As promised, there are more letters today about the joys and responsibilities of grandparenting.  (Do not write any more letters, because I already have more than I’ll be able to print!)   Today’s letters remind the younger generation that even though grandparents may want to watch their grandchildren, they often just don’t have the physical or emotional stamina they used to have, and what caregivers of children need in order for the children to have a good experience.  Read on to see what grandparents have to say:

When grandkids came along, I found myself babysitting a great deal.  I still have a teenager at home, and she felt like she was being taken advantage of also.  After discussing the problem with several of my friends and finding that they were in the same predicament, I decided to talk to my older kids. They were very supportive after I pled my case.  Here is what we came up with.

  1. I will babysit if they need to go in for a doctor’s appointment or any emergency.  For date nights, visiting teaching, lunch with girlfriends, and other similar activities, they find a babysitter.  I told my kids that I now have a life.  I plan to do some of the things that I didn’t do while I was busy raising eight wonderful children. (Even if that just means taking a nap every day!)
  2. I also found that when I took the grandkids on my terms I had much more fun with them.  Once a month we have a “Grandma Night.”  I get all the kids that are potty trained and we cook out, watch a movie and eat popcorn and ice cream.  It’s great!  The kids love it, and they know that I am not forgetting them.  I know they don’t forget me either, because they are always asking me, “When are we having Grandma Night?”
  3. I have found too, that my children are much more responsible, organized and independent.  They are adults now and need to take care of their families.  Sure it’s hard to ask for a babysitter.  It’s like asking someone on a date!  If we are letting out kids use us, to the extreme, we are doing them a disservice.  It’s time for them to take on the responsibilities of being parents.  

Practical Granny

Love the idea of “Grandma Night,” Practical!  It sounds like so much fun I’d like to rent a couple of grandkids of my own, just to experience it. 

I’d never thought of it being as hard to ask for a babysitter as to ask for a date.  I learn something every day.

I made it clear to my children that I also have a life.  I am available to babysit occasionally, of course in emergencies, but I refuse to be tied down to watching grandchildren full time.  I took care of my own when they were little, traded with other mothers (something young mothers rarely do these days) for visiting teaching and other activities and expect my children to do the same.  I love my grandchildren and I want to see them — but not every day!

Texas Grandma

You bring up a great idea, Texas, when you mention mothers trading for babysitting.  We used to have a babysitting co-op in our ward, and it was a great success.  Ours had a central coordinator, and coordinating that huge pool of babysitters was as time-consuming as an actual church calling.  But it was a wild success as long as our ward had it, and I’m sure it could be done successfully without going to quite as much effort as our ward did.

I feel discouraged at times because I feel that I’m being taken advantage of and then at other times I have enjoyed getting to now one of our youngest grandchildren.  I also feel guilty when I feel angry or sorry for myself because I know that there is no money for the child or children to be placed in a nursery or paid babysitter at home. 

This past summer was difficult for me because I do a farmers’ market for extra money during the summer.  I was babysitting three times a week for one child then I had five children several weekends in a row.  At one time I was watching 11.  Our house is small and there is barely room for myself and my husband. 

I know the children don’t realize that I don’t have the energy that I used to.  We also help another family member who stays at our place when he’s working locally.  Which I don’t mind, but again our house is small. 

Also, those who come don’t think that they need to have any courtesy concerning using my computer internet.  With the grandchildren some of them have behavior problems and when here I’m always disciplining, which really takes the toll on me.

I have noticed that when our children need something they come to me, but when I need their help or when I’m sick it is as if I don’t exist.

I get to feeling guilty about being selfish, and my husband doesn’t help unless I ask him point blank to do something or tell him I’m going to need his help.

I feel trapped. 

Physically Exhausted

It was so sad, Exhausted, to read that your children don’t reciprocate when you need them to perform service for you.  As much as they may not be able to afford sitters of their own, it is no better for them to be able to take advantage of you than it is for you to be taken advantage of. 

If you’re dealing with as many as eleven grandchildren at a time, surely there is more than one family involved.  Perhaps you can suggest that your children who cannot afford babysitters perform a babysitting exchange among them, and free you to spend some time with your husband in your small home.  You need a nap!

Why can’t we just talk with each other?  If one person feels “used,” then a rational, respectful conversation would make these feelings known, statements of “I would prefer” would not be seen as fighting words, and well, we would put your column out of business I guess!

Communicate!  We should be the happiest people on earth!  We’re Saints!

Speak Up!

Speak Up has a point, people.  And if you don’t know what to say, our next writer has a script for you.  Here it is:

“There is a time and a season for everything.  I can play with the children while you take a needed refreshing break. I will be there in emergencies, but I am not your child’s parent. Parenting requires your time. It requires your sacrifice. I will not take away your growth and your blessing by being too much of the adult in your child’s life.  I am not the babysitter. I am the reward, the special outing, the highlight of the summer.” 


That was a terrific quote, Pragmatic.  I really liked your reminder that if you become your grandchildren’s substitute parent, you are depriving your children of their own growth.  This is something all grandparents should remember.  Thanks!

I’m not a grandparent yet.  Hopefully it will be another 7-10 years before I become one. (I have teenagers.)  I think it depends on love and respect between the generations.

We lived a while with my in-laws when we moved out of state, but we were expected to help with expenses. I rarely asked my mother-in-law to babysit. I knew she was taking care of my chronically ill father-in-law, so I knew she had her hands full.    

After my father-in-law passed way, my mother-in-law announced that she would not babysit. Period. So did my children go next door to her house? Not often. I didn’t feel like encouraging them to go over to “hang out” with Grandma, and she didn’t invite them very much either.

My children have a closer relationship with their grandmother who lives out of state than the one who lives next door, which is sad. I don’t know if my mother-in-law was afraid of being “held hostage” or if she doesn’t like kids.

I have watched one of my mother-in law’s friends tend her granddaughter daily, after school. This lovely woman knows she is helping her daughter, but she also loves the special time she gets being with her granddaughter.  The patience and love provided by the grandmother during this time have helped the granddaughter to grow and develop in ways that the professionals didn’t think were possible.

There was a sweet grandma who lived just a block from my daughter’s school. I arranged that a couple of days a week, when I was running late, that my daughter could walk to her house until I could pick her up.  Often it was only a half hour or less. I was surprised to see the bond develop between the two. I’m not sure who enjoyed this act of service more. I know this woman will always hold a soft spot in my daughter’s heart as well.

Do parents have an obligation to provide a home to their returning children or provide babysitting?  If the child thinks of it as entitlement, then the answer is definitely no!  Parents shouldn’t bail out their children time after time again for stupid mistakes.

Sometimes it’s best for the child not to be helped by family. I know of a sister with a mental disorder, whose family tried to assist her with housing, and it was very difficult for everyone involved.  The family finally took a “tough love approach.” The sister moved and ended up in a shelter.  She was given the resources she needed and wouldn’t accept before (even though the family had been trying to tell her for years). She has been very happy and stable in her “new home” for a couple of years now.

If parent/grandparents have the resources and aren’t enabling or endangering themselves, then they should prayerfully consider helping. After all, hasn’t the Church has asked us to ask our family for help first?

When Church members are doing all they can to provide for themselves but cannot meet their basic needs, generally they should first turn to their families for help. When this is not sufficient or feasible, the Church stands ready to help.  (Welfare Principles and Leadership 6.1.1)

We all know there is a distinction between basic needs and wants.   There is also a point when a child should not ask (realizing the limitations, desires, or needs of the parent). And, I know of cases where the children say to their parents, “No, we do not want your help because we do not want to feel enslaved to you until we can pay you back.  We want to stand on our own and be self-reliant.”

We have been told to serve the Lord and I believe service begins at home.  I believe the greatest blessing we can enjoy involve those relationships that last forever.

Gigi from Texas

It’s sad, Gigi, that your mother-in-law wants little to do with her grandchildren who live next door.  You mentioned that she may be fearful of being held hostage, or she may not like kids.  A third option may be that she’s just plain tired. I don’t know how long she took care of her husband before he died, but it may have worn her out — physically or emotionally.  Now she may only be able to love at a distance.

In any case, I’m glad you found a substitute granny for your daughter.  It sounds as though their relationship has blessed both their lives. 

I’m glad you quoted from the welfare handbook.  This is something we need to remember.  I’m not sure how much babysitting while the parents go out qualifies as a “basic need.”  This is something that should be determined by each family — and by that I mean that a consensus has to be reached by both generations, rather than the younger generation dictating what the older generation is expected to do.  As you pointed out, if the children feel entitled rather than grateful for any help they expect to be given, it may be better to let them work out a solution that doesn’t take advantage of their parents.

I just retired from teaching in Texas and recently spent three weeks taking care of my daughter, (who had spent five days in the hospital) and her daughter (who had been ill twice with scarlet  fever) in Salt Lake City. My husband and I had looked forward to settling into our new home, but that has been placed on hold because I will be spending January through May back with my daughter as she finishes up her final semester of nursing school and works forty hours in four days.  I find that I have bonded strongly with both my daughter and granddaughter, as I now have time to do the things with them that I didn’t have time to do before when I was a young mother and shouldering the many expectations and household responsibilities placed on me at that time. 

I feel that the Lord expects us to help our families when they are in need if we have the time to do so.  Sure, it would be nice if they lived in Texas closer to home, but we do what is necessary for the children we helped Heavenly Father bring here to earth.  My parents helped me as a young mother to the best of their ability, but I didn’t need help to the extent of today’s young parents do.  I was not attending college, working a forty-hour week and being a single parent. 

I am not the only parent in my ward who is helping adult children.  As one parent stated, “We are the victims of our children’s mistakes.”  There are a great many more choices and challenges today than there were in my day. 

I feel this is an opportunity to enjoy my family before they again move far from home.  Fortunately for me, my husband is the one who suggested that I help the girls out.  He is behind this adventure 100%.  Retirement and travel has just been put on hold for a few months, but plans are in the making for travel and leisure in the summer of 2011.

West Texas Grandma (and loving it)

You wrote a good letter, West Texas.  Two things stood out.  First was the great quote that “We are the victims of our children’s mistakes.”  There are so many grandparents who are living that statement, but I wonder to what extent they are obligated to do so.

  If grandparents are willing to take that role upon themselves, that’s terrific.  But if they aren’t, for whatever reason, I don’t know why they should be forced to suffer for the mistakes of their children.

The second part of your letter that struck me was that you described your assistance to your daughter and granddaughter as an adventure.  You have a terrific attitude!  You have decided ahead of time that this is going to be a good experience, and that decision is going to go far to make it so.  Would that we all had your optimistic outlook on life!

While I am not a grandparent yet, I am sensitive to this situation, having never lived near family.  One of my friends and I were discussing how to tactfully say “no” to someone without going into details, and thus allowing them to guilt/rationalize you into caving in to agreeing to something that really wouldn’t work with personal plans.  She told me her response was, “I’m sorry, that won’t fit into my schedule.”  You have no responsibility to elaborate or detail what your schedule is.

I think I would choose one day a week that would be family time where you might be available, and let your children know, allowing for some flexibility for concerts, ball games, and other special events that might be on another day.  Schedule it as family time, and let them know they need to work around your schedule, not you around theirs.

No one needs to be guilted into attending every game, every concert, or every activity.  Nor should they feel that they should always watch their children’s offspring on every occasion.  Many people are willing to trade babysitting (you watch my kids, I’ll watch yours) to help with finances.  I am looking forward to the time when I go back to school in the next little bit, and while my children are approaching marriage age, I want to be a fun, involved grandma, but I did stay home, and am ready to study, play, relax and enjoy a little less chaos in my life. 

I have always dropped everything for my children, but the time is approaching when they fully leave the Nest that I expect them to use their own resources to manage their lives and their offspring.  I fully plan on being a “resource,” not a “crutch.”

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