Sage Advice: Parents Wonder If Drunk Gran Is Fit Babysitter

By Amy Dickinson | February 14th, 2018

Drunk Grandma

Dear Amy: My husband and I are new parents of a 5-month-old son. Over a month ago we left the baby with my in-laws for a few hours to have a date night. When we returned that night, my mother-in-law, who was supposed to be the baby’s primary caretaker for the evening, was drunk (well past the point of being tipsy).

I have seen my MIL drunk countless times, but I thought she would refrain from drinking while taking care of a needy infant.

I was horrified, as was my husband. Unfortunately, my husband does not want to make any “waves” with his mother, and will not discuss it with her. Now, they keep asking to watch the baby again. I’m running out of excuses for why we don’t want to leave him with them.

My husband wants to give them another chance, and even suggested an overnight visit! The idea of something happening due to their actions is causing me a tremendous amount of anxiety.

Any suggestions on how to address this tactfully? Am I being too sensitive in assuming she should not drink around a baby?

– Sober Sally

Dear Sober: In my opinion, your baby is too young for an overnight visit (except in an emergency) with anyone other than his parents.

Given your (valid) concerns, you should not leave this to your husband to handle. He is already telling you that he can’t/won’t confront his mother, or even ask her about this.

Your son cannot take care of or advocate for himself. You are his mother. It is time to step up and be his advocate in this – and every – way. If you feel the child’s grandfather is incapable of being completely sober and responsible (to compensate for your mother-in-law’s drinking), then yes – you should speak with your mother-in-law directly and respectfully about this.

You should say to her, “I need to be honest about my concerns with you babysitting. When we left him with you before and returned to pick him up, I noticed that you had been drinking. I understand that you might want to have a glass of wine with dinner, but this makes me very nervous when you have the baby. Are you willing not to have alcohol while the baby is with you?”

Don’t state this with judgment or condemnation. You are speaking to her as an adult, and simply asking if she would be willing to comply in order to minimize any risk. Given the circumstances, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask.

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

More from Boomer