Are We Relying Too Heavily on Grandparents to Babysit?

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

I’ve always considered myself pretty lucky because my children are surrounded by family members and grandparents who completely adore them. (By that, I mean they spoil them rotten and are basically on their hands and knees whenever they come over to help the little ones cause havoc.) And OK, the kids aren’t exactly flipping Grandma’s house upside-down, but they do get away with breaking more rules over there than they do at home.

My kids are 5 and 7 and for years whenever I needed my mother, she would never hesitate to get in the car and come help us, even when we lived three hours away. She’s a Power Grandma, one that will jump through hoops of fire to spend time with her grandbabies while also protecting them, loving them, and giving them endless amounts of sugar.

Because that’s what grandparents are supposed to do, right? Well, maybe.

A few years back when we still lived quite the distance away from my parents’ house, my mother’s good friend suggested that I pay her babysitting and gas money each time I asked her to watch my kids. Not going to lie, but I actually got incredibly offended (and pissed) at the notion because c’mon: this is Grandma we’re talking about, not some teenage neighbor looking to make a few bucks on the side. Who in their right mind would accept cash to babysit their grandchildren? Her name is grand-MOTHER, after all!

Fast-forward to the present and while there is no doubt in my mind that my mother still loves her grandchildren to pieces, she hasn’t offered to have them over to her house for sleepovers as often as she used to. Apparently she’s been influenced by my dear Aunt Valerie who has been telling her to spend less time helping her daughters out and more time focusing on herself.

Because that’s what people her generation are supposed to be doing, as more and more are feeling a second wind in their sails and tapping into their independent state-of-minds and the free time that comes with nearing retirement. In other words, let parents raise their grandchildren while the almost retirees enjoy mocktails and shuffleboard tournaments together in Clearwater Beach.

Oh Aunt Valerie, you’ve always been a troublemaker.

But even so, this isn’t uncommon grandparent behavior. Sure, there are grandparents out there who love to help out with the kids … but at the same time they don’t want to be taken for granted.

“No question, our kids expect much more from us that we ever did from our own parents,” Florence Falk, a New York City psychotherapist and grandmother told Grandparents.com in an interview. “Our grown children also seem to have a much greater sense of entitlement than we had.”

Falk also added:

“But such a high level of expectation can put a real strain on grandparents. 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.”

Going back to my mother, I can understand her wanting more independence to explore the world (or even just the beach) on her own without being constantly attached to us tired, stressed out, and completely frazzled parents of the new millennium. Grandparents don’t owe us anything, but their grandchildren are only going to be young and cute for so long (cue: the moody teenagers that want nothing to do with you except for their birthday and holiday envelopes full of cash).

As with everything in life, a fine balance is needed and when Grandma isn’t up for the job or when she really deserves a break, there’s always the babysitter with the sky-high hourly rate to release you so that you and the hubby can catch Star Wars in the theater before it’s too late. The only awkward thing would be bumping into the grandparents during their date night there too, right? Ha! Hahahahahaha — oh, please, merciful God, no.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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