HOW MUCH BABYSITTING IS TOO MUCH?
When my mother was pregnant with my sister her mother said: “you know I love you more than life itself, but don’t ever ask me to babysit”. Mum never asked and Granny never babysat, even when I came along eight years later and Granny was living with us. I have very fond memories of her though.
When I was pregnant with my oldest my Mum said she would take the kids from time to time but it would be babysitting on her terms so she could enjoy being a grandmother to the fullest.
Every so often she would take one of the three boys for a weekend where she would spoil them rotten and treat them like little kings. They loved it and I loved it for them.
I was lucky enough we could afford to cater to my wish to be a stay at home mum so we didn’t need babysitting so I could work.
Sadly today many families no longer have that option as it takes two wages for most to survive with any chance of achieving even their smallest goals.
When my own little family began to grow (three grandbabies in less than three years and a new one born last month) I told my kids I would give each family a babysitting day per week.
With three sons, that’s three days (two at the moment as one son is yet to have kids) totally devoted to the grandkids.
I plan crafts and outings and have turned our home into a fantasy land for them. Those two days are just for the kids so I plan nothing else and I’m happy I have the freedom to do that.
If I was babysitting more often on a regular basis I would have to try cleaning (I’m already picturing myself pulling my hair out – I already did that stuff with my kids!) and shopping and all the other stuff we need to do with them around.
We would lose some of the quality we have now. Of course, we do babysit more. When the kids want to go out we’ll take the babies –sometimes all together.
There were quite a few weekends not so long ago when we’d have all three goddesses for a sleepover before the oldest was even three years old. Three under three – I didn’t even have to deal with that with my own kids!
But we love it – sleepovers are great. We even had one little goddess for a whole week when her parents were away and her two cousins on a five-night sleepover recently.
Much as I love them though I know I wouldn’t want to be responsible for them more often than we are.
As it is, caring for the grandkids seems like a more daunting responsibility than caring for my own was.
Not sure if that’s because I move a bit slower now and worry I can’t get to them in time to save them from an accident or because there are so many people to answer for if I get it wrong.
Whatever, I have nothing but admiration for grandparents who take the kids five days a week.
Those who have full-time care of their grandkids are absolute heroes!
I have a friend whose grandchildren live with her. She said she felt really ripped off because she couldn’t spoil them the way grandparents should.
She was responsible for disciplining them and was once again in the position of feeling like the family nagger in order to get things done.
AUSTRALIAN GRANDPARENTS LOOK AFTER NEARLY ONE MILLION CHILDREN
With the necessity of both parents working and the enormous cost of child care, babysitting demands on grandparents are tremendous.
Australian grandparents regularly look after nearly one million children (about a quarter of all kids under 12) according to the most recent figures.
According to a Council of the Ageing report in 2012 grandparents were saving New South Wales families almost $90 million a year in childcare costs.
Grandparents were spending an average of 12 hours a week on childcare duties – some had even given up their jobs to do this.
Others put their retirement plans on hold.
While there are studies that suggest grandparents who babysit end up being more active and have enhanced levels of health and wellbeing (according to a report in the Journal of Gerontology) I for one am totally exhausted after my dedicated grandkid days.
And I count myself as one of the lucky ones who can choose. Some grandparents are full-time carers, others during full-time work hours and there are others whose hearts ache because they live far from their grandchildren and barely get to see them.
I know other grandparents who have taken it upon themselves to pay for their grandchildren’s schooling, music, swimming, whatever.
I worked for a man years ago who came out of retirement so he could pay for his grandson to go to a really expensive private school. When did all this become our responsibility? Did I miss something in the fine print?
Another grandmother I know zips around dropping off and picking up grandchildren, babysitting the babies, buying schools clothes and necessities for them while also trying to fulfil her work commitments. She is exhausted and feels unappreciated and exploited by her children but cannot give up on the incredible love and feelings of protectiveness she has for her grandchildren.
It’s a given any of us would drop everything to do what is necessary if it were an emergency – these are the children of our children and so very, very precious.
However, I believe some grandparents are being emotionally blackmailed into taking on the responsibility of raising the grandkids, but without the freedom to make the rules suit them.
MAKING TIME FOR YOUR OWN NEEDS IS IMPORTANT
There’s a certain amount of pressure these days on grandparents to prove how dedicated they are to the role and one sure way to do this is never miss a chance to babysit. It’s important though to remember to take time out for yourself for several reasons.
- We owe it to ourselves to start ticking off bucket list items while we’re young and fit enough to accomplish that
- When we are happy with the amount of time we spend with the grandkids we are having happier and more engaged times with them
- If we forget to make time for ourselves we can become run down and sick and of no use to anyone
- An example of living a happy and fulfilled life with time to achieve our own personal goals may well be one of the best gifts we can give our children and grandchildren.
How Much Babysitting is Too Much?
I’ve noticed my sons show so much more respect and interest in me when I’m accomplishing new things for myself.
They have even told me it inspires them to do more to ensure they don’t get stuck in a rut. I certainly want our beautiful little goddesses to look up to me this way.
On occasion (quite rare) that we say no to babysitting the kids are impressed we have a life outside of theirs. Amazingly they always find someone else to step in and do the babysitting so it’s win, win.
So how much babysitting is too much? Well, it obviously depends on the family circumstance but if you find yourself sacrificing freedom and feel unhappy about it then you are probably doing too much. For those who feel there is no choice, there are a few good resources below.
How much do you babysit?
Wishing you the freedom to choose and a gleeful week, Tamuria.
NSW Family Support Services
COTA (NSW) Information Service