It’s no secret that there are a lot of LDS grandparents. What I’m learning is that every one of them has an opinion. I am still being drowned in letters about whether grandparents should be expected to be grandparents to the exclusion of everything else, and whether taking care of grandchildren should come before temple work, senior missions, or even travel and leisure.
Please, please don’t send in any more comments. No matter what your views, they are well represented in the letters that are currently in the queue. Read here for what Meridian readers have to say today on the subject:
Currently, I am the grandfather of three very young handsome princes. Some of my favorite words to ring out in our home are, “Papa! Papa! PaaaapaaaaAAA! Where are you?”
That being said, there are hundreds of different family situations, innumerable individual motivations of parents and grandparents, and varying options to each situation. Moreover, lives change from season to season and year to year. Nothing is permanent in the (grand)parenting arena. So, in short, there are no “one size-fits-all” answers to the expressed quandaries of grandparenting and babysitting.
In a flood of thought, it looks like twelve considerations possibly worth noting have come to my mind. I am not suggesting that I have it all figured out (I don’t), but here are some thoughts:
- What are the parents’ and grandparents’ real and subliminal/unspoken motivations? In creating a plan, can everyone be honest and open (without guile) about matters? If not, there are bigger matters that need resolving first — particularly if parents state they will withhold grandchildren visits if grandparents do not “babysit at will or on demand” of parents.
- What are parents willing to do “in trade” for grandparent services? Is that worth considering? Parenting manuals suggest such logic (trading) with your own children while they are still youngsters in your homes — so might there be a case for such love and logic here in these “more mature” situations?
- Would parent and grandparent motivations sit well with the Savior if He were in the room reading thoughts and listening to conversations?
- Can there be a WIN-WIN-WIN situation (for grandparents, parents, children) created?
- Yes, primary care/nurturing of children firmly rests with parents, but how much were we (grandparents) dependent and needing assistance from others when we were parents? When we are completely honest and see history correctly, we may be surprised how often others — including our parents — “were there for us.”
- Grandparents still are parents and, if life is lived well, they will remain parents for eternity. Is there, then, ever a time now when grandparents can/dare/should abandon God-given parenting roles?
- Both parents and grandparents can be “selfish,” stubborn, proud, and/or “entitled.”
- Grandparents often can and have opportunities to influence grandchildren in ways that sometimes parents can/dare not. Assessing roles and situations regularly may be wise and fruitful for all concerned and create (otherwise missed) blessings for all parties.
- My wife, a grandmother, works 20 hours/week from home and spends at least 25 hours weekly as Relief Society president in a needy ward. In her opportunity to babysit grandchildren, she has told our children, the parents, when she is available to babysit or to care for our grandchildren. Moreover, if something comes up that conflicts with her tending the grandchildren, she gives the parents as much forewarning as possible to have them make alternative plans for tending the grandchildren. The parents can and do make other plans. With busy lives, schedules are expected and required of all, noting need for flexibility.
- Ultimately grandparents do have the option of opting out of babysitting, if they wish, but never out of grandparenting. Example speaks louder than words. My own parents chose to be largely absent from our and our children’s lives largely due to early meddling of their own parents in decades gone by (yes, “absence” is an extreme response). My wife’s parents, on the other hand, were in the thick of our children’s lives. One does not have to think hard to know which set of grandparents had the tight bonds, love and affection of the grandchildren and fullness of joy.
- When financial constraints hit, the first line of defense is the family and not the Church or community resources. Family support can vary in size from, say, (a) an-hour-a-week babysitting of grandchildren to, literally, (b) a wholesale moving in of the parents and grandchildren with the grandparents to avoid homelessness on the part of the parents and grandchildren. My wife, three children and I did the latter. In the end, to carry our fair share of the added load, we eagerly sought daily ways to contribute back to grandparent generosity. We appropriately were permitted to take over most of the household and yard duties, for example. We ended up starting a new career in a new country, buying the grandparents’ home at fair market value, and then, within a year, reversing roles by freely taking care of grandparents in their former home for their twelve, remaining sunset years. This win-win-win scenario was a God-directed blessing for everyone. All of us would do it over again — joyously.
- Finally, evaluate motives. Sincerely commune with Heavenly Father. Attend the temple. Draw Heavenly Father into all considerations. Decide. Pray some more. Act. Evaluate. Adjust. Seek win-win-win (or no deal).
You made some great points, Murray. Any grandparent (or child of a grandparent) will find something to think about in your list. Thanks for sending it!
I will probably be in the minority but I love taking care of my grandkids. I was divorced when my only child was very young and had to work. Now that I’m retired I have the opportunity to spend quality time with my grandkids and enjoy what I missed as a working mother. I also live in a mother-in-law attachment to my son’s home and am considered an important part of the family.
No one ever assumes I will be available to watch the kids. I do have one evening a week when I am always available as both my son and his wife have callings that require them to be gone that night. That is a fun night for us. We have pizza or some other kind of “sometimes” food, watch a DVD or play games, and read lots of stories. It’s my special time with the kids.
My grandkids come to “visit” me after they get home from school to tell me about their day. They run errands with me. We have special activities we do together. I never feel like I’m put upon to watch them or have to spend time with them — I want to.
Each year I send my son and his wife off for a long weekend for their anniversary. The kids and I have fun that weekend too by going to special places or activities. If my son and his wife want to go out they always ask if it’s convenient for me to watch the kids. If not, they get a babysitter. About once a month or so they get a sitter and take me out to dinner. After working hard for many years I now have time on my hands to be more involved at church and have a more active social life. The biggest part of my life is my family and that’s the way I like it!
Happy, you have a great situation. It sounds as though you spoil your son’s family and they spoil you in return. Spoilage — in a good way — is a lovely way to make others feel appreciated, and it’s obvious that you never feel taken for granted.
Children, pay heed.
After reading the article about the grandparenting issue, the thought occurred to me that the most successful grandparents address those problems before the baby is born. It might be wise to urge parents-to-be and their parents to sit down and write out a contract that is agreeable to everyone before there is resentment on either side. This is another one of those areas where we need to cultivate more open communication before the problem arises.
The same skills that work to sort out disagreements in marriages and growing families can be applied in this situation. Maybe the best advice to those already in trouble is the same as we give folks having marital problems: find a counselor and get professional advice from someone you trust. Each family is unique in its own way, and generic advice is often dangerous.
Long Distance Grandma
I am a mother of eight children and grandmother of nineteen — so far. Four daughters and two sons. Four children and nine grandchildren live in my community, three children and seven grandchildren live within two hours of me and one child with two grandchildren lives fourteen hours away and visits at least once a year.
So I can only speak for myself.
I have always enjoyed being a mother, and I enjoy being a grandmother. I love and enjoy my family. I recognize that with these roles comes great responsibility. Our work on this earth is the work of redemption, and it will never end. We have a responsibility to help Heavenly Father redeem his children. His work is our work.
My family is much like many others. It comprises married, single, and divorced children and their families — active and less-active families with some health issues and financial issues thrown in for good measure. We have had children with their family return to live for a time. We have never had money to give our children, but we have always been able to offer our home and a roof over their head when they needed it.
Our motto has always been “our door is always open,” and that goes for friends as well as family.
But the fabric of love for one another binds us all together in an attitude of caring and unconditional support.
Let me just say here that my husband and I raised our children in total activity in the Church. We did all the family scriptures, family home evening, Primary, YW, YM, seminary, scouts, girls’ camps, and everything else. We hope in the near future to be able to go on a mission.
But until then, we have a responsibility to our family. We have a responsibility to be a good influence in their lives — especially grandchildren. It is a joy to love and support them in their journey on this earth.
I believe that the work of making good family memories in the lives of our children and grandchildren will strengthen them immeasurably for the challenges they will face in life. Great family memories are the glue that holds families together. So we need to be busy making memories. Be sure they know that you are interested in them and what they are doing. Be a cheerleader!
I believe in long-distance phone calls and sleepovers. I attend sports games, dance recitals, and Christmas concerts. I am always free to do child care for temple attendance.
My life is not about what I get to do for myself, but what I can do for others, especially my family. I find my greatest joy there. I always have time for me. When you do the Lord’s work first, there’s always time for you!
Don’t worry about getting rid of that baton! It will get passed in bits and pieces and by the time the last bit is being passed on, you’ll have decided you want it all back!
Sandra, you point about making good family memories is an important one. Thanks for reminding us all that making good family memories is one of the most important things we can do in life, because those memories are what set the example for future generations.
I enjoyed your article and the points mentioned. My opinion is this:
- I babysit because I want to and my children pay me the same amount they would have to pay childcare or another sitter. They (and I) would rather have me babysit because I love my grandchildren and enjoy the time spent with them, and I can use the money. Even if I were wealthy, they still should pay a minimum amount.
- However — if grandparents have other things they want to do rather than babysitting, they should tell their children that they won’t be available because, they are going on a mission, on a cruise, visiting friends in other states, provinces or country, or whatever. And do some of these things. Be firm with your children and explain how you feel. If they take offense (or act like spoiled brats) — tough, they can suck it up. Tell them you will be available for an emergency, but you have a busy life now that they are on their own.
75-Year-Old Granny in Canada
Thanks for your advice, 75. I like the symbiotic relationship you have with your children, when they provide spending money for you in return for getting better babysitting services than they would if they were in the hands of someone who didn’t love them the way you do. Good idea!
You can’t be taken advantage of unless you allow it!
That is my feeling. I have ten grandchildren, with another on the way. I have a great relationship with my children and grandchildren, but they all know that my time is that my time. I love spending time with my grandchildren, but I am not just a handy babysitter at all times. It is at my convenience. If one of my children calls and asks me to babysit, I can check my calendar, and if it is convenient, I will spend the time with that grandchild — more as a friend than as a babysitter. I also make special times when I call my children and ask them to bring their children over.
My opening comment stands — you cannot be taken advantage of unless you allow it. Talk to your children and let them know your thoughts and that you don’t want to start feeling resentful of your grandchildren. “I was a mother, and now I want to be a grandmother, not a babysitter,” is a great start. Be sure to have your husband by your side and supporting you while you have this conversation.
Also, make yourself unavailable if a child drops by with a grandchild. You can say “Oh, sorry, we were just leaving — maybe another time.” It won’t be easy, and your children may resent it for a time, especially if you have already made them dependent on you. But they will get over it, and you will get your life back.
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