The problem: We have become a babysitting service for our kids — and their pets. It seems as if they visit only when it’s time for us to babysit.
Low road: When the kids return home from their next delightful evening out, ask, “So, I hope we did this right. Which group was supposed to get the Purina One?”
High road: Sure, you could look at this as being manipulated to the moon and back. Or you could consider it the greatest compliment possible. On the one hand, your children seem to have forgotten, or maybe never considered, that you also have a life. And that one-sided giving feels lousy, particularly when the manipulation is by your own progeny.
On the other hand, try to remember what your lives were like when you were sucked into that emotionally, physically and financially draining sleep-deprivation chamber known as parenting. An occasional adults-only escape isn’t just fun; it could save a marriage. That your kids ask you to step up regularly shows that they know they can count on you to keep their precious cargo, on two legs and four, safe and entertained.
I imagine that you have friends who are grieving estrangement from their children and, thus, grandchildren. I’ll bet they would babysit in a heartbeat. The key is to find balance. Yes, you want to help. But you don’t want to grow weary and resentful. Think about how much you really can do. One night a week? Two afternoons? Once a month? Don’t apologize. Explain that, to be the best and most attentive grandparents for your cherubs, that’s really all you can do.
On birthdays and holidays, you might also give your kids coupons for an extra night, or even weekend, of grandparent time with the kids and pets. That reminds them that your gift of time is just that — a gift.