“Mom, the school year has begun. Can we discuss whether you can help pick up Gili from kindergarten on certain days so that I can work late?”
“Okay, what were you thinking?”
“Ummm, can you pick her up from kindergarten on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. and stay with her until I get home from work at 6 p.m.?”
I hear this from Gili’s grandmother who tells me that on the one hand she does not feel like being a babysitter all week for so many hours, even if it is for her beloved granddaughter. However, on the other hand she feels she cannot refuse her daughter who works so hard. “It’s not that she’s asking me to be with Gili so she can go out to a cafe, or hang out with her friends …”
Have you ever come across such a discussion or faced a similar dilemma?
The school year has official started, and this year it will be especially different from previous years. It is possible that due to COVID-19, the help that younger parents will need from their older parents will be greater.
At the same time, it is important to remember that today’s grandparents are not necessarily similar to the grandparents of the previous generation. They are younger in every way. Age 60+ has long since become the new 50. Many grandparents are still working and have careers, while others who have worked hard all their lives have waited for retirement to experience and do all sorts of things, or even just to relax and enjoy “no schedule” days, and they are not interested in serving as full-time (or even part-time) babysitters.
When both parents work full time, and still have difficulty hiring and paying a caregiver, they expect their parents to step up and help.
And there are a lot of grandmothers who will indeed step up and leave whatever they are doing to help their children, as needed. (For some reason this is less common for grandfathers as it is for grandmothers).
But not all grandparents are the same.
You are not a bad person for not wanting to babysit. You have the right to live the life you want to live. Loving your grandchildren and wanting to spend time with them should not obligate you to take full-time responsibility for them over the school year.
Some suggested tips for those of you lucky enough to have parents who are willing to babysit for your children:
Lay ground rules: It is important to determine in advance what the boundaries are, including which days and hours your parents can help, and to not try to exceed them. The more details you coordinate, the less likely either party will be surprised or resentful.
Different parenting approaches: You may be bringing up your children very differently from the way your parents brought you up. If you have generational matters to sort out, establish a “no-argument zone” around the topics you both feel most strongly about so that everyone is on the same page.
Compensation: Although your parents might not accept money, you should still acknowledge the work they are doing and the sacrifices they may be making on your behalf. Consider other ways to compensate them for their generosity, such as sending them on a trip, surprising them with takeaway, or a dinner out, a gift card to a spa, or any other activity that you know they would enjoy.
May this be a productive school year for us all!