Happy Granny in California

Thanks for reminding us, California, that you can only be taken advantage of if you allow it.  Our next reader uses different words to say the same thing:

The only way you can be held hostage is if you choose to be.  When each of my children got married, we had the “discussion.”  We would always be available during times of sickness or emergencies, but we would not babysit while our children played or even worked.  And we have stood by that decision.  It may sound cruel to some, but it has worked for us. 

Remember that if you give in once for one child, then the whole thing falls apart.  Some grandparents enjoy spending a lot of time with their grandchildren, and that is wonderful, but some of us are happier if we choose when to spend that time. 

When I was raising young children, I had an older neighbor who would constantly complain to me about having to babysit her grandchildren while their mother worked.  I finally told her one day that she needed to make a choice — either quit babysitting, or quit complaining.

We love our grandchildren and they seem to love us, but it is their parents job now to raise them — not ours.  We think that perhaps they love us more because they see us less often.  Just a thought.

Rhoda Arave

Eagar, Arizona 

Rhoda, I love what you said about making a choice between quitting babysitting, or quitting complaining.  If you’re going to babysit, it does no good to the grandchildren to see your resentment.  If you can’t do it with a joyful heart, it might be better for your children to find other babysitting options.

This subject hit home with me drastically.  I am the mother of two adult sons, one deceased.  I have nine grandchildren and eleven great-grand. I live in Texas; they all live in Tennessee. 

When the grandkids were younger, they looked forward to visiting me on a regular basis — holidays, summer vacations. We had plenty of fun.  Since they have grown up and produced kids of their own, I choose to fly down on holidays and spend time with them all.  I cook holiday meals, take them shopping, and just enjoy their company. 

Upon my retirement two years ago, I thought seriously about moving back to Tennessee to be closer to all my family.  I really would like to do that.  However, I see the cards on the table.   Some are not responsible enough for me.  They are needing a place to live, always needing a babysitter, or asking for money.  I know if I were in close proximity, I would be the one they would look to, to fill that void.

However, I am not a stay-home granny with nothing to do.  I have started my own online business, do a lot of workshops, social interacting, and working on line.  This is what I enjoy doing. 

Yes, I do feel guilty about not being there for them.  But I also realize they don’t want me to advise them on how to make better decisions about how to become more self-sufficient and independent.  Their attitude is, “Just give me your money and keep my children.”

I say no.   They are your children, not mine to raise, and I will keep my advice and money. Although I love each and every one of them with all of my heart, I don’t believe in enabling our children and grandchildren by letting them use me for their convenience. 

I know we are all missing out, but I don’t want my heart filled with resentment because I feel trapped due to their mismanagement of their lives, time and money.  I will not allow them to mismanage mine too.

Sometimes, we have to take a stand for the right thing, always with love.

Barbara R.

You make good points, Barbara.  Sometimes distance is a blessing.  I like what you said, too, about standing “for the right thing, always with love.”

I am one of those grandparents helping raise a two-year-old grandson.  After being released from the Family History Center as a family history consultant and finishing my two-year mission in worldwide support, I was feeling unneeded. 

Then my daughter asked me to tend her son while she worked.  It has given me some wonderful moments that I probably never would have had.  My other daughter (with four children of her own) tends him one of those days for me so I can do errands.  I think that having our family help each other is the best!  We also tend our other four grandchildren one evening a week so their parents can go shopping and to dinner.  We give the grandkids dinner and have fun playing together for a few hours each week.

My parents were not part of our children’s lives very much.  I felt that our children did not get the opportunities to bond and grow close to them because of that.  As our children grew to adults, they still don’t like to go to Grandma’s house.  Because of that, I wanted to make sure that my own grandchildren don’t feel that way.  If given a choice to go somewhere else or Grandma’s house, our grandchildren choose the latter.  It makes me feel great that we, as grandparents, are important in their lives. 

Kathy in Oregon

That’s wise of you, Kathy, to make your home a place where your grandchildren choose to go.  I did not grow up in a family like that, so I can appreciate how it must feel to have grandparents love and accept their grandchildren.  Good for you!

If Grandma allows being taken advantage of, she is asking to be taken hostage. She must learn a very easily pronounced word and that word is, “No”!

There are excellent people in the community who make it their employment to provide care for children. These people are the ones who should be called for childcare when parents think they need extra help.

If the parents can’t afford the expense, then stay home with the responsibilities you created.

If you don’t trust anyone outside your bloodline, then stay home with the responsibilities you created.

Canadian Granny

Good points, Canadian.  There are some things that should be thought about before children come on the scene.  A nine-month gestation period gives a long time for parents to think about who is going to take care of their children.

When my first granddaughter was born, I was so excited, and felt amazing love and connection to that baby.  I made a decision I have never regretted.  I knew of a sister in our ward, who had no life because she was always babysitting her grandchildren.  I sent an email to all my children (even the single ones) telling them that I had raised my family, and I didn’t want to raise theirs (except in case of an emergency, of course).

I had given birth to six children — three under age three with a four-year break, and then three under age two.  It was a difficult and exhausting time, and after raising my children, I finally had some time to myself.  Because there were many years of constant attention to my children, I was treasuring what little free time I had.  I needed it like gardens needed rain and sunshine.

Now, 25 years later, I’m grateful for the decision I made.

  My children have respected my wishes, and I can only think of two times that I babysat in a little emergency situation.  I have 22 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and I love them with all my heart — but I’m not their babysitter.

Jean Turley    
Redmond, Washington

Take note of this letter, all you children out there.  Parents don’t just have wants; they have needs.  Some parents need quiet time, just as “gardens need rain and sunshine.”  Before you start looking at Grandma and Grandpa as free babysitters, you may want to assess their needs — not what you consider to be their needs, but what they consider to be their needs.

During our tithing settlement interview the first year we were married and newly pregnant (more than 33 years ago), our bishop gave us the following counsel that I’ve never forgotten:  “Grandparents are to use, not abuse.”  I know lots of kids who feel a sense of entitlement regarding their parents’ time and energy, so it’s good to set the boundaries early rather than risking hurt feelings when you have to change up the expectations. 


What a great quote, Boundary!  And what a wise bishop you had — to give that wisdom to a couple who were anticipating the arrival of their first child.

Well, I have lived with my grandchildren on and off until I remarried five years ago.  Personally, having done it both ways, I feel comfortable in saying that most of us know when we are being taken advantage of.  When it reaches the point where you are the first option and no attempt is made to try and find an alternative, you are being taken advantage of. 

Let’s face it, we are simply too convenient!  So I have just simply started being busy when it is not convenient for me.  It is hard but after awhile they get the hint and somehow, lo and behold, they all seem to survive it just fine!

It is no fun being a grandparent when you are raising your grandchildren, for you or them.  So I decided I wanted to be a grandparent (therefore the good guy) more than a second parent.  I have done that and been there, and frankly it is my time now! 

My advice: don’t be guilted into something you would rather not do.  We have been selfless for many decades, so don’t feel guilty about being selfish.  The bottom line is, your children do manage to figure it out when you don’t cave in.  

P.S.  Since they usually call last minute, you can always use the line, “Gosh, if only I had known sooner!”  Or, “Gosh sweetie, Dad and I have something planned.  Maybe next time.”   And hopefully it will be a while!  Until you feel so inclined to play and then send them home!

A Selfish Granny

Your letter made me smile, Selfish.  And your advice applies to all of us — not just to grandparents.  It’s one thing to serve others, and another thing entirely to be guilted into it.  Allowing yourself to be coerced into service isn’t the optimal way to serve others, or to make you feel good about the service you perform.

I will start my very opinionated opinion by pointing out that it says, “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother” in the scriptures. It doesn’t say anything about honoring thy children or thy grandchildren. That’s because it’s natural to love our children and grandchildren. We don’t need a commandment to remind us.

 That being said, our grown children know that we love our grandchildren, and if we aren’t careful they can use that love to manipulate us into losing all our free time. They will say we are “selfish” for wanting time for ourselves. They will say we “don’t care” about the grandchildren. Why? Because it works!

A whole new world opens up when you just don’t care what your kids think of you and don’t mind annoying them!

What did our own parents say when we tried to guilt them into giving us what we wanted? They looked us right in the eye and told us no. Then we got psychologists telling us how those same parents damaged our self-esteem, filled us with guilt, and ruined our lives. Now heaven forbid we should do the same thing to our own little darlings so we want to give them everything in life!

There’s something to be said for getting out your calendar and filling in the blanks with what you want to do. Want to go to the temple? Want to spend time doing family history research? Get it on your calendar. Want to spend a day doing absolutely nothing at all? Put it on the calendar. And if you are available to tend grandchildren, you can put that on your calendar, too. How often do you want to see them? Once a week? Once a month? Every couple of days? Put it on the calendar. Then you can let your children know when you are available. If you want to tell them you are available every Saturday afternoon from 1 to 5 pm, you can do that. If you are unavailable, you say that you have “a previous commitment.”

And when the kids call and say “What are you doing this weekend?” or “Will you do me a favor?” you don’t answer, “Nothing,” or “Yes.”  Instead you say, “What have you got in mind?” If they’ve got free tickets to that concert you’ve been dying to attend, you’re free! If they want you to stay up until midnight watching the kids, you’re not. Look at it this way: not minding the kids means they have to hire a babysitter, helping the youth of the community to earn money and practice parenting skills.

This is a good example to your children. After all, do you want the next generation to do unto them what they want to do unto you? In the long run (when they are old and tired and would like to have a day off) they will rise up and call you blessed. In the meantime they may have some other words to call you. But we’re in this parenting gig for the long haul. And as they say, “Old age is not for wimps.”

Lora in Riverside, California

Lora, I got such a kick out of your letter that I had to save it for last.  It’s the reward for people who read all the way to the end of today’s column.  My favorite quote was this one:  “A whole new world opens up when you just don’t care what your kids think of you and don’t mind annoying them!”  That was so fine I wish I’d written it myself.

On a more serious note, the idea of the calendar is excellent.  Grannies and grandpas out there, a calendar can be your best friend.  If you don’t have one, Google offers one for free.  Just go to Google, click on “more,” and you’ll find a terrific calendar that you can use and even share with others.

Okay, people, that’s it for this week.  Please, do not send any more letters on this subject.  I’ve already got more than I can use.  You grandparents are a voluble group — and that’s a good thing.

Until next time — Kathy

An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again.

Anything longer than that, and you start to age quickly.

Gene Perret