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Tinka

Is Family Expected to Babysit?

72 posts in this topic

Sorry if this has already been discussed, I couldn't find it, if so.

 

There seems to be an attitude lately (just a little on the board, but mostly in real life that I have noticed) that family is expected to babysit a lot.  Grandparents, especially.  As an Aunt I've felt the brunt of it too.  Have any of you read the articles a Grandmother put out about not seeing her Grands & then the countering article by her son who said Grandmother was too interested in her social life rather than babysitting like a proper Grandmother?  I'll post the articles if no one has seen it.

 

I'm not talking about help in an emergency or a previously established Nanny-Granny role, it's more along the lines that parents are expecting the Grandparents or Aunts/Uncles to be available whenever because "that's what family is for!" 

 

When is asking family for favors too much?  I realize there is not going to be a simple answer, but am curious to see what others threshold is. 

 

Is it appropriate when being asked for favors to point out how the family can do their things without asking for favors?  Is that a trap a grandparent or family member could fall into or is that entirely appropriate?

 

 

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So far I have willing drove the 100 miles to babysit GD when DIL needs to go to the dentist etc and DS is not able to have GD come to his office that day.  Just yesterday when she called to tell me that her pregnant friend is having gall bladder surgery today and they had discussed DIL keeping her 3 yr old, that maybe the two of them can work out a trade in the future when they each have a doctor apt etc. 

 

DIL worked in child care for years, and really isn't interested in placing GD back there even for a 1/2 day.  Her decision.  Some of us GP are willing to drive that extra mile :acute: to have the opportunity to see the GC.  BUT doing so, so DIL could go out at night alone would be where I draw a line.  I can't imagine her ever asking though.

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The only people who ever babysit my kids are family )mainly grandparents, occasionally my sister).  I don't think anyone minds it.  I know that for my in-laws, they get grumpy if they don't get asked often enough to take the girls.  I don't expect them to be available at my beck and call, though.  There have been plenty of times when I asked someone if they would like to watch the girls and they've declined, and it's never been an issue for me.  I just figure something else out.  My parents babysit less than the PsIL do, because my mom and dad are ok with (and enjoy) visiting with me along with the girls.  The PsIL are not interested in that most of the time, they would rather be alone with the girls (maybe they would like to visit with DH, he works a lot but they rarely offer us all to visit when he is off, though they may just be allowing him to protect his own free time).  I am a SAHM and I don't let strangers watch my kids, so family or friends are my only options.  Fortunately, everyone lives really close (no more than 15 minutes away) so travelling isn't a big issue.

 

I hope I am understanding your last question, if not you can ignore my answer.  I don't think it's appropriate to tell someone how they can do something without needing a sitter.  I'm pretty sure they know the options (do something else, take the child with you, hire a sitter) and have chosen to ask family instead.  You aren't obligated to babysit just because you've been asked, but I think just saying "sorry, I can't" is sufficient.

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Please post the article!

I do not expect anyone, family or not, to babysit for me. We do take LO to an in home daycare but other than that we don't have babysitters. People assume since we have a 15 and 18 year old that we have built in babysitters but we don't even have them babysit. DH and I chose to have LO, therefore we choose to raise her. It is nobody else's responsiblity to take care if our kids but ours. To think otherwise is very entitled, IMO.

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When my two DD's were little I found a daycare mother.  For one both my DM and my MIL worked when the first DD came along but mainly because I wanted my DM & MIL to be grandparents not babysitters.  I wanted them to be able to enjoy their grandchildren and not ever feel like they were an intrusion.  Now as a grandmother I love to watch my grandchildren but I too work full time.  I can't just say 'oh let me take a vacation day and watch them' or 'let me work from home to watch them'.  I do occassionally help out during the work week but most of the time I just can't rearrange my schedule.  I know many grandmothers want nothing more than to watch their grandchildren but I just don't think it's wise for many reasons.  As for me I want to enjoy my grandchildren and I know that if I watched them full time I'd start being a bit resentful of my lack of free time. 

 

As for asking favors of family, as long as you can accept a 'No!' reply or you don't make the person you are asking a favor of feel like they have to respond favorably, then I don't see why you can't ask a favor.  I for one have very rarely gone to family for any kind of favor.  I don't want to put them on the spot OR make them feel obligated.  We have done favors often for other family members (namely my BIL and SIL) and they are the only ones we would ask a favor in return.  However they would NEVER do us a favor without a 'well if we do this for you, then we need you to do this for us'.  We stopped doing anything for them......and (not because of this) are now in an indefinite CO.

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My belief is that we all have zero obligation in the babysitting matter - I'm not obligated to give first crack at babysitting to family and they're not obligated to say yes. Outside of DS's daycare, my mom has done all the babysitting except once when a friend babysat during my GF's funeral. I always ask her and if she said no, I wouldn't pitch a fit over it. I see both sides of it - GPs who think they should always be the ones to babysit and parents who feel the GPs (or other family) should be at their beck and call to babysit.

Growing up, my maternal GPs had the granny-nanny role. My paternal GM quite bluntly told everyone when her first GC was born that she did not and would not babysit. Mom stays she understood that was her choice and never held it against her, but when we got older PGM started to grumble about how she saw us (mostly my brother, she favoured boys and he was the only one for awhile) less than MGPs. She started to occasionally babysit her GCs, but honestly it was awful for all of us. She didn't enjoy it and neither did us kids. She was very much a children are to be seen and not heard kind of woman.

If you demand and not ask, I think it's too much. And if you're asking/demanding people to do things that are hugely inconvenient or disruptive to their life I feel that's too much.

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My PsIL absolutely think that they should always be the ones to babysit.  FIL has even gotten testy with me before for asking my sister or my dad to sit.  I agree that I shouldn't *have* to use them, and as the girls are older I will probably use friends more as they will have fun with other kids, I think.  Sometimes I feel like I need to invent a reason to ask MIL and FIL to babysit and that isn't a great thing.  I don't ever expect them to take off work or anything, though.

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I hope I am understanding your last question, if not you can ignore my answer.  I don't think it's appropriate to tell someone how they can do something without needing a sitter.  I'm pretty sure they know the options (do something else, take the child with you, hire a sitter) and have chosen to ask family instead.  You aren't obligated to babysit just because you've been asked, but I think just saying "sorry, I can't" is sufficient.

 

Actually you did understand my question -- but what if they do behave as if they don't know their own options?  A SAHM asking her friends to babysit desperately so she can go get her hair done during a weekday, when it's clear she could do it when her husband is home? 

 

I think that ties into the philosphy differences I'm seeing, DH & I felt we should never ask anyone to do something for us we could do ourselves.  So when we did need a sitter, it was for something we just could not logistically do AND we couldn't give up.  For us, getting our hair done would be something we would put aside until we were able to figure out.  A surgery is something we would ask a favor for in babysitting. 

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I think there are a number of things that come up in babysitting:

 

1. Son/DIL NEVER ask MIL to babysit and ALWAYS ask MIL's DM and that makes MIL unhappy.

2. Son/DIL "take advantage" of MIL to babysit constantly and MIL feels unhappy

3. MIL CAN'T babysit (age, infirmity, alcoholism, untrustworthyness) and is offended not to be asked/not to get to see more of their grandchild.

 

I think all of these reflect a cultural expectation that grandparents will (or are entitled to) babysit and frequent disappointment (on both ends!) when they aren't. I personally have no idea what Faramir and I will eventually do about childcare but I'd love my mom to watch our kids on an infrequent basis (she doesn't live nearby, and she has an injury that impacts her mobility) and I doubt very strongly that MIL would be interested in something as plebeian as babysitting. Someone might get spit up, dirt, food, etc. on something that needs to be drycleaned. So we'll be relying (hopefully) on a combination of less working hours for me, professional assistance, etc.

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We don't allow our kids to be unsupervised with MIL/FIL at their home or in DH's hometown, so that rules them out for keeping LO's for a weekend or something when we've had weddings or things of that nature to attend.  ODD has spent the night at my parents about 4 times, YDD is not weaned yet and we haven't had a need for this.  MIL does get offended that we don't offer to let them babysit the LO's overnight like that, but such is life.

 

In our case, both sets of GP's seem to view things as "getting" to babysit, and getting alone time with GK's, so since they get excited about it, I have never felt like I am overstepping to ask a favor.  However, if we lived in town and it was a more frequent occurrence, maybe it would be more of an issue.  I don't think my mom, in particular, would like to feel she was tied down or obligated to a certain schedule, but I know that about her and therefore would never ask her to watch kids every Tuesday night so we can do XYZ or anything along those lines.  My dad, on the other hand, would LOVE it if he knew that he was going to
be able to take the kids the same night every week, perhaps to take the to Wednesday night church with him with ice cream after or something. 
However, since tying my dad down would also tie my mom down, I wouldn't ask this of him either :) So, for us, as long as it is a case by case, "Hey, can you...?" Or "Do you mind...?"  I don't forsee any problems. 

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Speaking as a nanny granny, I know how tiring this "job" can be, as rewarding as it is in other ways. And I know the potential for parent/GP (or other relative) conflicts. So I understand that for this - and many other reasons - some people just don't want to watch other people's kids, family or not. And, IMO, there is no obligation,  either way (GPs/relatives don't have to babysit and parents don't have to ask them.) If you want to say, "I'm sorry but no," Tinker, or even "I don't babysit," then please go ahead, and if they argue, avoid JADEing and end the convo as quikcly and gracefully, as you can.

 

As far as suggesting other options, though, I agree with TM that it's not a good idea. As she says, they probably know the other options. And, I'm thinking, they might even take your "suggestions" as an implied criticism of their quest for a babysitter (even though, no doubt, you don't mean it that way). Besides, you don't  owe it to them to help them figure out what to do. As TM says, a simple '" 'sorry, I can't' is sufficient, IMO.

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I think that the role of grandparents caring for a child and babysitting are two different situations.

 

If the grandparent is the "nanny-granny" as you call her, then I think asking her to also take care of the child(ren) so that you can hubby can have a night out on the town is being a little pushy.  Her job stops when you pick up your child(ren) or whatever arrangement you have.  Her time after the kids are gone is her time.

 

As for asking a friend to take care of your child(ren) while you get your hair done, or have your teeth cleaned, I have no problem with that.  But you have to be willing to be the sitter when your friend needs a favor also.  When my sons were very young, I belonged to a babysitting co-op - none of us had money to pay sitters, so we gave hours and used hours, worked great for us.

 

My granddaughter will be with us this weekend, her parents are no longer "a couple" and their work schedules are conflicting this weekend.  So, we will pick her up on Friday evening and take her home on Sunday evening.  Her parents will be able to go to work, get some rest and maybe have some fun - the maternal grandmother takes care of the child all week while her mother works, so weekends she says "no".

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This is an interesting topic that I've wondered about myself.  Honestly, my parents are the only ones who babysit my girls. HOWEVER, I never actually expect them to do it.  But people have an attitude about it.  I get invited to stuff that I often decline because it isn't going to work with our schedule or it is not a kid friendly event, and the first question is "Why don't you have your  mom watch them?"  My mom certainly doesn't mind babysitting, but she does have her own life.  It seems unreasonable to me to expect her to drop everything to watch my kids.  I don't mind once in a while if it is planned ahead and such, but I can't believe how many people I know that seem to think I can just drop off my kids at the moment they feel like doing something.  My sister used to babysit on occasion when she lived in town and when I only had one kid.  However, two is a little daunting to her and I certainly don't blame her for that. 

I don't really care why someone gets a babysitter, as long as the one watching the kids doesn't mind, I see no problem.  I certainly don't expect anyone to put my wants above their own.  If my parents ever said "We just don't want to babysit." We would be fine with that.

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Family or not no one is obligated to watch another persons/couples kids.

If I ask a family member or they offer to watch my kids great - its a win-win for everyone. If I ask and they decline, no biggie I find someone else.

I think in families where the extended family members cant follow the parents rules or boundaries babysitting would be an all around disaster. In families where rules and boundaries are respected it can be a good thing.

I really only have my inlaws or BIL/SIL watch the kids for longer periods of time - over nights, business trips or if DH & I take a long wkend etc. We've found some really good neighborhood kids that we trust for date nights, holiday shopping etc.

So many of my MILs friends have lost their minds over not babysitting each time the parents do something, or not being the very first people the parents call when they need a sitter. My GPs, aunts etc never acted like that.

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My MIL was really good to me when my kids were growing up.  She drove 1 1/2 hours 1-2 a week to babysit them between my husband and my shift  (I worked eves, he worked days) so we didn't have to do day care.   Because of that I feel obligated to do all I can to help my children out if they need me.  I don't know if I'll ever get asked.   I'll offer and if they never take me up on it I'll deal with it.  I've learned that from this site.

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No.  That's entitlement.

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This is an interesting topic that I've wondered about myself.  Honestly, my parents are the only ones who babysit my girls. HOWEVER, I never actually expect them to do it.  But people have an attitude about it.  I get invited to stuff that I often decline because it isn't going to work with our schedule or it is not a kid friendly event, and the first question is "Why don't you have your  mom watch them?"  My mom certainly doesn't mind babysitting, but she does have her own life.  It seems unreasonable to me to expect her to drop everything to watch my kids.  I don't mind once in a while if it is planned ahead and such, but I can't believe how many people I know that seem to think I can just drop off my kids at the moment they feel like doing something.  My sister used to babysit on occasion when she lived in town and when I only had one kid.  However, two is a little daunting to her and I certainly don't blame her for that. 

I don't really care why someone gets a babysitter, as long as the one watching the kids doesn't mind, I see no problem.  I certainly don't expect anyone to put my wants above their own.  If my parents ever said "We just don't want to babysit." We would be fine with that.

 

Yes!  This is exactly what I'm experiencing too.

 

And by the same people who ask why can't family do it, they are the same ones who display the attitude that they are doing their family a favor by allowing them to babysit, not that their family is doing them a favor for babysitting for them.  I also get the impression that they think they are doing us an honor by allowing us to babysit because they really think we want too.  Don't get me wrong, I like my nieces/nephews & enjoy seeing them and don't mind babysitting sometimes -- but I want to get it straight, I'm doing them a favor!  NOT the other way around.

 

And when they complain that family isn't babysitting enough to their liking, I do want to point out the ways they can take care of their needs themselves.  I understand what posters are saying in why you shouldn't, but I guess I tend to think this is something if a person needs help in (they are asking for a favor in the first place, but don't seem to want to call it a favor) the help they receive might not necessarily be what they want.  Thinking about this, I can't help but think how many grandparents get caught in a trap where their help is asked but when they give advice, they are then being mean.

 

For the record, DH & I staggered our work schedules so we rarely needed babysitting.  The times we did ask was because we really needed & other times was when my folks offered to take the kids during the summer because that is family tradition.  But we never asked or had an attitude like our family was expected to do anything for us.

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Please post the article!

I do not expect anyone, family or not, to babysit for me. We do take LO to an in home daycare but other than that we don't have babysitters. People assume since we have a 15 and 18 year old that we have built in babysitters but we don't even have them babysit. DH and I chose to have LO, therefore we choose to raise her. It is nobody else's responsiblity to take care if our kids but ours. To think otherwise is very entitled, IMO.

 

I'm still looking for them, I thought I had it bookmarked but nope! 

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Unpaid babysitting: You may ask someone to babysit, they may accept or decline, or you may avoid asking whomever you wish. It’s all good. No guilt trips in either direction are acceptable. Mother's choice is my rule.


I've never had a sitter for any of my kids, nor has my daughter. I stayed home with my kids, mom watched them if I got a haircut, went to the Dr, or had another baby. My daughter stayed home with hers until they were over a year, then, so she could get back to work, they started staying with me. Frankly, I like to play with the kids more than my oldest daughter does and she loves her job, she in not not not not maternal. We’re both happy as are all 3 girls. Mom still babysits for me, she lives in my home. Dil1 watched my daughter one night, for event we were forced to attend (far and few between, I usually send dh and the rest alone because they work together and know their colleagues etc).



 

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I think this is a tricky one and it all has to do with expectations. 

 

Bottom line: Parents are allowed to ask and have anyone they choose to watch their child and they do not owe anyone explanations on why or why not. Anyone who is asked to babysit by parents is free to say no and not have to give a reason. Both decisions should be respected by others.

 

All this gets really tricky though because each person has different expectations on how a relationship is going to work.

 

In my own life:

 

I prefer to have family members watch my child. I have not found anyone close enough that I would trust to watch our LO, although I would love to find a special person that I love who I can pay. My dear niece who is 13 going on 50, I feel is a great compromise in the future --maybe next year. I would love to pay her to watch LO as he is getting older and will follow direction and DN really wants to watch him. I feel ok asking my DM to watch LO once a month and from her response I think she enjoys it and wants it to continue. I try to follow her lead. My ILs probably watch LO twice a month if needed, sometimes my DM is out of town. I actually think they would prefer more time but I miss my LO too much to give up too much time unless I have to, as some months are busier than others. For example November and December were really busy, but I only needed ILs to watch LO once in January (Birthday party) and so far it is only looking like once in February (I had the stomach flu). 

 

My DH feels that grandparents should be ready at any time to watch the grandchild. This is one of those frustrating parts of our marriage and in the grand scheme of life not a big deal but still annoys me. I am not sure where he gets this mentality from because his family lived 10 hours away from his grandparents, although they visited a lot. I am the one who lived with my grandmothers. For example, my DH was in charge of LO two weekends ago. I suffer from really bad morning sickness (yay! one of the lucky ones), almost debilitating at times. Also my LO brought home a horrible stomach virus that weekend which I caught. It was so horrible, I took care of LO two days, then I was sick one and then LO started coming down with a second virus before I was done and morning sickness was horrible. It took me 5 days to eat food and I still hate eating. DH took LO to his parents Saturday morning, brought him home for his nap, and took him back to his parent for the afternoon. Then on Sunday, took LO to church (this was before LO showed sickness and it had been over 24 hours since his first bug), brought him home for his nap and then took him to my mom's house for the afternoon. I think he would do this every weekend if he was left to care for LO by himself.

 

I just think its up to each party to find a happy balance (if you care to make the other party happy) on each ones expectations. I think the real trouble is when expectations are so extremely different.     

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MBear, you were fine with dh going to his parents for help? Or not? Did you have a different expectation? I'm sorry you were sick.

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Arabella: I don't mind accepting help from others when needed, but I felt like DH sometimes just pushes our son (his responsibility) on our parents, just because he can. I did not say anything to DH about it for two reason 1) I was too sick to care about much else other than my child was safe where he was, and 2) DH is an adult and since he was in charge he can decide if he needs help. I think my big underlying issue is I appreciate our family's help with babysitting and I never want to appear as if I am throwing my responsibilities off to others for my child and it does get a little frustrating that DH will not just watch LO for one day without his parent's help. Also, DH will get grandparents to help when its not needed, and this creates an issue when we really do need help. 

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Our daughter could take care of her responsibilities, too. She doesn't because she wants to work full time (she and her dh earn plenty, someone could stay home). She has not one maternal  bone in her body and I gather her dh does not want the responsibility either. Mom will do it, mom has a young child at home anyway :) I think that some people just believe mom will do it, because mom always does.

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We don't have anyone babysit DS.  I stay home with him so there's no need.  Now that I'm working more, if I get really busy, I take DS with me to my parents and my mom and dad will play with him while I get work done.  I'm in the house so I can see and hear what's going on so it's not really full babysitting and it's only when I have a tight deadline.  We haven't really had to deal with the babysitting issue because we take DS everywhere with us - to dinner, date nights, weddings, appointments, etc.  If in the future we need babysitters I don't see that we would feel that anyone in our families must babysit them just because they are family.  We would probably ask family first and then if they weren't available we'd ask friends with kids.  We wouldn't have any hard feelings if family couldn't or didn't want to babysit DS for whatever reason.  I think they would like to babysit him since both grandmothers have made comments about being available to babysit if DH and I ever want to go out on a nice date night.  I think MIL really wants to babysit DS since she's the one who keeps telling DH that we need to have our "adult time" or date nights or whatever.  The more she nags about it the more uncomfortable it makes me. 

 

Also, I believe I read the article mentioned in the OP.  I remember the grandma was resentful because she didn't spend as much time as she thought she should spend with the grandkids and didn't have as close a relationship as she would like.  However, the son explained in his response that she shouldn't really be surprised considering she didn't care to spend much time with him growing up and that she had her own interests and things that she liked to do and oftentimes she was too busy to sit the kids.  I thought the son sounded resentful that she wasn't always on hand to watch the kids and sounded a bit entitled in that regard.  However, he had a good point that she hadn't cared to put the time in with him when he was growing up and was generally too busy with her own pursuits to put in the time with the grandkids getting to know them and such so it could hardly be surprising that she didn't have the best relationship with them.  And the son's article was only a response to his mother's original article where she just complained.  I thought it was rather childish of her to air her family's dirty laundry like that in the first place and her son's response was fitting. 

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Arabella: I don't mind accepting help from others when needed, but I felt like DH sometimes just pushes our son (his responsibility) on our parents, just because he can. I did not say anything to DH about it for two reason 1) I was too sick to care about much else other than my child was safe where he was, and 2) DH is an adult and since he was in charge he can decide if he needs help. I think my big underlying issue is I appreciate our family's help with babysitting and I never want to appear as if I am throwing my responsibilities off to others for my child and it does get a little frustrating that DH will not just watch LO for one day without his parent's help. Also, DH will get grandparents to help when its not needed, and this creates an issue when we really do need help

 

Mbear, this is some of the same stuff going on in DHs FOO so I'm pretty curious to hear more of your take on the bolded.  Does your DH realize that asking so often is kind of like crying wolf?  I realize in some families that may not be the case, but since you did specifically state that it actually has caused problems when you have really needed help, I wonder if your DH has put it all together or how long did it take to realize what this was doing?

 

Does your DHs FOO have the mentality that men babysit their own children vs raising their children?  I've seen that lead to the mentalities that men shouldn't have to "watch" their own children & that is why they will take them to drop them off places or with their mothers. 

 

Do you think that any of this has influenced any problems with DHs FOO or how they may see you & DH as parents?  

 

I totally understand these are not your feelings or how you would do things, it is just interesting to me to find someone who does realize & is open to discussing their spouses attitude towards these types of subjects. 

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