Families with children in the United States pay a lot of money for childcare.
Whether just after-school care or all day care for babies and toddlers, childcare needs are a significant part of the monthly budget for those who pay for childcare services.
As of 2022, average costs for childcare is as much as $15.4k annually—about $1,300 monthly—for childcare according to the United States Department of Labor. However some areas are much lower while others are much higher than the national average.
With that in mind, arranging free or low cost childcare is something expectant parents try to line up even before their child arrives.
But what if you made arrangements with a family member for free childcare then before your child is born they decide to charge money for their services?
A mom-to-be struggled with this situation so she turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
“AITA for not wanting to pay my mom for babysitting my soon to be newborn?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“I, 22-female, am 7.5 months pregnant with our first baby. My husband, 22-male, is currently in grad school, so a decent portion of our income is going to his tuition.”
“We’re comfortable, but we just can’t afford 2k+ a month in daycare fees (which yes, that’s what it costs around here and since space is limited most places are requiring full time attendance when we’d only need 3 days) and all the baby’s needs.”
“About a year ago my mom, 49-female, came to us asking when we were going to have children seeing as she’s getting older and wants to be able to be an active part of our child’s life. We told her that right now we couldn’t afford daycare for a potential baby with my husband’s tuition.”
“My mom reassured us that she’d happily watch our potential baby 3 days a week while we’re both working.”
“I told her my husband and I would take that info and get back to her.”
“My mom doesn’t work. She was a stay-at-home mom and my dad ‘retired’ her after my younger siblings moved out.”
“After a couple of days of debating, I texted my mom to assure that she would have no problem watching our potential child, which she eagerly said ‘absolutely’.”
“I didn’t feel comfortable not paying my mom anything, so my husband and I discussed it and agreed to paying my mom $1,000 per month for childcare and for any needs the baby has while in her care.”
“I wanted to pay her because my husband and I see it as the right thing to do. She’s a stay at home wife, so would be giving up her free time to care for an infant that isn’t hers, and we thought, and still think, the right thing to do is pay for her time.”
“So, we called my mom and told her that we’d be willing to pay her, and if that was good we’d start taking steps to have a child. She was thrilled and she once again said that we ‘absolutely don’t have to pay her, and that spending time with her grandchild was most important’.”
“It’s been almost a year since that conversation, and any time childcare is brought up with her around she jumps in saying that she’s doing it for free and my husband and I are lucky to have a mom like her (which we are).”
“I stopped offering [to pay her] and told her again that I greatly appreciate what she’d be doing amongst other things after she told me she’d tear up any compensation I give to her.”
“As recently as a month ago my mom said that if we tried to pay her anything she’d ‘rip up the check’.”
“Today my mom and I were at lunch and she asked ‘how should I expect to be paid for babysitting every month? Will you guys split up the $1,000 weekly, biweekly, or one lump sum every month?’.”
“I was taken aback at that question because for nearly a year she’s been insisting that she’d do it for free, and we hadn’t been planning on paying her any more than baby expenses because of that.”
“I told her this, and she responded ‘it’s wrong to MAKE your elderly mother watch an infant and not pay her!’.”
“I was only surprised because not accepting payment was something she was deadlocked on.”
“We ended our lunch early because we were both upset and confused. I didn’t deny paying her, I asked her about refusing to be paid.”
“I was trying to figure out what was happening, what money she was asking about. She left almost immediately after and I didn’t get a chance to even say bye before she left.”
“She cut lunch short and told me she was ‘disappointed’ in me before she left, so I’m really confused and wondering if I did something wrong.”
“All I said to her was I thought she didn’t want to be paid because I was so confused, I don’t believe that’s shutting down a convo but trying to get more info. Was there a better way I could have phrased it?”
“I’m genuinely trying to figure out where I went wrong.”
“My mom left before we could discuss it more and set something up. Then by the time I got home my dad, 53-male, had already called my husband about it saying that he’s not taking sides, but he did expect us to be paying my mom so I am even more confused about the whole thing.”
“I will pay her if she starts watching the baby now that I know she wants to be paid. I had no idea she wanted to be paid after making a big show for the past year-ish about not wanting to be paid.”
“She hasn’t picked up my calls… dad said she needs time to think.”
The OP summed up their conundrum.
“I told my mom we didn’t intend on paying her anymore, but both my mom and dad said they were expecting us to.”
The OP added:
“We ARE still willing and able to pay her, I was just really taken aback after being told for nearly a year we didn’t have to.”
“We made [our decision to have a child] based off of the information we were given, which is really all one can do. We also came up with backup plans in case my mom isn’t able to watch our baby.”
“My husband was going to drop to 3 classes a semester instead of taking 6, so that would give us 2 of the 3 days we needed, and I was going to use my vacation time to take off the last day. Unfortunately it would suck because my husband only has 2 semesters left not including this one, so it would double the time for him to finish grad school.”
“My problem isn’t paying, it’s the fact that she didn’t tell me she changed her mind and just leaped into a ‘how are you paying me’ convo out of the blue (we were talking about flowers at the time).”
“My only problem is that she didn’t disclose the change to us and just expected it without discussion. We have no problem paying, but it would be nice to be told ‘hey, I actually would appreciate being paid, can we figure something out?’.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors mostly decided the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).
“Oof. Bait and switch. You are NTA.”
“It would seem your mother has changed her mind about accepting your payment offer though. This doesn’t make her TA either but man, her communication is lacking.”
“If you still want her to watch your child, I’d just reiterate the offer of $1,000 per month—stipulate how you will pay it and leave it at that. Miscommunications happen, I would try not to read too far into this.” ~ IamIrene
“NTA. You and your husband were not even planning to have a child at this time due to expenses. Your mother guilted you into having your child earlier than you had previously planned so that she could be involved.”
“You were trying to be financially responsible but changed your plans due to her insistence that she would babysit for FREE. She guilted and manipulated you to get her way, and now is reneging on the deal she insisted upon making with you.”
“I would be angry. I would tell her if you’re going to be paying for childcare you’ll just take them to daycare.”
“Your mother had no problem lying to you to get what she wanted, a baby. And it’s not about the money. It’s about her willingness to deceive you to get her way.” ~ TeachingClassic5869
“NTA based on the post.”
“I think you need to sit your mom down and explain that you’re more than happy to pay her but she’s the one who has been saying she didn’t want to be paid and you’ve spent the last 7.5 months budgeting accordingly.”
“If she wants or expects something she needs to actually communicate that with you and not just say things she doesn’t mean—like she refuses to be paid—then get angry when you’re confused.” ~ coppeliuseyes
Many noted the 49-year-old mother’s choice to call herself “elderly.”
“49 ≠ elderly!”
“Her saying that makes her come across as absurd. So I’m gonna guess that you are not the bad guys here. NTA.” ~ notforcommentinohgoo
“I have a 50 year old friend with a 12 & 9 year old. Mom is not elderly.”
“NTA. If she wants to be paid, she can use her big girl words and say that after some reconsideration or after looking at logistics, it would be better for her if she was paid.”
“There was a much better and more adult way for her to handle this.” ~ SmutWithClass
“I had the same reaction. What kind of adult human considers themselves ELDERLY when they’re not even 50 yet. WTF?” ~ captainhowdy82
A few people opted for the OP being the a**hole (YTA) or everyone being awful (ESH).
But other Redditors chalked it up to reading comprehension…
“The YTAs might be coming from them just reading the title and not the full post.” ~ Proof-Elevator-7590
…as the YTA and ESH all cited the OP’s “unwillingness to pay.”
The OP later added:
“I think something is going on with [mom]. My dad said she’s been having mood swings the past couple of weeks.”
“I think she might be coming to terms with the fact that she’s ACTUALLY going to be a grandparent.”
It sounds like some conversations need to happen here before the blessed event.
Whether or not mom provides childcare seems to be undecided right now, but the baby isn’t going to wait for a decision.
Ready or not, here they come.