Have you had the “talk” with your adult kids yet? You know the one… the talk where your kids ask you to provide free childcare because you are the grandparent? Don’t feel bad if your answer was a hearty “Hell No!!”
Newsflash: Grandparents are not obligated to provide childcare for their grandchildren
You are not alone. My personal opinion is that grandparents are not childcare providers. And apparently, I am not the only one that shares that belief. This video of a Dallas area grandma lecturing her adult daughter about childcare went viral- its worth watching, but be warned, lots of language!
Between the rising cost of daycare and millennial parents who don’t want to compromise their career, more grandparents are agreeing to provide low cost or even free daycare. Searching Google, it seems that grandparents are divided on this issue. Some grandparents some love the opportunity to help family. And others, like me, believe that grandparents are not childcare providers.
About five years ago, my adult married child and their spouse approached me about babysitting for my grandchild. There was no baby at that point, but they wanted to get a feel for my reaction. I remember looking across the coffee table at both of them and softly saying “Hell no.” Remembering the look on their faces, they were expecting a different answer.
Answering the Big Question
I did not even have to think, it was a solid “NO”. I am a woman who raised her children with great intent, but I am NOT the woman who wants to run a daycare for anyone’s kids, including my grandchild. I understand the financial burdens that childcare places on a family. That was one of the main reasons I choose to stay at home with my children.
Staying At Home Has Disadvantages
Having one parent in the home is often the most cost effective option for the family resources. Arranging for a stay at home parent may potentially derail a career. I am not an expert on how to calculate the financial and career costs that happen when a parent stays home.
But I am an expert on this topic: when children arrive, everything changes! Every generation makes the best decision according to culture, custom and finances. It is our job as grandparents to be supportive as they navigate the challenges of family and career. It is not our job to become the default childcare provider.
It is not our job to rescue our family from experiencing difficulty.
When we rescue people we are telling them that they don’t have what it takes to be in charge of their lives. We rob them of the growth that comes from struggle, and the joy that results from victory. A co-dependent Grandma is an unhealthy grandma, no matter how many diapers she changes.
Reasons to Say NO to Providing Childcare
Step out of your granny guilt and consider these reasons to say no to grandparent childcare.
Do you really want to work for your kid? I mean, c’mon- think about it! Is it your midlife dream to function as an employee for your adult child? That means you vacation when they vacation, you work when they need you, and most often there is little to no pay when you work for family. Look closely at your adult kid and decide if you want them to be the boss of your life.
Be honest, is there a feeling of entitlement to your time as a grandparent? Some adult kids struggle with separating from their parents, and as a result, they feel entitled to your time, money and energy. This is a boundary violation, and you must address it to have healthy interaction with your adult children.
Thanksgiving dinner will taste different. Dave Ramsey has a great saying about borrowing money from family, it makes Thanksgiving dinner taste different. The beautiful thing about family is that we support each other, until we resent it.
And then most of us are unable to have the difficult talk about our resentment. Don’t set yourself up for resentment. If you don’t want to provide childcare for your grandchild, share your boundaries early with your kids. Ideally before you are approached about providing childcare.
Imagine yourself in the role of discipling your grandchild. Wait.. now step back a bit further, and imagine the many ways that you could have conflict over disciplining your grandchild.
Parenting styles have changed over the decades and what worked for your parenting most likely won’t work for your kids parenting style. Is it worth having a HUGE conflict with your child in this area? Because most likely, a conflict will happen when you apply your discipline style to your grandchild.
Grandparents Are the Icing on the Family Cupcake
Think about it, who really wants to discipline their grandchild daily? Didn’t we do enough of that when we raised our kids? Grandparents are like icing on the family cupcake, fun, sweet and with just enough colored sprinkles to make the cupcake exciting.
Listen solider, you fought your war. You raised your kids, you served your tour of duty. The house looked like a combat zone and somedays you wanted to go AWOL, but you didn’t, you dug in and fought the parenting battle until they left your home. You earned your Mothering Medal of Honor, now it is up to your adult children to earn theirs.
But Wait, Some Grandmas Enjoy Providing Daycare
To be fair, I have one friend that provides free childcare for her grandchild. She loves it, but most days she is exhausted when he goes home to his parents. She made some life changes to help out her daughter, including closing her own small business and creating a daycare space in the basement for her grandchild.
Her biggest concern right now is that her daughter and son- in- law are planning on adding to the family and she has committed to watch the new sibling as well. I have encouraged her to keep that arrangement open ended. She might just find out that two babies are more responsibility than she is willing to carry.
Healthy Behavior is Caught, Not Taught
Each family has to make their own decision when it comes to arranging childcare. That responsibility falls squarely on the parents. The wonderful thing about having married kids is that they have a spouse to help then navigate life’s problems that arise from a growing family.
It is not up to you to rush in a rescue them from financial discomfort or difficult choices. Remember, you are being an unhealthy parent when you choose to step into their problem and fix it. Your adult children have what they need to solve their problems, including finding a childcare provider.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your grandchild is to have clear and healthy boundaries with their parents. You raised your children to function as independent, successful adults. Be supportive, but be don’t be enmeshed in their life.
Say yes to watching your grandkids as often as you like, but make sure to sugar those grandkids up before you send them back to mom and dad!