I Want to Stop Babysitting

How long do grandparents have to provide free child care for a single parent? I love my granddaughter, but I haven't had a weekend off in almost two years. Any advice?

By Susan Stiffelman

My first response is to offer a blend of “What an incredibly caring grandparent you are” with “Are you crazy?!” Without knowing the nature of the situation, I don't know which to emphasize, but clearly both of these responses are called for to some degree.

Let me assume that your granddaughter’s parent is on a fixed income and is working hard to provide for your granddaughter. Let me also assume that you volunteered to take charge of the child’s day care and that you offered — or agreed — to do this for free.

Many grandparents find themselves in your situation. When grown children go through a break-up — or simply choose single parenthood — it can be difficult to watch them entrust their child’s care to a stranger. This also happens in families where the parents are together and both work. There are many reasons to keep babysitting duties in the family, not the least of which is that day care is expensive.

It's entirely fair for you to approach your son or daughter and let him or her know that you’d like to revisit this arrangement. However, before doing so, I urge you to take your fair share of responsibility for the pickle you’re in.

The rotten thing about saying “yes” to more than you can reasonably do is that eventually you feel burdened and resentful. Make sure you own up to your part so that you don’t unfairly blame your son or daughter for taking advantage of you. The conversation will go much better if you assume responsibility for your end and leave guilt out of it.

There’s a good chance your son or daughter might be upset, hurt, or angry. Be prepared for such a reaction, and do your best to remain calm and compassionate. It’s going to be difficult for them to hear that they’re going to have to find someone else to care for their child, at least part of the time. Don’t emphasize how much you’ve given, or how taken advantage of you might feel. Focus on hearing them out and looking for a solution.

After they’ve said their piece, tell them what you can comfortably offer. Make sure you think this through in advance. Let them know you wish you could do more, but that you’ve realized you’re simply not able to provide the level of caretaking you've done to this point. Offer a reasonable time frame to find either supplemental or alternative care.

And my last bit of advice? Make a point of establishing clear and loving boundaries with your grown kids. In the end, it’s in everyone’s best interest for grandparents to give only what’s comfortable for them, so resentment stays out of the equation.

Comments

Until now, i felt very alone. My oldest daughter became pregnant at 15. I had talks, i communicated well with her. But stuff happens. I supported her and welcomed the baby and the baby"s father to live with me and my husband and younger daughter.That being said,and there is too much drama in between,the baby is over 3 /12 and my daughter is 20 now. I have been there since the babys birth and tried to raise them both basically at same time. They did move out last sept and blah blah blah lol. I am getting to the point, just had to back up first. Their home is an an hour and a half away. I keep the baby typically from tues thru sat. All day and night. I need my time somehow. But she works and i don't. I can not say no. When I call her work, she is not even there! I raised her and now I am raising her child. I am tired and have medical problems to deal with. But, i feel bad to say no because she says she can not afford child care and I know she needs to work, but so do I. How do i deal with this situation? I have been primary care giver for the baby since birth. I hate to see her with strangers, I am stuck!

rondasommer on 2013-08-17 15:10:15

Both my sons and their family live next to us. I can't say no to them when they ask me if I'm able or if I want to keep one of our grandchildren. I became a mother at 20 and again at 23. I was a stay at home mom. I was young and have regrets because of my temper at that time. I just can't say no to them. I feel emotionally blackmailed. Any thoughts?

memawcline2 on 2013-01-06 20:19:09