Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the weekly column in which I dispense advice no one asked for to people who don’t even know who I am.
I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks as my colleagues and I work desperately to fight off this horrendous gig economy killer bill in California. AB5 has halted the income streams of nearly a million independent contractors overnight and we are in the battle of our lives to see it overturned. To learn more head over to ab5facts.com and if you’re in the mood and live in the state, sign the petition to make your voices heard. Your help is appreciated.
Now, back to our badly needed but unsolicited advice.
This week a theme began to develop as I combed the internet looking for unsuspecting people to thrust my unwelcome wisdom upon. It seems there are a few young parents out there who are righteously indignant that their own parents do not wish to share the burden of childcare for their grandchildren.
Here we see a young mother who is so upset that her in-laws refuse to pick up her children from daycare that she is thinking of denying them access to the children at all. She and her husband live in the city and the in-laws live in the suburbs. The in-laws clearly do not wish to drive into the city every day to pick up their grandchildren. She’s so upset about it she is considering cutting off all contact with them.
Here we see another parent who is very angry that her real estate agent mother refuses to help with the grandchildren at least one day a week.
Let us all agree that raising children is a tough job and childcare is very expensive. Let us also agree that childcare is very expensive because your child is invaluable. I have never quite understood the nonstop complaints about the cost of childcare. It is supposed to be expensive. Would you trust the most precious gift you’ve ever been given to the Dollar Store daycare?
It seems natural to me that a young parent might turn to their own parents for childcare help, particularly if those parents are retired or have extra time due to their own empty nests. The good Lord knows my in-laws were precious and valuable help to me and my family when the kids were young. I asked for help often and they accommodated us wherever they could, which was quite often. I don’t ever take that for granted.
I cannot imagine demanding that they care for my children. Even if I was really counting on their help, I can’t even imagine being offended or angry if they said no. How childish!
So here is my advice to any of you young parents who are deeply offended by your parents’ refusals to babysit your offspring.
Get over it.
It is not your parents’ responsibility to make sure your children have daily care and supervision. It’s nice if they do that. It is certainly very nice – and if you have parents who do that I hope you thank them and reward them early and often. But you must understand, your parents have already put in their work. They’ve already had their sleepless nights and early mornings, their worries about bills and groceries, their sick days and school projects and forgetful tooth fairies. The delight of having children in the home is fleeting. The only comfort in the empty nest is knowing that those exhausting days are behind you. Think about it…think about how tired and stressed and frustrated you are? They have gone through all the same things. They’ve put in their time. It seems silly to demand they now take some of yours as well.
And they very well might. Like my own in-laws did. Some people are like that. Some aren’t. You have no right to demand their time, even if they are related to you.
A common complaint in these letters was that the grandparents were more than happy to give their time to “volunteer work” or the children of other siblings or a new career.
Well…so? I hate to be blunt (no I don’t) but it’s really none of your business. I know you’re raising kids and that’s a lot of work, but why is the time of your own parents any less important than yours? If they choose to find joy in new commitments the appropriate response is supportive happiness, not bitterness. They are under no obligation to babysit the humans you created all on your own. It’s nice when they do, but take that as a gift, not an obligation.
And speaking of obligations, did you not think through what obligations a family might bring? What demands it might put on your time and careers? There are some things about parenting you can’t know until you get there for yourself. But it really isn’t a big secret that kids are a lot of work. This is not an elusive fact. You can throw a rock right now and hit someone who will tell you that parenting is exhausting. Did you think you were going to be the only people on earth to figure out the perfect balance between kids, work and home? If you have children and need to work in order to provide for them then you must plan accordingly.
One of our advice-seekers complained that the grandparents they were annoyed with refused to travel into the city from the suburbs for daycare pickups. I don’t understand the attitude many young, modern parents have that they are not supposed to make any sacrifices for the things they need and want. I suppose it’s what we call entitlement. I call it annoying.
If you need help with your children that badly then perhaps you need to consider moving. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your neighborhood in order to move closer to family who can help, then maybe you don’t need the help as badly as you thought. It’s a lesson we all need to learn earlier in life rather than later. You simply cannot have your cake and eat it, too. You certainly can’t expect your retirement-age parents to bake and decorate the cake and then feed it to your children while you’re at work.
It’s okay to ask for help. It’s even okay to feel disappointed or annoyed when your parents deny you that help. Sometimes it isn’t fair. Sometimes it may even be selfish. But in the end, it is none of your business what they decide to do with their time or anything else they own. You have to deal with it.
Your parents love you. They love your children. Stop demanding that they be babysitters and let them be grandparents. It is an irreplaceable role.