The Granny Nanny: An interview with Lois Young-Tulin, Ph.D

Dr. Young-Tulin was gracious enough to spend some time with me as I talked about her role and book about being a granny nanny.


I was very excited to find out about your book and I have read most of it. It’s perfect for a multigenerational family or anyone considering this family set-up. Can you tell us why you decided to write The Granny Nanny guidebook?

I decided to write The Granny Nanny when I first learned that I was going to be a grandmother and I knew that I wanted to be a hands-on, involved grandmother.  Although I had a career and busy life, I consciously decided to schedule consistent times to be an active part of my grandchild’s life. I knew that parenting norms had changed since I was a mother, and I wanted to learn more about the “new” rules of childcare.

I feel so grateful my mother-in-law came to live with us when my husband and I were expecting our second child. She offered to come help us with childcare and we opened the doors to our home. How did you decide to become a granny nanny for your grandchildren?

Both my son and daughter-in-law worked, and they needed someone to babysit. I knew that becoming a granny nanny would be a help to the parents; thus, I and the other grandmother arranged to alternate babysitting days. It was an amazing decision, and during the first 3 years of my grandson’s life, my grandson and I established a very close and loving bond.

That sounds wonderful.

I’m an only child and my husband has an older sister and a twin brother. His twin brother seemed the most upset about their mother (my mother-in-law) relocating to move-in with us because the twin brother wasn’t consulted. What were your other children’s reactions to you helping your older son (and his family) with their first baby?

My other children’s reactions were very positive, and they were reassured that I would do the same for any children they may have. Lo and behind, when my second son and his wife had a baby, I went to New York once a week where they lived and babysat and was an active granny nanny once again.

You are amazing!

You mentioned your maternal grandmother lived with you while you were growing up. What was that like?

It had its ups and downs. My maternal grandmother’s presence was a chance for my sister and me to bond with our grandmother and learn about our family history. On the other hand, her presence in our everyday lives at times created tension between my parents – - the proverbial mother-in-law syndrome.

Got it.

It is true that parenting has changed a lot and continues to evolve. My husband and I spend a lot of time having discussions (talking it out) with our children instead of just demanding they do something. I know this was an adjustment in parenting for my mother-in-law.

What was the largest (or oddest) parenting adjustment you had to make when you started caring for your grandson?

A lot of the parenting rules had changed such as babies sleeping on their backs, car seats and better safety rules. Once I learned the improved safety rules, it was a breeze. I always made it a point to abide by the parents’ rules, even if they differed from those rules I had followed as a parent.  Time out was a new concept for me as the grandchildren got a little older. Old familiar “Sesame Street” was still around, so some things hadn’t changed.

That’s so funny you mention the time-out. My mother-in-law was resistant to time-outs, initially.

Things can get tricky with a granny nanny when it comes to compensation. My husband and I did not want any issues in this department so we pay my mother-in-law a monthly stipend. How are you compensated when caring for your grandchildren?

My compensation was love and lots of hugs and kisses.  When I would arrive to babysit, the babies instant recognition of me and the smiles were compensation enough. I also felt good about helping out my sons and daughters-in-law and making their lives easier.

That made me smile when you said that.

Did you have to consider any health or physical limitations when you took on the role of being a granny nanny?

My biggest limitation was my spinal stenosis, which sometimes limited my ability to climb up and down stairs once my sons moved to houses. Other than that, I did fine at playgrounds and playing on the floor with them.

What are the top five benefits of being a granny nanny?

  1. Bonding with my grandchildren.
  2. Enriching my life and my grandchildren’s lives and having fun together.
  3. Being a grandmother is a chance to nurture again and to even do it better.
  4. The sense of continuity for me and for my grandchildren making a difference in their lives.
  5. Becoming even closer with my son and daughters-in-law by being a consistent part of their lives.

What are the top five drawbacks of being a granny nanny?

  1. Learning to keep your mouth shut is paramount. Even if I disagree with how they might parent, I had to learn to say nothing.
  2. Being a granny nanny takes consistency and commitment. This may mean missing a lunch out with friends because I promised to babysit.
  3. When my son moved to Florida, I missed my grandson and had a difficult adjustment to not seeing him regularly after 3 years of babysitting twice a week.
  4. The maternal grandmother is naturally closer to the baby’s mother. As the paternal grandmother I had to establish a relationship with my daughter-in-law and accept the fact that she is in the habit of calling her mother daily and confiding more in her.
  5. I’m careful not to interfere and to be respectful of the parents. As the paternal grandmother, I know that I have to be careful of what I say to my daughter-in-law.

I love what you said about the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. (When can you come over for wine to hang with my mother-in-law and me?)

Anything else to add?

Grandmothers have been given a unique opportunity to enrich your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren, and their entire extended families. Make some conscious decisions, make some focused time, and give unselfishly of your love.

Thank you, Lois.




Learn more about Lois Young-Tulin, Ph.D.

You can purchase The Granny Nanny guidebook at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Images:  Dr. Young-Tulin, The Granny Nanny, Grandma Snuggle, Swimming, Reading

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