Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When Mom is on Your Daycare Payroll by Dr. Alan Singer

Can you imagine hiring a grandparent to be a paid nanny? Here is my monthly column that the Home News published on 4-27-09. Have you ever employed one of your parents at home or at your place of business? Did you set expectations clearly? If so, how?

Kelly contacted me after reading my column on delayed child-bearing. When she told me that she and her husband, Dave, hired her mother as their nanny, I interviewed them about their unique arrangement. Of the 18.5 million preschoolers in the United States who receive day care from a relative, 23 percent receive care from grandparents (Census Bureau). I called the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor and AARP, but they had no data on grandparents who are paid for child care.

Kelly and Dave (both CPAs) live in Arizona with their 4-year-old twin daughters. They did not want community day care because their twins were born prematurely and their lungs weren't fully developed. "We didn't want them getting sick all the time." Two years ago, Kelly told her mom that they needed to hire a nanny and if her mom would move from Colorado to Arizona, they would pay her a salary.

She lived in their home for a bit and then she found an apartment of her own. Difficulties in their arrangement seemed to be related to expectations. Kelly: "Early on we talked about expectations, and I treated her like an employee. I prepared a chart of her days off each year, rate of pay, and what her nanny duties were." Dave recalls, "We learned that Kelly's mom needed structure, because she is a doer, not a creator. We want stimulation for our daughters, not just a baby sitter. We're not paying her to read a magazine while the girls watch a movie. I expect more from a nanny than from a baby-sitter. In her mom's defense, she never had been a nanny before."

And there were other problems, because Kelly's mom took a big step in moving away from her friends and leaving a job that made good money. "She is a very sociable person and put no effort into making new friends in Arizona. The decision was stressful and when she got here, I'm not sure this is what she anticipated." Dave was disappointed: "When you stay with someone for an extended period of time, you help out. She didn't do any extra work in our house."

Kelly now realizes that her mother has difficulties with the two distinct roles. "We treat her like an employee, when she's here as a nanny. We treat her as Nana on the weekends. She's having a hard time with the distinction about her identity, plus she doesn't like being dependent on us for income but she is." At the heart of the matter are Kelly's and Dave's expectations, which they did not clearly spell out. Kelly's mom didn't know those expectations and it created conflict between Kelly and her mom, and between Kelly and Dave.

Despite the problems, Kelly has put great effort into showing respect to her mother, explaining, "I'm not sure how to address my mom, because I don't want to talk down to her because I'm the child." Kudos to Kelly for her sensitivity. Dave concluded that in family situations such as these, you need to be crystal clear about expectations in advance. "When all is said and done," Dave emphasized, "We know she takes good care of our girls, and they are safe with her." Dave added that when the girls get sick or hurt, the hierarchy of who the girls want attention from first is: 1. Nana 2. Mom 3. Dad. Even after she moved out to her own apartment, the girls would plead, "I want my Nana!"

"Be Counted" columnist Dr. Alan Singer is a marriage therapist in Highland Park. Respond to this column via his Web site

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obamas' Marriage Inspires Millennials

He may not have cured all the ills of our economy as fast as we want (as if) but i don't ever recall this much positive buzz about a presidential marriage.

A recent Newsweek article describes how the Obamas have the kind of marriage, equal and devoted, that millennials aspire to. "Veering from 50's era subservience (the Reagans) to boomer dysfunction (the Clintons) the Obamas are two independent individuals who also appear to be (surprise!) in love."

It appears to be a relief to young couples today to see that the sort of marriage they hope to have - equal and devoted - can actually exist.

Talking Points:
Do you think that political couples should be role models for our personal lives? Does the Obamas' marriage inspire you?
Do you think their marriage is inspiring to young couples today?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Siblings: Fewer Kids Share a Room these Days

Fewer children are sharing rooms these days because of larger houses and smaller families.

An article in the Miami Herald by Jodi Mailander-Farrell explained, "Sharing a room was once a childhood rite of passage, ranking right up there with waiting for the bathroom and fighting over the last piece of lasagna at dinner." But homes are 38% larger than 20 years ago and (as noted many times on American families are shrinking. About 20% of all U.S. children under age 18 have no siblings at home (Census Bureau).

"The fallout for today's kids? Many of them --unlike their parents and grandparents--never share a room". "Having a room of one's own is a very American concept," describes Mailander, "It's a product of our emphasis on individuality, not to mention proof of our economic success."

According to George Scarlett, chair of child development at Tufts University, "Our culture makes the assumption that children having their own bedrooms and sleeping by themselves is a good thing, but most other cultures think just the opposite."

For my other posts on sibling support, click here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sisters = Happiness

Sisters Breed Happiness While Brothers Breed Distress.
In order to appear cultured, I pulled this from a BBC News release.

This post is actually for my daughters (who read this Blog) to empower them to rib my son (who does not). Personally, I wouldn't know what this article is talking about since I'm one of three brothers and have no idea what having a sister is like. Professionally speaking: One study of 571 much impact does it have? Interesting but not earth shattering.

According to the study, having daughters made a family "more open and willing to discuss feelings." While "boys tend to internalize problems and in families where there are lots of sons....that can cause problems." Discuss

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Recession Depression? Maybe You Suffer from Hyperopia, Like Me

Eureka, my condition has been diagnosed! Consumer psychologists call it hyperopia, which is the medical term for farsightedness.
The condition is the result of people looking too far ahead. In Oversaving, A Burden for Our Times, John Tierney explains, people are "so obsessed with preparing for the future that they can't enjoy the present, and they end up looking back sadly on all their lost opportunities for fun."

As for me, If I do have "saver's remorse", then why am I not remorseful? My wife and children have not altered their spending habits one bit. However, I currently won't spend a dime on anything but gas for my car and I have no regrets. I do not feel it would be responsible of me to buy any unnecessary (fun) items at this time, especially when my in-box at home is filled with: the car note, gas/electric bill, credit card bill, insurance statement, phone bill and they are all screaming out, "pay me first".

But, missing out on life's pleasures is a big concern. That's why I took my children to Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania recently for a fantastic day of skiing that was pure fun. And there are tons of low cost activities that families who enjoy the simple pleasures of life can partake in, like when the Township tennis courts open for the season. A recession can't mean a cessation of fun for families. It means you need work on lining up some good-quality low-cost enjoyable activities.

Bottom line: I believe there has to be a national confidence shift before we hyperopiacs will be ready to seek treatment for our condition.