Whether you live a stone’s throw away, in a different state or on the other side of the world to them, most grandparents would agree that getting to spend quality time with their grandchildren is a privilege. However providing free childcare and possessing different views on parenting to your children can often cause unrest within the family ranks.
One couple, who care for their two-year-old granddaughter one day each week while her parents go to work, have questioned whether they are “abnormal” after admitting that they have started to dread the weekly ritual.
Penning an anonymous letter to The Guardian’s relationships columnist Mariella Frostrup, the pair, from the United Kingdom, explained that they both still work on a freelance basis and that the time spent looking after their granddaughter can often clash with their other commitments.
“I have a two-year-old granddaughter who my wife and I love dearly,” the husband wrote. “We have found, to our shame, that we’ve come to dread these days.”
He added: “We try to make the day fun, but I find it an exhausting chore. I also feel resentful over silly things, such as the inability of the parents to provide a change of clothes or food, etc. To an extent we feel taken for granted.”
The man, who was not named, went on to say that he is considering explaining to his son and daughter-in-law that they “underestimated the task”, in the hope of negotiating a new arrangement, adding: “We want to play a big part in our granddaughter’s life, but we’d be happier if this was done in circumstances more suited to our lifestyle. Is that really so bad or abnormal?”
Replying to the couple on The Guardian’s website, Mariella began by thanking the couple “on behalf of every working parent” for giving up their time to care for their granddaughter, revealing that she will “eternally be in the debt” of her own in-laws who cared for her two young children despite being in their 70s.
“It’s not just free babysitting that grandparents provide, but the reassurance that your kids are with adults who love them as much as you do,” she wrote. “Friends without such back-up never fail to point out to me how lucky I’ve been.
“So, I hope you realise how valuable you grandparents are, particularly for the many for whom regular childcare remains – outrageously – an unaffordable luxury.”
The expert went on to say that, while the couple were under no obligation to provide free care, they would most likely be rewarded down the line in the form of a strong relationship with their granddaughter and advised the husband and wife not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” as the situation could turn ugly.
Recommending that they talk to their son in a bid to reach a compromise, such as caring for the youngster for two half days instead, she concluded: “I think you need to reset expectations and feel no compunction in asking for the practical things that would make the task easier, including support on the basics you mention.
“Being taken for granted is never pleasant, but neither is it worth going to war over. You are free to do as you like with your time, but don’t forget that, even in terms of self-interest, those in need today may well be your saviours further down the line.”