I'm the Grandmother, Not the Babysitter!

We all want to help out with the kids, but no one wants to be taken for granted.

By Barbara Graham

When my son was a baby and my parents came to visit, I never dreamed of asking them to babysit while my son's father and I headed to the nearest spa for a few days of R & R. Au contraire, I cooked elaborate meals, took care of the kid, and generally did everything possible to make sure the grandparents enjoyed their stay. Anyhow, even if I secretly longed for a break, my folks were the admire-the-cherub-from-a-distance type and never showed the least bit of interest in being hands-on.

Fast forward to the present. Sometimes it seems as though my son and his wife view my every visit as an open invitation for them to take a hike (literally and metaphorically) and leave me — and my husband, when he's along — with the two little ones. I ask you: Where are the elaborate meals? The jumping through hoops? What happened to the old honor-the-grandparents-and-make-them-happy approach?

I'm sort of kidding — but not entirely.

Now, don't get me wrong. I adore my grandchildren. I yearn to spend quality time with them. I despair that I live thousands of miles away and see them only a few times a year. I voluntarily sign on to take care of the girls for days at a time. I'm thrilled that my son and daughter-in-law trust me enough with the kids to fly the coop.

So, what do I have to kvetch about? My situation is pretty terrific, all things considered. And yet ... there are times when I feel, if not exactly taken advantange of, then taken for granted. Not unappreciated, just slightly underappreciated. Like a powerless servant — minus the paycheck.

I seem to have plenty of company.

"No question, our kids expect much more from us that we ever did from our own parents," says Florence Falk, a New York City psychotherapist and the grandmother of a 4-year-old girl. "Our grown children also seem to have a much greater sense of entitlement than we had." Falk thinks this is because our relationships with them tend to be far more casual and open than they were with our parents. That's the good news.

"But such a high level of expectation can put a real strain on grandparents," she adds. "In my case, I have to remind myself 20 times a day that I'm the grandmother, not the babysitter. My goal is to help out as much as I possibly can, stopping short of the point where I start feeling resentful, completely drained, or out of touch with my own needs. There's a fine line," she says, "and it takes constant vigilance not to cross it."

I couldn't agree more. There are times when I've crossed that line, times when I've agreed to a bit more childcare than I really had the energy for — and paid the price. When this happens, I can't blame my son and daughter-in-law. The pressure to say yes to their requests doesn't come from them, it comes from me, from my love for them and for my granddaughters. And from the lingering sense of guilt that seems to be part of my wiring.

Note to self: Remember, it's okay to say no!

Saying no becomes even more important when the grandparent actually is the babysitter, a phenomenon that seems to be on the rise. Janet Bodle, a semi-retired family physician in the San Francisco area loves caring for her two grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, two days a week while their parents, both teachers, are at school.

"Clear communication," Bodle says, "is the key to making the arrangement work, especially since we're all so busy." To make sure everyone is on the same page, she puts the schedule in writing and e-mails it to her son and daughter-in-law. And, she says, "They're free to ask me to pitch in at other times, and I'm free to say no." Still, Bodle likes to say yes as often as she can, adding that spending time with the kids before they get completely swept up in their own lives is her top priority.

Which brings me back to Point A: I adore my grandchildren. I love my son and his wife. I know that being a parent today is in many ways more complicated than ever before, and I want to be there for them — and for myself. It's just that sometimes, when I start to feel like a servant and I'm so tired my vision blurs, I get a tad cranky. At those moments, a few extra words of grateful acknowledgment from my beloveds couldn't hurt.

My friend Mary told me a story the other day that says it all. Mary just spent a month — voluntarily, joyfully — helping her daughter after the birth of her baby, Mary's first grandchild. One day, after Mary had spent the previous nine hours washing dishes, folding laundry, helping with the baby, and shopping for and preparing two meals, she turned to her daughter and said, "I'm exhausted!"

To which the new mother replied, "Why are you so tired?"

Comments

And I do not think I'm being selfish. My mom told me when I had my babies she would not raise them. Fine. She rarely watched them. It was better for me. I became a responsible parents that raised my own kids. I didn't run the road and think I was entitled to weekly party nights and girl's nights out. Grandparents aren't supposed to raise their grandchildren unless something happens. Grandparents raising children? It is harder for me to parent my grandchild and scold them. When the line crosses and you become a parent to your grandchild everything changes. The joy is gone. That robs the child and the grandparents

LuvMButTired on 2018-03-11 22:09:08

I wish I could find a private group or some places where I could talk to other grandmas. I feel so alone and I feel like I'm a terrible person. I do not want to constantly babysit. It takes all the joy out of being a grandma plus, I have one grandchild who I rarely get to see or spend time with because my other child is unmarried with. A child whose dad isn't involved. His family isn't either. She was in an abusive relationship, he was on drugs, so we kept the baby a lot. She finally moved in with us and threw the dad to the curb. She was in a very deep depression where she was suicidal. I didn't tell my other children everything because that is a huge problem in this world. People tell other people's business. If you can't trust your mom, who can you trust? She told them a little. I have 3 children in all. It was her business and her stuff to tell. Her dad and I were here to support her as much as we could. We ended up with the baby a lot. She worked on and off and then laid around. I finally told her to suck it up. Her focus must be the baby. She did not have to have a man to raise her child. I've gotten so burned out. Our own family has told her no when she has needed a sitter foe work or Dr appt. She had a few problems, mentally and physically from her ex. I have ended up watching her child more. Not because of any favoritism as has been Said. That broke my heart so badly. I also have some health problems going on. That and I've always dealt with depression. Especially when it becomes Cold. Seasonal depression. I have thyroid problems and the drs are just not trying to get my meds. Right. That and since having a hysterectomy and I stopped getting hormones I'm in a constant battle. Mind, body, and soul. I do not favor one child over another. I do not get see watch my younger one but to be honest, I have told them all that I do not want to be a babysitter to the babies. I want to enjoy them. spend time with them and send them home. Unless it is important. Which my younger grandchild, her mom goes to school. She just wants me to watch her on occasion. Fridays. the day my husband wants me to rest because we go out and run errands, eat, and just hang out on Fridays. It is a long story. Ive got a child here right now. It is these last minute things that get me too. Which at the sane time, I do not luke to make a commitment in case something comes up. I really just want some time. Since they started letting the children stay somewhere it seems that every other day there is something. They do not keep in mind that there has always been something going on (sickness,other things) .Now that things have calmed down within our life, while we are young enough, we still want to get out. From time to time. I guess it is what it is. I. So tired. When I say no I get screamed at, keep the babies away, (which is real grown up) they message me horrible messages, and bad mouth me to everyone. To their dad too. Which makes him tell me to not reply to them and to say no from here on out. I probably sound awful. I love the babies. I want to spend time with them. I just do not want the obligation of having them all the time. I raised my babies. I get burned out with one and then the other suffers. I don't know what to do. I'm just lost. I do not know what to do. I don't want to keep hurting one of their feelings but I'm so burned out. I have one now because I do not know where the baby would end up staying. The child doesn't know anyone except us. I may sound crazy and scattered all over. it is hard trying to write with a child wanting you attention. Sorry so long. Maybe you won't think I am a bad person. If this even makes any sense.

LuvMButTired on 2018-03-11 21:59:29

I changed my UN. That was supposed to say, "Do you have to be a premium member to comment. Can it be deleted for privacy reasons? I didnt know I could comment and that it would leave my email address there.

LuvMButTired on 2018-03-11 21:15:36

So you have to be a premium member room comment

bflysparkle@aol.com on 2018-03-11 21:10:57

Compatibility Horoscope

How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?

Find out here.