co-parenting with your parent

So many SMC’ers are co-parenting with one or both of their own parents. Some of us actually live with one of our parents, some of us just live close enough that the grandparents are available as babysitters while we work. Either way, it’s not the standard model we grew up with when it comes to two-person parenting. Not much is conventional anymore, however, when it comes to families. I’ve heard that when unemployment is on the rise, multi-generational families living as one household are becoming more prevalent in Western culture than ever before.

Parenting with your spouse, or romantic partner, is a challenge. Single parenting is a challenge for different reasons. I don’t think the lack of an extra hand is the biggest difference either… how many moms complain that their husbands won’t get up with the baby at night, or feed or diaper them, etc? I’m pretty sure sleep deprivation and exhaustion are universal for ALL moms, regardless of relationship status. The biggest difference, I think, is money. Single parents have ONE income, and no one to pick up babysitting “shifts” without paying out everything you earn. If you’re sick, there’s no one to call in to work or drive the kids to daycare or feed them or play with them or whatever. You can’t call in much because your children’s well-being is entirely dependent on your one income. And without family willing to babysit for free, probably HALF of that income is going towards babysitting just so you can go to work.

This is probably why single parents are falling back on their own parents for support. It’s hard enough to earn money for a comfortable lifestyle for your kids with one income alone, so a grandparent who can babysit can completely save the budget. When you work full-time, your kid is with their babysitter/grandparent  36-40 hours per week (not counting commuting time). Which is 3-5 days per week. Which means your kid is being raised a third to half the time by someone else!

It’s wonderful that my girl gets to grow up close to her grandma. It’s also wonderful that she has a second caregiver to really attach to, one who isn’t paid, one who has unconditional love for her. It’s wonderful that I get to share the ups and sometimes downs of raising a child from peanut-size up. There are benefits to my mom living at my house, too. She sometimes gets up in the night with Jo Jo, she sometimes gets up with her in the morning if I’ve worked a lot so that I can sleep past 7am. And when I do go out without the baby, to have grown up or me time, my mom is a built in babysitter as well as being the other adult that Jo Jo knows and trusts.

Draw backs? Well, living with anyone is hard, let alone your own parent. I think we do pretty well as mother-daughter in the same household, since my mom and grandma can’t get along at all. Still, it would be nice to have more space, more of our own space. My house is tiny, maybe ok for me and the baby, but 3 people? Not so much. My plan is to buy my grandma’s 4 bedroom house when she passes, and my mom will live in the cottage where we are now, but that might not be soon. We are cramped, and I hate clutter, and I hate the lack of space, but have to deal with it.

I also feel a lot of guilt leaving Jo Jo with my mom when I’m doing something that isn’t work, something fun. I don’t want her to feel used or like I’m just leaving my kid with her for every little thing. A paid babysitter would be compensated and so I wouldn’t feel like they resented me for it.

Another drawback? Always afraid that Jo Jo will attach to my mom more than to me, since I am the one working full-time, and when I am home my mom is there, too. That means that she is with my mom or around her more than me. I want her to attach to someone else as a primary parent figure, but I still want to be “mom”, you know?

Drawback #4 can often be that grandparents raised kids once, and they think they know how to do it again. They have their own ideas about sleeping patterns, eating habits, etc, and may not want to stick with yours while you’re working. My mom and I, luckily, have really managed to agree on most things, and if not she generally gives in to me and lets me be the deciding voice. But I’ve read a lot of other SMC blogs who really have conflict when the “grandparent” is the babysitter and feels she/he knows best!

Last drawback… hard to have people over when your mom lives with you! Friend-wise, that is. Certain conversations aren’t the kind you want to have with your mom around! On the other hand, I couldn’t go out baby-free with them, either, nearly as much without a free and live-in babysitter!

So in the end, I think that the benefits of co-parenting with a parent can and do outweigh the drawbacks, as long as you can reasonably get along. If I had a bigger house I think I’d be perfectly happy with it. I have no way to afford another, bigger, house and still keep my cottage, though, so this is out of the question for me!

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

2 thoughts on “co-parenting with your parent”

  1. I am completely in awe of single moms. You have so much on your shoulders beside just caring for your little one!

  2. I’m really jealous of your situation. I mean, maybe not the sharing a house with your mom part, but the part where she babysits for you with love – for free! Can’t beat that. I suppose the house sharing is a small price to pay for all you get in return.

    Even if I did live with my mom, she wouldn’t be able to watch Evelyn for me since she has a FT job (my mom is young and has at least a decade left of work before retiring)…so I guess that’s what I tell myself to comfort the lack of grandparents in the city!

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