Nothing irritates my father-in-law more than watching people waste money. He believes it's his duty to lecture the stranger behind him in the checkout line for choosing the glass cleaner that's not on sale. And he's constantly cramming our fridge with soda bottles he's filled with filtered water from his sink (which, unfortunately, tastes like whatever previously occupied the containers). So you can imagine his reaction when, near the end of my four-month maternity leave, my husband and I accidentally mentioned how much the nannies we'd interviewed were charging.
"How can you pay a stranger to take care of the baby? She's just going to watch TV all day!" Eli said in his thick Israeli accent. "I'll be the nannoo."
Okay, so it wasn't just about the cash -- he'd fallen madly in love with Benjamin about five seconds after he laid eyes on him. He more than made up for my mother-in-law, who openly admits she doesn't really connect with kids until they hit 2. Plus, he'd had a lot of free time since retiring a few years ago, and he genuinely wanted to make life easier for us.
I thought the offer was very sweet, but the idea of having my husband's family involved in my life four days a week (I have Fridays off) was freaky. Not to mention that Eli refuses to get the hearing aid he needs and thinks car seats are a marketing scam. After five years of listening to him comment on the way I do everything, from throwing together a salad ("That's not how you cut a tomato!") to blowing my nose ("Don't squeeze so hard!"), I had a feeling there'd be many arguments about nap schedules in my future. My husband understood my reservations and left the decision up to me. I knew, though, that he liked the idea of saving money and making his dad happy. Besides, Eli had babysat a few times without any glitches, and he's a great cook. After a few lengthy, long-distance phone consultations with my mom, I agreed to try it out.
Jana Siegal Banin is a former articles editor at YM magazine.