I am confused. Will someone please explain this grandparent thing to me?

Allow me to explain. Most of the people in my small social circle are in their 30s, most with children, about half are single parents. Over half of them expect their parents to be built-in babysitters. Why?

Q- is in pre-school now. I drop her off and pick her up each day she has class. I arrange my schedule around her school schedule and around both of her sisters. About half of the other children are with their grandparents. Until she started school, I have not paid much attention to this topic. When someone would make a comment about wanting their parents to babysit, I would just roll my eyes and ignore it. Today was different. Something just went off inside my head like a cartoon neon question mark. Why do so many people expect so much from grandparents?

The cost of daycare is horrendous and financially detrimental to many families. I empathize completely. We either paid for daycare, worked opposite hours or I stay home. That is the reason I stay home now. We cannot afford the cost of daycare and it is difficult to hold a job when my children have so many appointments with various specialists. At no point in time have I ever expected the grandparents to take care of the girls while we worked. We have not called one of the grandparents at 6 a.m. and asked them to help out because the girls are to sick for school; I just stay home. When I am sick, when I hurt, when my back goes out and I cannot walk, I still stay home with the girls. Calling any family member is not an option.

I know too many single moms that expect their parents-the grandparents-to take the children all weekend long. Just this past summer, a friend of mine stopped talking to me because of my comment to her. She was complaining to me that her mom was not helping her out with the children. My friend wanted to go to a party and have a weekend all to herself. Since the grandma refused to take the children the entire weekend, my friend decided to rant, rave, call her mom vile names, cuss her out on social media, etc. My comment was made to her privately and I simply told her welcome to the adult world. Your children come before your social life. She still has not forgiven me. There are endless stories I can share about people I know that expect that grandparents to be at their beck & call. This upsets me. You are the parent, aren’t you?

Perhaps it is because my mom lives two hours away. She works a full-time job and takes care of my brothers that live at home with her. The two of them are legally adults, but both special needs. The woman is almost 70 years old, and she runs circles around me! I have never asked her to call in sick to work so she can watch my children. Yes, the girls do spend time with her. These weekends are scheduled in advance, around her work schedule, and they only happen three or four times a year. Perhaps it is because I have never expected her to be a mom to me, therefore, I do not run to her when I need help.

My in-laws live 90 minutes away. Same thing with her. I have never seen my mother-in-law as a built in babysitter. When she has the girls, it is something that is scheduled in advance, around her availability. Even when we lived closer to her, I did not rely on her each time something came up. J- and I just found ways to deal with whatever life has thrown at us, and we have not expected any of the grandparents to jump for us.

My social life is non-existent. It is a source of depression for me, however, it is a fact of life when I have children. Growing up, it was just Dad. On the rare occasions he had to ask for help, it was his sister, his best friend or he told us kids to take care of each other. Never once in my memory did he ever complain about my mother not taking us for a weekend or trash talk her for not helping out. His mom passed away before he had children, so she was not an option. His dad left when my Dad was only a toddler. I did not meet my grandfather until I was in high school. Maybe my views are shaped this way because of the way I was raised. Dad gave up so much for us. No matter how sick he was, he still took care of us. Once, when I was in first grade, he sent me to spend a week with his sister. Dad had back surgery and was in the hospital for five days. In my mind, this is a good reason to ask family to take care of your children. When I was in 6th grade, he had another surgery. This one typically has a person stay one night in the hospital, then off you go. Instead, Dad waited until I was on the school bus, drove to the hospital, had surgery and was home before me. He checked himself out, against doctor’s orders. Dad told the nurse he had to be home for me. I am very good at caring for surgical wounds:)

This whole concept of grandparents taking children back and forth to school, babysitting infants and toddlers 40+ hours per week, full grown adults trashing their own parents in vulgar ways because they will not babysit on a weekend…this just baffles me! Didn’t your parents already raise children? For example: you. Why should they also be raising their grandchildren? Has it ever occurred to you that at some point in time, your parents also wished for a break? They also wished someone would take you for a weekend? I can promise you, they struggled as well. Why expect so much of them in the raising of their grandchildren?

Life has definitely shaped my beliefs on many topics. Dad did help raise his first grandchild. My eldest sister had a baby and left her with me and Dad. We raised her for almost 4 years. He was starting all over again. Even at that young age, I knew something was not right.  I have taken care of both of my sister’s children at some point in time over the years. And we would argue constantly. It did not bother me to watch my nieces & nephew while the adults worked. It was the adults expectations that I also do so while they had a social life or ignored their children. It is a complicated topic; I understand this. Where do we draw the line?