grandmother embracing grand daughter

Is It Wrong That I Expect My Mother-in-Law to Clean While Babysitting for Free?

In the mom forum, Mamas Uncut, a mother asks if it’s reasonable for grandma to clean while babysitting. Not deep cleaning, but tidying up spills, properly disposing of garbage, and putting dishes in the sink. But keep in mind, the grandmother receives no compensation for full-time child care. And the reason why will raise many eyebrows.

Should Grandma Clean While Babysitting for Free?

Should my mother-in-law clean while she babysits?” the anonymous mother asks. She explains that the grandmother doesn’t get paid for babysitting “because my hubby believes she’s making up for what she missed out on. She missed out on their births, birthdays, and holidays cause she was on drugs and chose her abusive boyfriend and lived 6 hours away.” The mom adds that even when the grandma lived “three houses from us” she still missed out on the birth and early life of her granddaughter.

Obviously, there has been a shift where the grandmother is now taking an active role in the family’s life. In the form of watching the kids full-time without pay. But the mother is dissatisfied with the service, particularly when it comes to the messy house. “Now when we come home, I’m talking about bowls of cereal left on the table since the morning, crumbs all over the floor and all over the table, spilled milk everywhere, cups everywhere, trash thrown on the floor because she’s not telling the kids to throw it in the trash. Dishes in the sink are piled up, something sticky on our floor, and the kids’ toys are everywhere or crayons and markers everywhere.

My kids are old enough to know how to pick up after themselves; they just have to be told,” the mom concluded. “She just lets my kids do whatever, and I don’t want to come home after a 12-hour shift to deep clean my home. I talked to my hubby, and he just rolls his eyes.[1]

Read: Why Your Older Kids Shouldn’t (and Should) Babysit Their Siblings

Child Care to Make Up for Drug Use?

While the mother’s question was focused on if she should ask the grandmother to clean up after herself, the top responses brought up the fishy arrangement. 

One comment mentioned that it’s reasonable for the grandmother to clean up during the day. After all, the mom isn’t asking her to do laundry or wash the bathrooms. Plus, many agreed that asking kids to pick up after themselves could be part of the babysitting job. As one person wrote,

“I would tell my kids to pick up after themselves even if grandma is watching them, if they don’t, they will be in trouble when I get home. Grandma is not their maid. I would also tell my MIL to remind them to clean up after themselves.”

I think it’s fair that everyone cleans up after themselves and not leave trash all around the house. So I understand why you’d want to say something about it,” another commenter wrote. “However, the attitude around making her babysit for free because of what she’s missed out on is actually really mean. Seems that she is getting punished for having a serious problem. You’re kinda taking advantage of her guilt and that’s not healthy.”

Many people agreed the parents seem to be taking advantage of the grandmother’s guilt and are punishing her for her mistakes. Said another comment,

“…I just don’t think it’s right that her past drug use should have anything to do with the situation right now because you obviously forgive her if you’re allowing her around your kids. If you don’t forgive her then you shouldn’t be using her as a babysitter.”

Another said, “If you want her to take care of the kids and clean the house and any other jobs that may go along with it you should pay her something or find an actual nanny and pay them. If your kids are old enough to do it then they should be cleaning up after themselves.”

This seems reasonable. After all, if the parent doesn’t like the way the babysitting is handled, it could be beneficial to hire a professional.

Should Parents Pay Grandparents for Babysitting?

It’s no secret that child care is expensive. Families who struggle financially often rely on family and friends to help. Despite this legitimate reason to use grandparents as babysitters, this doesn’t mean they should be treated as free labor. After all, grandparents have their own lives and those who provide full-time child care can’t work a full-time job to earn money on their own.

Parents should feel not entitled to their grandparents babysitting. It should be a mutual choice. However, many grandparents love doing it anyway. But there’s a difference between occasional babysitting and having a grandparent work as a full-time nanny. In the latter, payment — as well as proper gratitude — may be due. Remember, the grandparent is choosing to help the parents instead of working a job or doing something they dreamed of in their golden years. Compensation is completely reasonable.

No one knows the time and offering you spent with those little ones until they do it themselves every day. Although my daughter insists on paying me, because she says I’m doing a job,” wrote one babysitting grandmother. 

Another grandma said, “I love mine but will NOT do it full time without payment. This is MY time of my life. I have worked hard. But I will help in emergencies.[2] 

For grandparents who refuse pay, there are other ways to show gratitude for their hard work and selflessness. Some parents choose to pay for their gas costs, any activities she took the kids to, or give them generous birthday and holiday gifts. Each family finds its own solution, but it’s imperative that communication and appreciation are involved. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Keep Reading: Mom secretly records babysitter’s voice while she thinks she’s alone with little girl


  1. “Is It Wrong That I Expect My Mother-in-Law to Clean While Babysitting for Free?Mamas Uncut. September 2020
  2. “Paying grandma to babysit? These parents have their say.” News 24. Elizabeth Mamacos. October 6, 2020
  3. “Should parents pay grandparents to look after their children?Yahoo Life. Marie Claire Dorking. April 2, 2019