Sage Advice: Grandma Is Too Busy to Babysit

By Amy Dickinson | February 12th, 2020

Are grandparents required to help out with childcare?


Grandma playing with her grandson in a toy rocking thing Image

Dear Amy: I have a 4-year-old son and am expecting another child in a few months. I started my own business a few years ago, and my husband works full time.

My son is in daycare three days a week (we can’t afford more care right now). I asked Mom if she would commit to helping me care for my son on one of the days when he is not in daycare. (My in-laws also help out.)

She balked at the suggestion and actually started yelling at me about it. My mom works as a sometime-realtor, but makes herself very busy with women’s groups and volunteer work.

She often offers to watch my son at the last-minute when it’s convenient for her. But she refuses to make a schedule to give me much-needed (begged for) help.

She makes me feel selfish for asking, but I really need the help to grow my business and support my family. I get upset that she doesn’t “want” to help me; and then she spends so much time doing things that to me aren’t as important as helping her family.

She constantly calls me to tell me how “busy” she is, but it’s with things that are completely voluntary, and meanwhile I’m drowning.

She loves my son and he’s an easy, calm child, and my mom is in great health.

I realize she has her own life, but I can’t see why she won’t just agree to one day or even a half-day a week, when she often helps my sister (a stay-at-home mom with three kids).

– Frustrated Mom

Dear Frustrated: You obviously value your time and energy more than your mother’s. And guess what? She has needs, too.

Why should your mother help you to grow your business on your schedule, when she has her own business to tend to? As a realtor, she may have to show properties on a varied schedule, which could conflict with a regular babysitting commitment.

You seem to believe that your mother owes you regular childcare. She does not. I’m taking it as a given that she already provided you with many years of childcare – when you were a child and up to the time you left home.

Your mother seems to spend plenty of time with her various grandchildren. You only have one household to tend to, while her commitments are not only to you, but to your siblings and their families, as well.

Perhaps you should enroll your son in a daily preschool program. Or maybe you and your sister could trade childcare for each other; you take her kids one day and she takes your son one day. This would yield you one more workday each week.

When you make a request and keep hearing the same answer, you should either stop asking, or ask a different question.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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