was tall she climbed it, if it was small, she licked it, if it required tools to access, she’s make them.).
    Lying isn’t going through my Respectful filter. Treat her with the respect you’d want to get in her shoes.
    Kind is all the stuff regarding maintaining grandma time and relationships. There are many ways to handle that, including giving her a different ‘grandma job’ now that grandbabygirl is getting bigger. The arts? Exploring history? What is grandma into that could be found to be safe enough for you to ask her to share? (For reference, ours is ‘Enchantment’ – show the wonder and delight and magic of the world to our kids, please, through your eyes! That job is the envy of her grandparent friends.)

  74. The hospital which held our childbirth class has lots of other classes, including a “refresher” class for grandparents who will be taking care of the grandkid/s. They approach the subject respectfully (“I know you didn’t have seatbelts in your car and your kids survived, I know you did a great job with your own kids, but time and technology march on and here’s why a car seat is a necessity in this day and age.”)Perhaps asking MIL to take such a class, maybe even with Mom and Dad, could be a first step. You could pass it off as “we’re all updating our skills, including childproofing and first-aid.” The instructor might be able to offer Mom and Dad some insight into MIL’s capabilities from an outside perspective.
    We had similar issues with all the grandparents. Everyone offered to help, which waas a godsend given the cost of daycare. However, my dad wasn’t allowed to care for our daughter unsupervised due to alcohol issues and a general bad attitude, my mom and I had LOTS of conversations–some very uncomfortable– about un/acceptable care, and my MIL took herself off the babysitting roster when she started developing eyesight and cognitive problems. (Turned out she had a brain tumor– let’s remember that there are lots of reasons MIL might be struggling–no matter what her age– and a checkup might not hurt).
    When we had our second child I decided to stay home, knowing we couldn’t afford full-time day care for two and knowing that my mom would struggle if asked to care for two. In later conversations, it’s clear that she’s grateful to be off the hook.
    I’m grateful my daughter had lots of alone time with her grandmothers, and I’m grateful now that I have more control over their care.
    My best to this family– I hope they find a solution that’s best for their daughter and respectful to the MIL.

  75. I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but wanted to reply to the people who are saying that this sort of behaviour is OK because it’s all right for your child to be in another room for a few minutes.I’ve also left my child alone in a room for a few minutes at a time when she was that age (she’s now a couple of months older, and has reached the stage of getting into things where I don’t even feel safe doing that unless she’s in her playpen). But there’s a huge difference between “OK, I’ve moved X, Y, and Z out of her reach, so she should be OK in here for five minutes if I make sure all the doors are shut and she doesn’t go wandering off – I’d better make breakfast quickly so that she’s not left for more than that” and “La, la, la, baby must be somewhere around, it’ll be the bedroom or the bathroom [or maybe crawling off in the direction of the stairgate I may or may not have closed], she’ll turn up, I guess, now, time for some programmes, how do I get this telly switched on?” I did not make phone calls over trivia while my child was crawling around the house unconfined and unsupervised. That’s the difference.

  76. Kelley wrote, “Finally, while I think Hush made some excellent points about potential cognitive/health issues – that’s really not Ashley’s problem.” Well, yes and no. Obviously it’s not the main issue/problem, but this is Ashley’s MIL who (a) has been taking care of BG, for free, and (b) whose own care may fall (in full or in part) on Ashley or Ashley and her DH if MIL is not able to care for herself. So actually both out of fairness (you helped us so we help you) and for more narrowly selfish reasons, MIL’s health — which, again, I don’t think we have anywhere near enough information about to judge but which I don’t think it’s crazy to say *might* merit an assessment — may well be Ashley’s (admittedly somewhat less immediate) problem, or concern.

  77. Regardless of how you break it to your MIL, you must take BG out of MIL’s care, immediately. It simply is too risky. Your MIL might surprise you by being completely fine with BG going to daycare full-time because it sounds like taking care of BG really is too much for her.

  78. I’m with Meggiemoo – I don’t trust MIL as she doesn’t respect our wishes with such little things as not smoking immediately before visiting our kids, and I have had cause to visit her at around 11am & she has already had a couple of drinks.I am left wondering why we have to tiptoe around issues like this and why we can’t just be honest? Based on what has been written by Ashley, I don’t think MIL will really care that much or absorb it too much – she obviously doesn’t take in the info about the remote (which is a much different issue I know but shows some shallowness to her thinking). I think she will probably just get on with it regardless but I think you owe it to her to be honest about the situation rather than making stuff up unless there are prior issues with feelings.
    My MIL would take offence and not visit for some time (a couple of months sometimes) but that is her issue as far as I am concerned. If she can’t respect our wishes and accept our requests in regard to our children or at least talk to us about things, then she has to deal with it in her own way. She is the one that misses out on being with the kids.

  79. I am going to jump on the band wagon here.Be direct and tell MIL truthfully, “We feel that BG should be in daycare on X (Mil’s day) to keep her in a routine. We think that there is no reason to upset your schedule or her’s one day a week. Thanks Mom, you’ve been so wonderful…”
    There is no lie in that. There is subtleties of the truth.
    I hope that you find what works to make this happen…*worries*

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