Manners Matter: Babysitting the Grandkids

Dear Mary Pat,

My wife and I moved here a few years ago to be closer to our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids. This really feels like home now and we’ve gotten to make some good friends. We also like to volunteer as much as we can. The only hiccup is how much we are expected to babysit for the kids. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely love spending time with them and enjoy being so close to them. I guess the issue is the assumption that we are just sitting around doing nothing and waiting for the phone to ring. We wonder what they did before we moved here. I’m finding it hard to say anything. How do I approach this without offending them?


Busy Papa

Gills Rock, Wis.


Dear Busy Papa,

You need to say something now before any resentment builds up. It’s as simple as setting up boundaries and expectations and getting on the same page. Maybe their idea of a reasonable schedule is you watching the kids five times a week, maybe your idea is three times a week. You just need to be honest, direct and, of course, kind. Telling them that you have a few other things going on and will need a little more notice is not going to offend them.

Also, there is a big difference in you watching the kids last minute for a doctor’s appointment versus your son and daughter-in-law going out to dinner every other night. If they are taking advantage of your generosity, then you have the right to say that it’s too much. Either way, it would be a good idea for them to search for a trustworthy babysitter who can be the backup when you aren’t available.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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