Dear Barb – Babysitting isn’t for all Grandmothers

Dear Barb: I read your column every week and I was hoping someone would write in with my question, but no one has yet. I am a new grandmother of a beautiful baby girl. I have three grown children and work part-time, while taking courses at Athabasca University. My question has to do with babysitting my grandchild. It seems a lot of my friends, who are also grandparents, are babysitting their grandchildren. While they definitely enjoy spending time with their grandchildren, I notice a bit of resentment as well. My daughter has been hinting about me babysitting on the days I do not work. I haven’t said whether I would or not. I feel torn about this, since I know if I do this for one of my children, I will be expected to do it for all of them? Do you have any advice to help with my dilemma?

Granny in Windsor

Hi Granny, you have brought up a very important issue.

Whether to baby-sit your grandchildren requires careful thought and consideration. Many mothers are pursuing careers today, thus creating a great need and desire to have their children baby-sat by grandma. Often working mothers feel tremendous guilt at having to leave their children and return to work. If they are able to leave their children with grandma, they feel less guilty and have the confidence of knowing that their children will be loved and well cared for.

However, you must decide what kind of grandma you want to be. A grandma who baby-sits several days a week will not be able to spoil her grandchildren in the same way as a grandma who does not baby-sit regularly. A grandparent who is a large part of their grandchild’s daily life will play an active role in the raising and discipline of the child. Therefore, grandma may not be able to give into the child’s every wish. Grandma will have to deal with the results of the grandchild’s actions. The grandchild could be a demanding and expecting child.

A grandparent who sees their grandchild once a week or less is able to put the rest of their life on hold and cater to that child while they are visiting. They have the opportunity to give their grandchild whatever they want, since it is on a limited time basis. The child is then able to understand that they receive special treatment only while at grandma’s and would not expect this from others.

I think the bottom line is that you need to decide what you want. You have raised your children and you should not be expected to raise your grandchildren, unless of course you choose to. If you do, you and your daughter need to sit down and discuss what each of you expects from this arrangement. Will your daughter pay you? Where will you baby-sit, in your home or your daughter’s home? What are her expectations as far as your role in discipline of the child?

Grandparenting can be a wonderful experience as long as each person communicates their expectations. Too often grandma begins care-giving with the hope and excitement of a new grandparent, but as more children arrive and grandma ages, she becomeS overwhelmed. At this point, the grandparent and the child’s parents need to reassess the situation, without putting guilt or expectations on each other.

Good luck Granny. I hope this helps.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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