My parents are in town. This doesn’t happen very often. Like, maybe once a year. And after a whirlwind of a weekend together I went back to work while my mom stayed home and watched my sick son, folded my laundry, and did my grocery shopping. Meanwhile, my dad painted my house and fixed my car in the blazing August sun.
Obviously, this is the Seattle vacation that dreams are made of.
I am incredibly grateful that they have been helping us out with so much over the past couple of weeks, and while I continually remind them that they don’t have to do any of those things, they assure me they are happy to. And I decided to believe them and just enjoy the extra help rather than feel guilty that they’re using their time this way.
Within the same time period I ran into an article online. It was about a gentleman who was rather upset that his mother, who had watched his children free-of-charge for the past several years, had indicated that she would like to change their arrangement and stop providing care so she could pursue some of her personal interests in her retirement years. We’ll just say that he was not exactly gracious in his reaction.
These days it seems like more grandparents than ever are helping out with the day-to-day care of their grandchildren. Some use this arrangement because, financially, it’s the best option for them. And others do it because the grandparents adore this arrangement and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I certainly have empathy for the poor guy who needs to deal with the stressful task of figuring out new childcare arrangements. But I can’t help but think about how he could have handled the situation differently so it didn’t result in hurt feelings and frustration. Did they communicate regularly and openly? What made him feel entitled to his mother’s help? Doesn’t she have the right to change her plans? She can quit being a babysitter and still be a grandma, right?
This is such a tricky thing to navigate, isn’t it? Grandparents adore their grandchildren. But they’ve also already raised their own children and might be happy to have those energy-intense years behind them. Still, they also love their children and want to help out any way they can – so how can we graciously accept help without feeling like we’re taking advantage of their kindness, and without feeling guilty of using them too much? Where is the balance?
I’ll admit that this is a hard thing for me to navigate personally – and not just with my parents here on their two-week visit.
My husband’s parents are local. And I’m guilty of not ensuring that they see their grandkids often enough because I err way too much on the side of caution. I want them to see their grandkids and enjoy them, but not take advantage of their kindness and love for their grandchildren to the point that they feel like all of their free time is taken up with my kids. It’s a balance I know I struggle with and I know I’m managing poorly. They adore their grandchildren, and their grandchildren adore them right back, and I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes a month will pass without ever popping in. They live ten minutes away.
Does anyone else struggle with this? How do you balance fostering a close relationship between your kids and their grandparents without crossing the line and taking advantage? How do you keep the relationship mutually beneficial? And I’d love some insight from the seasoned grandmothers out there!