Pros and Cons of Family Members as Sitters

by Genevieve Thiers, Founder and CEO of Sittercity.com

If you're a parent who lives near close relatives, chances are that you'll turn to those family members to a little free babysitting every now and again. Hey, why not? It's reliable, safe, loving and more than affordable.

But the reality is that it's not just sunshine and kisses for everyone. Different situations and different people may not benefit from the "granny-turned-nanny" scenario.

If you're considering using a family member as a caregiver, read through these pros and cons first to see if it really is the right situation for you.

PROS OF USING FAMILY MEMBERS AS CAREGIVERS

Free care.
'Nuff said.

Comfort.
You already know your sister's strengths, how your uncle would handle an emergency and how your cousin has the patience of a saint. Understanding your relatives' nuances and personalities ensures takes away that fear of the unknown.

Built-in trust.
It goes without saying that if you ask a family member to care for your child, you trust that person. After all, if you do understand their nuances and you still have all the faith in the world that they're more than capable of handling your little ones, you're already several steps ahead of parents who aren't yet comfortable with their babysitters.

Family bonding.
Asking a family member to babysit, gives both the caregiver and child a unique opportunity to strengthen their bond and grow closer than they would if they just saw each other at, say, then annual family reunion.

CONS OF USING FAMILY MEMBERS AS CAREGIVERS

Lack of control.
If you don't have the exchange of money, there isn't anything tangible to control the relationship, meaning that the balance of power can be, well, unbalanced. This makes both the parents and caregiver-relative more vulnerable to disagreements and power struggles.

Generational differences in parenting philosophies.
The way older generations parented may differ dramatically from yours. Certain practices, discipline tactics and general parenting philosophies that you consider dated (or horrifying!) may still be totally acceptable to older generations.

Lack of energy.
When you hire an older family member to sit for your kids, you should make sure to consider what she can and cannot handle. Parents or relatives that are older might have a difficult time with late-night feedings, rough playtimes and high-energy activities.

Know-It-All Attitude
Family members may be more comfortable challenging your parenting philosophies than professional babysitters. You could then find your concerns brushed aside, your requests not honored and your values questioned if the family member believes that she knows better than you.

Uncomfortable requests
At some point, you'll probably find yourself in the awkward situation where you have to tell this relative how you'd like her to change the way she cares for your child. This, unfortunately, can create mounds of resentment: The relative will resent being told that her current methods aren't cutting it, and you'll resent being in the position of having to bring up such a touchy subject.

Lack of babysitter training.
Unlike professional babysitters, family members are far less likely to have up-to-date, specific babysitter training, such as CPR and first aid.

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