You walk into your caretaker’s house. Your baby is standing on a toy, pushing on a window screen. What now?

Caveat: the caretaker in question is K’s stepfather, who watches my 22-month-old along with my amazing mother-in-law. A-ha, you say to yourself, you are more screwed than I thought.

I love him to death. He’s a caring and humorous Irish man who puts me at ease whenever I worry that K is going to die. Which, when she was an infant, was every half hour. In the last few months, however, his health has been in decline. He falls often and has had to visit several doctors, including a neurologist. Despite the chaos around them, he and my MIL have insisted they can still care for K a few days a week. We’ve been more than happy to oblige because K adores her “ma-ma” and “pop-pop.” And because daycare costs more than my mortgage.

The other afternoon, however, my husband walked into their home and found K standing on her little toy kitchen, which had been positioned against a window, and pushing on the window screen–which does not feature a window guard. Grandpa was sitting a few feet away on the couch, not stepping in to stop this from happening. Needless to say, my husband freaked out and snatched K up. I think he is still shaken over the incident.

We’ve been lucky enough to avoid the incredible expense of daycare up until this point (did I mention the expense of daycare?) I realize we are embarrassingly fortunate. Aside from the cost, of course, we felt and still feel like K benefits more from spending so much time around caring grandparents than caretakers who aren’t truly invested in her well-being. But my husband and I waited until our early 30s to have a baby, which means our parents are well into their 60s. This isn’t old. But there are times when my mom forgets she has told me something–and then forgets again. My father sometimes struggles to hold K–a big girl at 30 pounds–for longer than a few minutes. And I already outlined some of the issues my step father-in-law deals with.

Is it ever fair to expect our aging parents to double as caretakers? Even if they insist?


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