Do we view our parents are babysitters for our kids? Do we expect the grandparents to help out and to what extent do we expect it? This was a question I posed on Facebook quite a while back and here’s my take on this.
A bit of personal background first. Coming from Indian culture where family is everything and individuality is considered overrated, grandparents traditionally do provide ample support in taking care of grandkids. Often, grandparents stay with the parents and kids under one roof and that lends itself to the general assumption that everyone will contribute. This often works wonderfully, but sometimes leads to a lot of heartburn with everyone clamoring with their own opinions about how to raise a child and unreasonable demands on people’s times.
Here, I try to address this from a present day point of view.
Are grandparents supposed to babysit our kids whenever we want?
The answers were pretty much on point of what I think of myself, which is no, we shouldn’t consider that our parents should function as unpaid babysitters for us whenever we want! Certainly, circumstances are different in different cultures; for instance, if our parents lived with us (as is common is some cultures, including Indian culture), we may expect help from them, but then it would probably be second nature. Any grandparent should not feel obligated to care for their grandchildren unless they want to.
However, grandparents are very important. The love, pampering, discipline, patience, and values that come from the grandparents cannot be found elsewhere. There is definitely a special bond that our kids have with our parents. Grandparents should have the freedom to do whatever makes both of them happy – narrate stories, paint, pretend play, dance, sing, watch cartoons, go to the park, or bake cookies.
Are they doing us a favor when they do help out?
I personally felt that it was a burden for my parents and in-laws to come over all the way from India and spend months here in an unfamiliar environment, tending to my child. However, this was something that neither set of grandparents in our family ever considered; in fact, they were overjoyed to be asked. It’s not that I didn’t see the strain of the long hours alone with an infant, but it was something that they couldn’t bring themselves to complain about. Now, I see it as a free will gesture and not something I’ll have to pay them back for someday.
For people who have parents living close by, it’s more an everyday question about how frequently they can and should call in their parents for help. In today’s dual income households, the question of who looks after the kids is an ever-agonizing one. The temptation is always there that who better to ask for support than your own family? Rather than rely on daycare centers and schools, what could be better than having your own parents (or your spouse’s) bear the responsibility?
I don’t know of anyone who actually pays their own parents to take care of their child. I think the price you pay is a bit different. If parents do get help from their parents, then they should be prepared for interference in parenting decisions.
Who’s in charge?
“It is the grandparents I turn to for advice when my baby won’t stop crying or I’m looking for a much-needed break. They are valuable and wonderful. And, of course, many grandparents are kind and dedicated full-time carers for their grandchildren. But it is the unwanted advice and pressure over how to “be a parent” that is tricky to navigate. It is an issue that many parents-to-be don’t even think about in the months leading up to the birth, and one that can cause a lot of aggravation afterwards”. (Source: The Guardian)
This perspective is something that I definitely struggled with, more so, as a new parent when I myself was apprehensive and definitely didn’t need others crowding over my child with their own points of view. A study by the UK’s Institute of Education found that care provided by qualified staff tends to have more structured curriculum to help a child’s cognitive development. Additionally, I was more worried that my children would be spoiled if cared for at home by loving but sometimes overly generous grandparents, who often failed or forgot to follow my discipline strategies.
What could be some reasons grandparents don’t help out?
In other words, how would you view grandparents who are not involved, for whatever reason?
There could be multiple reasons. Health is a big reason why many grandparents are not able to take care of their grandkids. On the other hand, elder people being more active and having their own social circles and activities, they may want more free time to themselves.
Whatever, the reason may be, it is important that we understand and respect that. Taking for granted and taking offense to a ‘No’ is immature behavior for our generation of (supposedly) well-educated individuals.
My parents just visited us but since my boys are older and pretty independent, there wasn’t any reason for them to babysit either one of them. Rather, they got a chance to interact with them on a whole different level, and to leave them to their own devices (often, literally) whenever they (my parents) started to tire! It’s not that they don’t offer their advice about raising a child, but they know enough about the two parents to understand that we listen respectfully, but then do exactly what we please. Pretty much like the grandkids, I may add! 😉