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Kathryn H. Kidd
Monday, January 10 2011

Free Babysitting Isn’t an Entitlement

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I suspected the issue of grandparents being held hostage by their children might be a little bit of a red flag, and for once I was right.  We got seventeen responses to last week’s column  by noon on the first day it was online, and as of this moment we have three weeks’ worth of letters on the subject. 

We’ve received letters representing the whole spectrum ― from grandparents who believe they should have their freedom to do whatever they want, all the way from grandparents who wonder why any grandparent could find anything more important to do provide a home for their adult children or babysit the grandkids. 

One concept that came out in several of the letters I read was that of entitlement.  Let’s see what our readers had to say on that, and on the rest of the subject of what grandparents owe their adult children:

Our age of entitlement has caused people to feel entitled to all kinds of things, including other people's time.  No grandparent is obligated to regularly care for grandchildren, and they can say no without any guilt.  For the grandmother who wrote in, the siblings in the area should be helping each other.  It is far easier to watch children when one still has children at home.  My kids are older now and I help out friends occasionally.  I can't believe how much harder it is now because I am not geared up for little ones and my home is not even child resistant, much less child proof.

That said, the grandparents can set limits that work for them and politely go deaf if the kids make snide comments.  Some things should just be ignored.  For someone whose kids see their grandmother every week, it is downright comical to say they don't know her.  Laughing might be an appropriate response.

I never had any family help at all because I was too far away, and it was very difficult.  These children need to be grateful to get any help and support at all instead of being greedy for more.

If it really gets to be too much, as soon as the last child leaves, Grandma and Grandpa can go on a mission and get some peace.

As for me, I plan to spend as much time with grandkids as I can.  Even so I would be miffed if any of my kids took me for granted or did not respect whatever limits I set.

Liz

I don’t know about being a grandmother or even a mother, Liz, but the concept of entitlement is something I can understand.   I don’t know where it comes from, but I’ve read many times that lack of gratitude is considered one of the gravest of sins.  The whole concept that anyone ― including God ― owes us anything is beyond my comprehension. 

Children who believe they are entitled to their parents’ time and energy even after they’ve left the nest may have problems that run deeper than the problem of where to find a babysitter.  In fact, our next letter shows just that.

Although my oldest son tells me that all of his friends have parents who love to watch their children, subtly laying a guilt trip on me, I do not want to babysit.  I raised seven children on my own, asking my parents to babysit one time, and my in-laws to babysit once during a high school reunion.  Other than that, we hired sitters or stayed home.  

Now that my son has bought a humongous house (five bedrooms for three children) and a huge SUV, they are strapped financially and the wife has to work, but still, no, I do not want to babysit.  My husband and I made do with a small house and an old, beat-up station wagon so I could stay home with the children.  If my kids want to overextend themselves, it is their business, but don't come asking me to babysit to make up for their financial follies.

I've raised my children and finally have some free time to do the things I want to do, such as write.  I had to put aside my dream of writing for years and years while my children were young.  I'm not going to put it aside again for grandchildren. 

With all that said, I have told my kids that I am willing to babysit when needed, but not for regular, weekly daycare.  I've been there, done that with my own kids.  If my daughter-in-law is sick and needs me to watch her kids for a day or two, I'm happy to help.  If they can't get a sitter and want to go out to eat for an anniversary or to go to the temple, bring the kids here.  Glad to watch them.  Just don't ask me to do so regularly.  I have dreams of my own to fulfill and my time on earth is running out.  To everything there is a season.  And this season is mine!

Marlene Bateman

Well said, Marlene.   It seems that part of the problem is that some children think of their parents as parents and never make the transition to thinking of them as people.  It is probably incomprehensible to your son that you want to spend your time writing.  When it’s his turn to retire and pursue his own dreams, the shoe may be on the other foot.

When I was growing up many, many years ago, my mother told us and reminded us that she would be there to help if we had a serious need, but she had raised her children and she expected us to raise ours.  My mother never left us with her mother even when we lived in the same house (different apartments).  And although my husband’s parents shared our home for more than 30 years, they never had babysitting duty although they were available if there was an emergency and we were gone.

Granny says all of her children live close. Why don’t they share babysitting?  We have ten children, and our children know not to ask us for “Friday night.”  We have filled in for emergencies but most of the time the kids have helped each other even then!  They have found that their children would rather spend time with cousins than at Grandma’s where there are no toys or video games. 

Grannies have a special place in the lives of grandchildren and should not be a substitute mom and dad.  Now that is not to say that there are exceptions when illness, death, and divorce must be considered.  However, I think there are few real reasons why Grandma has to become a substitute.

A Mom of 10

You make good points, Mom of 10.  Granny, why can’t your adult children swap childcare services and free up time to do the things you have dreamed about doing for lo, these many years?

Sadly, the time for training may be past.  Many parents are incapable of teaching their children the basic attitude of appreciation for life, gratitude and respect for previous generations.

Those who are parents today, should remember to be grateful for their parents and respectful of their lives.  The grandchildren will learn, by example, to have appropriate love and respect for grandparents if parents show the way by being adults and living their lives without undue dependency upon the grandparents.


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