Cecilia Ford Ph.DCecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for us in many articles over the years. This week, she counsels a 62-year-old social worker who needs the weekend to recuperate from the stresses of her job—but who is, in her sons’ eyes, obligated to be her grandchildren’s babysitter in her free time.



Grandchildren are a joy—but what is a grandmother’s obligation?

Dear Dr. Ford:

I am a social worker in a state where the people are really having a hard time. I work my 40 hours for salary, then another 10 because it is the right thing to do. I know I make a difference, and my work and my co-workers are really a big part of my life.

I am a widow living alone in a small townhouse. It is a peaceful haven for me. My two sons are grown and married. Both live within 30 minutes of my home. My sons and their wives have busy work lives and social lives, and now I am expected to become the weekend babysitter.  I am not much of a small-child person, and my townhouse, with its stairs and lots of glass tables, is not especially child-friendly. I don’t even have a second bed. The small room that was a bedroom is now my exercise room

I have hobbies and friends, and at 62, I need to use the weekends to recover from my workweek. I don’t have the energy to manage a very active 18-month-old and a 3-year-old. Financially I will have to continue to work after I am forced to retire at 65, so I may never have lots of time for babysitting. I know I sound crabby, but I was a stay-at-home mom until my younger son was in sixth grade, and then I went to work in the criminal courts part time.  I went to school to finish a master’s degree at the same time I was running a house, taking care of my sons, and working part time.  My husband was ill for five years with cancer and died shortly after my younger son went to college.  I supported them through college; they are both doing well professionally now and have very nice wives and lives.  I have enough savings so that I won’t ever be a burden for my children financially, as long as I keep working until I am 70.

All my friends tell me that I am missing out on the best time of life: grandmotherhood. I just can’t do it. I feel terrible guilt about this problem, but I also feel that I need my weekend time to recover and have some adult fun. I would like to see my sons with their children two or three times a month, and would enjoy family Sunday dinners.  How am I going to explain to my sons that I can’t give them more than I have?



Dr. Ford Responds:

Dear Sarah:

From what you have told me, it seems that you have reached a time in your life when you have a satisfying career, freedom from financial anxiety, and a pleasant social life. You describe your apartment as a haven as well, so it seems you have achieved a nice balance. However, all of this has been hard-won—most of your life you have been a caretaker, and an overburdened one at that. It’s not surprising that you would like a respite from this role at this time of your life.

It’s hardly surprising that you don’t feel more entitled to your feelings. Women in our culture are supposed to “naturally” love little children—hence your friends’ comments and expectations. But even if you love your grandchildren, as you do, that does not mean you relish spending your precious free time and energy babysitting.

Meanwhile, your children have expectations that you are free to do this, and you have complied. Is this because you cannot break away from your lifelong role, and/or you don’t want to disappoint them? You are obviously a responsible person, who spends extra time at work to do things the right way. Your choice of profession involves taking care of others; people who go into the helping professions often are motivated by personality characteristics of generosity and concern for others’ needs. But even with the extra time you put in, you can leave the job at the office and return at night to your “haven.” And because your work requires you to give of yourself in this way—to people whom you describe as having a really hard time—you clearly need this time and space, especially since you did without it for so long.

Try to explain this situation to your children, emphasizing the ways in which you do enjoy seeing them and the grandchildren.  Also make the point that your wish to continue working is because you are thinking of them, being motivated by your plan to remain independent and not burden them in the future. You have probably done such a good job of being a generous caretaker all these years that this may come as something of a surprise at first, and since it is going against your lifelong tendency to do for others first, taking this stand may require some concerted effort. It may also take some effort to “stay on track”: both you and your sons may slip into the old habits, so be on guard.

You have worked hard and waited a long time for your “freedom.” I would encourage you to recognize that you are more than entitled to feel as you do. and that your choice is not selfish but rather self-enhancing, something you’ve had precious little time for until now.

  • Susan Ichikawa October 7, 2016 at 1:36 am

    I’m feeling stressed now because my daughter and her boyfriend want to leave the country for 1 week and leave the children (age 4&6) with my husband and I while they vacation. Both my grandkids have to be driven to and from school each day and then I would also be required to take care of my daughter’s pets. I’m 65 and retired and my husband works full time. I have told my daughter no but she often tells me that the tickets have been paid for and guilts me into saying yes. I feel a week away vacationing does not necessitate me watching the kids. Am I wrong?

  • Violet September 25, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Wow wow and wow!!
    Yep I have the same story. Love my grands but physically can not care for the little ones. I am being cold shouldered.
    Please how do we deal with these adult children?
    I did tell them why I have to pass on overnights, I do enjoy taking them for a few hours at a time. Not good enough.

  • Annie Joy September 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I guess my situation is a little different. My hubby is 8 years older than I. He had 2 daughters from a previous marriage and we had a son together. So while we were raising our son, they were having children. So we were parents and grandparents with children almost the same ages. We tried our best to be a huge part of the grand-kids lives when we could. Now the step-grand-kids have their own children. My one step-daughter is raising her grandson, because her son the boys dad is a dead-beat. The other grand-daughter has 2 children (single parent). She works and goes to school full time! Her own mother is burned out on baby sitting. I can’t blame her, because she works full time! The grand-kids want the great-grandparents (us) to participate in childcare on the weekends. I want to spend time with my new grandson who was just born. The great-grand-children are strong willed, and hard to deal with. Am I a monster for wanting to spend quality time with my new grand child? And not wanting to be on a regular rotation of baby sitting with the great-grand-children? I feel like we have done our part with the other grand children already! What I have started doing is letting them know ahead of time if I have a weekend to spare, and I only get 1-or-2 children at a time. My husband still works, and gets tired on the weekends. We like to help out at church on Sunday’s, (an activity we love)and when we baby-sit we’re too tired to go to church. I think at our ages we’ve earned the right to say no! When you have step-children it gets sticky, and feelings are easily hurt. Most of the other grandparents, and great-grandparents in this scenario don’t help, and that makes it hard too! I have aging parents, and that just adds to this already complicated life.

  • H September 3, 2016 at 1:41 am

    It’s 6 am and here I am looking, and finding SO many others in similar circumstances. I live a 6 hour round trip from two grandchildren aged two and a half years and four months. My dear daughter will do anything to “protect” her husband who works hard as a chef in his own restaurant. She is the financially responsible one and to make ends meet I am being asked almost once a week to travel down to babysit. I have to stay overnight. I feel like a yo yo. My husband is complaining I am away so much as his health is not great. Not only does my son in law not thank me for all that I do, but he ignores me, playing computer games when he gets in from work as he is too “buzzed” to sleep. I am asked to stay over so he can get two more hours sleep in the mornings! It’s crazy. I spend a lot of time, effort and money travelling to babysit, so my daughter can go out to work to payoff the credit card bills. It would be simpler to give her my travel money to pay for childcare, but in reality the two of them are living a lifestyle that is untenable without enormous input from his parents and me. My biggest resentment is that an am supporting my fabulous, hard working daughter, who lovingly Molly coddles her husband, and he has never ONCE thanked me for what I do so he can live his badly paid, dream job, and buy a ridiculously expensive car, whilst not caring properly for his own children. Resentful? You bet. Am I feeling used? You bet. I don’t get to see my daughter and have fun with her AND the kids, So I am going to have to be strong, yet tactful and say no to my darling, fabulous daughter. She is so busy organising childcare, making ends meet, getting up through the night and holding things together that all sense is going out the window! I have told her I want to be a “supernumerary” child carer. I should be an option for emergencies, not a regularly expected option, but it is so hard when they say “I hate to ask, but could you possibly…?”.

  • Melody August 31, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I am so relieved to have found these comments! I have been consumed with guilt over declining to babysit my grandson 2 days a week on a permanent basis. I have been babysitting him for the past 3 months full-time, and didn’t realize how exhausting it would be! I had always told my daughter that when and if she had a baby I would not babysit. However, once she returned to work, I did offer to babysit until he was 18 months old (the age at which day cares in my area will accept children). Now, he is nearing 18 months and I have been told I am selfish for wanting to travel and not be tied down to a rigid schedule . Apparently, I am placing them in a difficult financial position, and they will now not be able to buy the piece of land and build a new home if they have to pay for full time child care. (Incidentally, I did not build a brand new house until I was 51. I babysat him for a week in April when they went south, but, at 58, I have never been south!) I am 58 years old, worked all my life and retired 3 years ago. Where does this sense of entitlement come from? When I had my daughter at 32, both of my parents had already passed on, and my husband and I coped. We very rarely asked his parents to babysit. I have really enjoyed all the comments on this subject and am glad to know it is okay to say no. Please, just let me be Nana!!

  • Opal August 27, 2016 at 7:13 pm


    I wished you lived close by, as I would come over and wring your daughter’s neck! I just had a text message war (basically) with my youngest daughter for leaving her small children with irresponsible people this weekend so she could go do what she wanted to do. She is 38–not 16, not 20! Her response: then keep them when I ask you to! Wow! What nerve! Okay, so I happen to “keep them” all the time, but this was one weekend that I asked her to have additional help. After seeing the “help”, I took the kids with me and then let her have it via text. I know she dreads coming home, as she knows I am right in her choice of additional care and she dreads facing me.

    During the summer, I had to find care for her children, plus pay for it. Thank God we can afford to pay, but she had ZERO concerns as to WHO was going to care for them while she worked. She said “Daycare, I guess.” Well, daycare is horrible and she knows it, but doesn’t care. I love all of my grancdchildren (9) and almost always have a child(ren) with me. I rarely have any time to myself and sometimes I am so resentful that I hate myself. I am 62 and caring for an ailing husband as well. My other children are more considerate of my needs, though sometimes I feel that they expect too much as well. My youngest daughter, however, has NO concerns for my well-being. I know it because I FEEL it. Long ago, I decided I had to take care of ME, which is why I asked her to get additional help this weekend. Our weekend feud is not over, but as long as I’m living she will never pull this again. Her children deserve better and it is time for her to be a full time mom, not a partier.

    If I were you, no child of mine would be informing me of my future duties! OMG, I am so upset for you and pray you will find your voice and say the magic word: NO! While my heart goes out to the grandson, my heart cries for you. 6 am to 5? And then what’s for dinner?! That is not a daughter, that is a manipulator and you are doing her no favors by allowing her to dictate YOUR life. It is HER child, tell her to figure it out! If it strains the relationship, so be it. No one can take advantage without OUR allowing it. You are ALLOWING her to do this, I hope you can see. She couldn’t do this to anyone else.

    My daughter says she wishes we had a good relationship like I have with my oldest daughter. I told her the truth: your sister respects me, you do not. There is nothing I want more than to have a fun, loving relationship with my youngest daughter as well, but until she comes to terms with her selfishness and starts respecting me as the person I am, I doubt it will ever happen. I am not perfect, but I never, ever relied on anyone to care for my children, as they came FIRST in my life. My kids all say they had such a great childhood, so she is hard pressed to point a finger at me when it comes to her children and her manner of raising them. I pray you will put a stop to the manipulation and take care of your own soul. You deserve it. God bless.

  • Janine Signorile August 23, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Hoopla….Grandparents a aren’t sad…they are tired. Three quarters of our lives are over….we have worked, raised children, buried parents and relatives, we have been there and have done it. We are tired. They use to call retirement the golden years. We have now assumed positions on helping raise our children’s children and we are tired….we are not sad. No one has a right to expect us to lead double lives of still taking care of our homes, health, and finances and now raising another generation of children. I raised my children and sacrificed financially so that I wouldn’t burden my parents with feeling that they had to watch their grandchildren. I worried for their health and preservation so that they would be around a long time to enjoy my children. This is not the same mind- set of today’s parents-preservation and respect of Grandparents. That is what is sad.

  • Leslie in Oregon August 23, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Dr. Ford, I hope that you are going to do another post on this topic for Women’s Voices for Change, in response to all of the comments you received to this post. Having struggled mightily to parent our children while both working outside our home, and having managed that in part because of good fortune, my husband I used to wonder how other parents working full-time outside the home did it, given the expensiveness and scarcity of verifiably-good child care. These comments provide what may be a key part of the current answer to that question: by prevailing upon their parent/s to provide free child care for their children during at least a substantial amount of the parent’s work time. So many of these comments reveal an ominous combination of child entitlement, selfishness and bullying and parental shame, guilt and enabling leading to and sustaining the child care arrangements they discuss. How prevalent is this sad problem in the U.S.?

  • janine signorile August 23, 2016 at 8:59 am

    There are others out there who feel as I do. I thought I was being ridiculous. I am 62 and a Grandmother of 4. After three horrible, stressful years of parents dying, youngest daughter divorcing, moves I thought I was finally getting my anxiety under control. Stopped talking to my oldest and only sister who was a nightmare of verbal abuse six months ago I was definately going in the right direction to getting myself together. Then five months ago youngest daughter (36) remarried an older man with financial baggage (ex-wife, 2 daughters) and my fourth grandson was born a month later with Down’s Syndrome. Then came the news that my husband who retired 2 years ago and has back problems and I were going to care for my Grandson full-time while my daughter went back to work. In the meantime they have built a house that is above their means and this is why she needs to work. I was never asked…it was just assumed that this was my obligation to do this due to my Grandson’s condition. I am exhausted to the point where there are days that I can’t even see straight. My anxiety is slowly returning and then there is that feeling of guilt. I love all my Grandchildren and now I am too tired to enjoy the other three who are older. I can’t wait for the day to be over and to crawl into bed. I have told my daughter how tired I am and she just ignores me. I believe she feels that she is “entitled” to me taking care of the baby. The days are 11 hours days starting at 6 am in the morning and ending at 5 pm. When they come to pick him up, they look around to see what I have made for dinner. Oh, I also watch their dog during this time. I feel ashamed to think the way I do but I didn’t sign up for this at 62. I am just happy to hear that their are other Grandmothers out there that are having the same feelings. My best friend has been watching her Grandchildren (2) for over 2 years now and she looks like she has aged 10 years. My daughter is convinced that this will keep me young when I have more pains now than I ever did. I keep telling myself to keep calm and suck-it-up as my youngest daughter would say but I am tired….very tired.

  • hoola August 3, 2016 at 10:46 am

    How about lazy long time retired grandparents that do nothing all day and have no social lives? Can they babysit? Some grandparents are just plain sad….really

  • Sarah August 2, 2016 at 5:20 am

    Needing to vent as no-one to talk to about how I feel- I am a grandma aged 59 feeling lost, sad and disrespected by my daughter now in her mid-thirties. She works full time and her partner works away 3 weeks out of 4 so I am the principal carer 4 days per week for my wonderful grandsons aged 12 and 7 of which the youngest has autism. Having spent all my life in childcare and now having set up a successful childcare business I don’t have the 9 till 5 work commitments that the rest of the grandparents have. I am the only grandparent who can at the drop of a hat babysit and is both willing and able to stay behind at the end of the day to cook tea and make sure my daughter does not have that to do when she gets in. I live about 15 mins by car but about 35 mins by bus. I choose to bring my car as it makes life easier for me and means I can take the kids out places. Much easier when the younger one has autism. It also means I can get home at a reasonable time at night after my long day especially in school holidays when it can be 7 before I leave her house. Busing it would make it even later when I get home. I just recently asked my daughter if they could help with my parking costs which mount up for me on a daily basis. I broached this some time ago and she was none too happy telling me she was happy to pay for my bus fares £3 a day but not parking. I have had to raise the subject again as parking costs have increased in her area and it’s now costing me about £8 a day. I live alone with only one income and my own overhead expenses of a mortgage etc so it’s now taking its toll. My daughter says she can’t afford to help me out so instead she will need to ask other grandparents to take on extra days. The other grandparents cannot commit regularly so that will present its own problems and they also won’t commit to full days in school holidays as they cannot handle the youngest who has autism. I just don’t understand why my request for what would amount to about £15 per week has brought about such resentment from my daughter. They have 2 salaries coming in and free childcare so I don’t think it’s asking too much from them. It’s not even every week as its about 3 out of 4 weeks. I have tried to talk to her but she is just horrible about it saying ‘you sound like a narky old woman who needs to be quiet’ . My grandchildren are everything to me and my daughter uses this to manipulate me which almost feels like blackmail when she starts saying ‘well I might need to put them in childcare then as at least I will get help with childcare costs’ and then you won’t be looking after them. I have always felt I am the doormat and rarely get the chance to be with my grandchildren when I am not actually responsible for them. My daughter would not dare speak to anyone else in the family like this and show such disrespect but she seems to think it’s ok and I just don’t know what to do. I dread trying to speak to her about this and she has now made her situation clear and is not going to help me financially. I got asked ‘how many free days can you do then?
    I don’t quite know what to do now but I suppose a starting point is realising its having an impact on me so much so that I am having to vent to total strangers.

  • Anonymus in the North Woods July 31, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I just finished a 6 days stint of taking care of my 2 year old grandsons (whom I adore) and like so many others on this site, feel drained and taken advantage of. Thank you everyone who has shared their personal stories! I was stretched to the max both physically and emotionally. Everytime I am at my son’s and daughter-in-law’s I work very hard with little thanks. I feel my time is devalued and when I feel devalued I feel disrespected. I need to find my voice and speak up. I want family time together, not just be there to babysit and work on their house to the point of exhausion.

  • Annie Jones July 14, 2016 at 10:55 am

    My daughter are not speaking because she wanted me to drop everything to watch her kids. I am 59 years old and was a single parent to her. I told her that I was not feeling well due to the fact that I had fell down the previous day. She did not seem to care. She sent me an email pouring out the guilt trip. Making me think I was in the wrong. Like others it is exhausting watching three rambunctious boys(12, 7, 6). I do not think I am a hands on grandmother, so much as to visit or have them visit for a couple of hours and leave with their parents. I tried to explain this to her but she do not seem to comprehend what I am saying. She think it is my future job to be her babysitter. She said that I should quit my job and take care of her kids. And she will pay me a little something. No way. Before all of this happened I barely heard from her from one end of the week to the next. The only time I would hear from her is when she wanted something. I love the grandchildren but I would not be anyone’s doormat. If I lose contact with she and the kids so be it. I raised her and should not have to raise her kids. The recently found out she is pregnant. My thought on that is if it is so hard to watch your own kids why have more. If she can throw our relationship away so easily, she must not have cared for me from the beginning. Good luck to she, her husband and the kids. I am about to retire and will put myself first and not an ungrateful adult child.

  • hillsmom July 8, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    This topic has certainly generated a lot of interest. The story from Pamela really made tears start. I don’t think “love” means being a doormat. If you can’t lay down some rules, about the loudness of electronics, your privacy, and the very real prospect causing you pain and suffering, perhaps you should leave. Yes, easy for me to say. What do some of the other grandmas say? Does Dr. Ford have further input? I think your health should be the motivator here.

    Please let us know what you decide.

  • Pamela July 7, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    I recently married my child hood sweetheart after not seeing him for yrs we found each other I am disabled and fighting for disability and was babysitting one child for 6 hour days and it was killing me but I had gates to keep the child in a safe play area cause a few time I dosed off but I had no choice had to pay rent and I never kept my grandkids over night cause it’s just too hard and I only watched my grandkids sometimes twice a month for no more than one hour at a time cause it was just too hard on me and would even cry at times praying please let them come back early to get the kids. I looked forward to weekends cause I had quiet time to rest and relax all weekend and my kids would call me on sat or Sunday and ask if I felt like them comming over with the kids to visit for an hour and I said yes usually cause it was just once a week and they new how easily it wore me out having company very long and they were there to take care of the kids so I could just enjoy them for a short time then John ask me to marry him that he would take care of me and if I didn’t want to babysit I didn’t have too and he works mon thru Friday 3:00 til 11:00 home by 11:40pm and he told me his two grandkids stay with him sometimes on Saturday nights but I thought well that’s fine I can go in the bedroom and rest when I need to but it’s most every weekend and he has started having his daughter drop them of on Friday. Afternoons for me to watch now that I’m here and never asks if I feel up to watching them. I never do usually but I don’t find out Hal the time they’re comming til the day it happens and he just tells me they’re comming and half the time I only know because I overhear him on the phone and I have fibromyalgia and degenerative scoliosis in my spine and suffer migraine headaches and have sensory problems loudness bothers me certain sounds tv up too loud and I have chronic fatigue he’s taking care of me so I feel obligated but at the same time don’t feel he cares about me and this last week I was pretty much bed ridden and he allows the kids to go in and out of the bedroom as they want and his grandson sleeps in the room next to us and is allowed to stay up as late as he wants when we go to bed and he has the tv up loud and I can’t sleep when I’m exhausted and he will be up til 2:00 3:00 etc and is just 8 yrs old I’m ready to just leave and go back to where I lived by my family if it don’t stop I can’t phish ally or emotionally handle it and I love his grandkids but I’m afraid he will think I don’t if I tell him it’s too much and he needs to keep them just Saturday night and Sunday part of a day like he use to and stop voluntaring me to keep them all day and night Friday when he’s working without even asking me I love him but it makes me feel he doesn’t cere about me or how I feel so why should I stay

  • Leona May 30, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Glad to find I am not alone in this situation. My husband and I work and are in our early 60s and we have two grandsons, that we love so much . Our daughter is critical and says we don’t want to spend time with them.
    We are usually tired after our work week and want to spend time together on the weekends and do spend occasional time with our grandsons when we choose. We also have been there when they are ill and our son in law is out of town even during our workweek. I don’t think we love our grandchildren more or less depending on the babysitting time. But are certainly made to feel bad about it.

  • Martha Washington May 21, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    I moved many miles to help with the grandchildren. I know daycare is unreachable expense and not the greatest providers. What I agreed to work has been steadily increased in time, with no compensation for increased work. I am retired on small income, single, alone. Really need to go back to work to be able to survive basic needs. I need help from social services all the time. My son and his x act entitled to free babysitting. they use words “We really appreciate” but its not real. i’ve asked they find some other help so i don’t have to sit as much but they ignore my requests. they seem to think I will just succumb to their requests of anything. I think they will once again say i will not see my grandchildren without my cheap babysitting. its hurtful and ignorant. no way to communicate to them, they just turn their heads. i am too tired to keep babysitting. i guess i will have to have a heart attack to get them to listen. sad. might happen soon too.

  • Cerrie May 19, 2016 at 3:00 am

    I understand where you are coming from I am 62 and have baby sat my grandchildren none stop for 20 years now my eldest grand daughter is 20 and I stated looking after when she was 6 weeks old she had two brothers who I also looked after weekly then my younger daughter had her first child who I also looked after from day one while her mother also worked. Her mother remarried and had another daughter 7 years later I have looked after weekly and now that she is 9 and her sister moved in with us for a few months and has now gone home. We are going to move to a place where we can od things we like it is only 20 kilomitors form where we are our daughter has in many ways dumped us. I am feeling very hurst and used. Am I being sellfish

  • Jennifer May 9, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I think the friends that tell you you are ‘missing out’ if you don’t babysit are actually just afraid to say no. There seems to be an expectation these days that grandparents are only there for free babysitting, so that the parents can enhance their lifestyle at the expense of the grandparents. My husband and I had and raised three children with very little baby-sitting assistance. It wasn’t easy, but my mother made it very clear to me that she had worked hard all her life, and if I wanted children that was fine, but don’t ask her to raise them. I understood this attitude completely. My children loved both sets of grandparents greatly, because I took the time to make sure they saw them, and my parents tried in their own way to give little treats and do things with us, so it was a lovely, enjoyable time for everyone. I think the younger generations are more selfish. I so often hear it said that we are having a baby but we are determined it isn’t going to change anything. Stand up for yourselves, grandparents! It doesn’t mean you don’t love your grandchildren, but if you don’t respect yourselves and fight for your rights, you will be trampled on. Parents should take responsibility for the little people they bring into the world, think long and hard before they do it and not expect others to raise them.

  • sharon April 29, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I love all my Grandchildren but I am now in my mid 60s and some of my Grandchildren came much later than the others and I don’t want to babysit. I don’t have the energy to run around all day making sure they are not getting into things they could get hurt. I had my children and loved having them with us and when we did go out I hired a sitter not depended on a free bee from grandparents. It is not the responsibility of a grandparent to babysit.

  • Kate April 25, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    I have something to add her to my first comment. There have been three times when I found out that the girls mother was actually off work when I had them and had no idea of it. One was on her birthday. Other times after the fact her dad said to me she needed some time alone from the girls to clean, organize and get some things done. I felt resentment as my understanding was that I was watching them so she could go to work. I called her on it the last time and she became angry and then came to our house to pick them up.

  • Kate April 25, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    I too am struggling with babtsitting issues. I’m 64 and retired from a very demanding medical career two years ago. I had no choice due to multiple health issues. A year ago my stepdaughter asked me to pick up her 2 girls from school every Friday and take care of them. then came summer and I was expected to watch them every Friday until she or her husband got off work. It’s been a year now and she has same expectations this summer. When I told her that I need to go back to work part time and searching for jobs and could not guarantee continued babysitting one of her responses was “do you not want them there” and then “I don’t want them there if you don’t want them there”. Well I was livid. I worked since 16 years old, worked two and three jobs when I needed to, put myself through college and worked full time evenings to do it, and studied hard the whole time. My most recent work was 25 years in a Children’s Hospital direct clinical care of severely ill and critically ill infants and children. I really feel that this is my time. I don’t get any pay or reimbursement for babysitting, not even ever a thank you card, coffee gift card, etc. I am aspiring also to start my own creative business flipping furniture. I want to have my free time for yoga, walking and exercising, gardening, traveling, and so much more. One time a response I got when discussing having them every week was ” you have six other days a week”. She gets upset and calls her father if she’s unhappy with anything I say or do. When we gave her a very nice birthday card here at our house she read it, muttered something under her breath then set it on the table. Not even a thank you for the card. I’ve never even received a birthday card fro her and her husband. I love them dearly and very much want to be a part of their lives. My husband says it’s not being taken advantage of and that’s what a lot of grandparents do. From what I’ve been seeing and in talks with my girlfriends and sisters they say it’s not.

  • char April 25, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Today I let my daughter know that I really don’t like to babysit. I told her not to take it personal but I realized that I’ve always been someone else’s caregiver from the time I was a teenager. I was the oldest of six kids in a home of a chaos. I was always expected to be the caretaker when my mother went on her dates and working at night.
    I became a mother myself at 21 and never got to enjoy my teen years or my twenties because I had my second child at 25 (my daughter) and a third child when I was 31. My youngest just moved out permanently last year.
    I’ve had various health and emotional challenges and some I still deal with. I get tired easily and stressed easily too. My daughter had her first son two and a half years ago and a second son six weeks ago. My husband and I were there for her quite often with the first one for that full two years plus among other ways we’ve helped them because she had a hard time adjusting and her husbands job kept him late and out of town quite often. Prior to the second son being born I lost my dog and sister within three weeks of each other. I am emotionally and physically tired and only have enough energy to play with the two year old for maybe and hour. My daughter does not understand this when I tell her that I just don’t have the energy and I don’t like to do anything like babysitting on the spur of the moment or on a regular basis. So now I know she is upset with me and can’t believe I said this to her.
    I adore and love my grandson’s but I don’t like to feel that I’m obligated to be on call and to babysit for more then an hour or two at a time maybe once a week. She also expects my husband to babysit if I can’t and he is still working. She made the comment that I need to get over my old memories and feelings about babysitting my siblings and that if her mother in law lived closer she wouldn’t mind. I don’t like to be guilted into doing things that I’m not up to doing and being taken advantage of.
    I’ve given my life to my kids and never had a chance to live kid free or freely to do as I want for that matter. I love my daughter very much and for the most part we have a good relationship but since she’s been a mother she has changed in many way and can get very angry with me. I miss how things were but want her to know I will always love her and the boys.

  • Kathy April 23, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I have 3 children and 4 grandchildren that are wonderful. I babysit on average every other weekend. I am getting to feel my children only come to visit when they A. Want to ask me to babysit or B.when they are dropping off or picking up the grandchildren. How do I set boundaries without being abandoned by my children?

  • Nana March 26, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Hi all, I too am feeling very guilty about not watching my grandsons. Here is my backstory. My daughter who is 26 has 2 young sons, the oldest is nearly 2yrs and the youngest is 10 months. She has recently split up with their father and is now taking on the role of single parenthood. To help her out while she is working I watch the boys from 2pm to 9pm daily. Sometimes her ex takes them for a day to give me a break mid week. I am 47yrs old but have a spinal disease which makes it difficult for me to do a lot of normal active chores. Bath time with the boys is a killer and I end up in so much pain by the end of the night. My partner cooks dinner for himself and my 2 sons while I am at my daughters, I cook dinner for my grandson, myself and my daughter. I don’t get home till 10pm and am in bed by 10.30 as I am so tired and sore. On the weekend she doesnt work, but often she calls me to take 1 or both boys for the night so she can catch up on sleep or have a social night with her friends. All I want to do at the weekend is chill out with my partner and sons. I feel so guilty saying no when she asks me to babysit on the weekend.

  • Leslie in Oregon March 23, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    To Tess above: Even though I know firsthand how demanding a medical resident’s life can be (for years), I cannot imagine a resident looking to her parent for care of her baby from 6:45 am to 8 pm 4 or 5 days each week. That simply is not something that a caring person would allow, much less ask, her parent to do. That your daughter told you that her feelings for you would change if you did not do this is, in my humble opinion, outrageous and a big red flag that your daughter has issues of character that she needs to address. I know of no way for you to address this with your daughter other than to tell her what you have said in your above comment and that you will no longer be your grandchild’s scheduled caregiver after a stated date. If your daughter cannot find another acceptable source of care for her child, she or her husband may have to take family leave from his job/her residency to provide that care. That is what the medical residents I know who are in that situation are doing. See my comment above if you want to know what my mother did. Best wishes!

  • hillsmom March 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    To Tess above. Would you dare share this article and the comments with your daughter? Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving…I read that someplace. Good Luck…

  • Tess March 23, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Both of my parents died before my children were born. Unfortunately, when my kids were young my first husband and I divorced and he was not active with the children. I worked full-time as a teacher and always had to pay for daycare. Fast forward 28 years and both of my children are grown and very successful. I take some credit for their success because I was always 100% there for them with a great deal of support and guidance. I finally remarried when they were teens and stopped working 10 years ago due to illness. My oldest daughter is a first year resident physician, and when she and her husband wanted to have a baby, I let her know that babysitting full time for her would be too much for me. She was very upset about this and told me that her feelings for me would change if I didn’t. This guilted me into agreeing to baby sit. Her hours are horrendous. 6:45 am to 8 pm and she works 6 days per week. I have my grandson 4-5 of these days. I’m physically and mentally exhausted. I love him very much but I also love the life that I had before I was tied down. I used to go to the gym 3-4 times per week. I got together with friends and I cooked and cared for my home. I also took college classes. Now I do nothing but babysit and on my day’s off I play catch up with my other responsibilities. I’m so stressed out and want my life back, but I dont’ want my daughter to treat me terribly or keep my grandson from me. How do I approach this issue?

  • Sherry March 9, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    I am 47 years old. My daughter is 27, married and has a 4 year old. I am asked to keep my granddaughter once or twice a week. I don’t mind watching her a couple of times a month. If I tell her that I can’t babysit, she gets very angry and won’t talk to me for a while. I am remarried and have been for 6 months. I no longer work because I don’t have to. I had my children (3) when I was young and worked hard to raise them. My current husband likes to travel and do things on the weekends. My daughter makes me feel guilty if I go places or if I can’t keep my granddaughter. We argue over this constantly. My daughter’s mother in law keeps my granddaughter 3 or 4 days a week. My daughter thinks I should want to do the same. I hate fighting with my daughter so in the past, I have kept my granddaughter when asked so there’s no friction. I have to stop. Thanks for letting me share.

  • Ali G March 5, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    After reading all of the comments, I can finally say that I am not alone. I retired a year ago and was totally burnt out. Although the smallest child is with a babysitter, sometimes she does not want to go with the babysitter. Since I’m retired, I constantly hear “Well you’re not doing anything.” Excuse me! I cook, grocery shopping, clean the house, wash dishes, clean clothes, read books, catch up on new software. I am tired of taking care of someone else. It’s time for me to enjoy life. I love my grandchildren but I do not want to be burdened with them all the time. Parents are also not spending enough time with their children. During the week, they work and leave kids with babysitter. Then some not all decide they want to go out on the weekend without the kids. Parents need to have family outings with their kids.

  • Jennifer February 28, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Glad I found this website. I moved from California to utah to be closer to my adult kids and my grandaughter. within a few months I found that I was being called just to babysit at first I didn’t mind but after each babysitting I was exhausted and glad it was over. Then I stopped enjoying it and found myself making excuses when I was asked to babysit again. I am now moving back to California to get some distance and regain my life. I’m worried my relationship with my daughter will now be strained and she acts like I don’t want to be close to my granddaughter which is not true. glad to hear that I’m not alone and I’m also going to ask my daughter to read this website.

  • Lorraine Moyes January 23, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Gosh, I’m so pleased to have found this website. I’m 68 years old, been retired for about 9 years, and actually moved from the city to avoid the dramas and the expectations that I would provide my services as babysitter whenever needed. My own childhood was traumatic, and then I gave birth (second child) to a boy who had problems from when he was born. Incredibly stressful, my ex husband and I split as a result of our son’s behaviour problems (which were all my fault, apparently !!!). He’s now mid 30s and appears to finally be okay, but stress was my constant companion for many decades. I was a stay at home mum for 11 years, so on call to meet their needs as I could.

    My (second) husband and I figure we deserve some peace now after so many years of stress and drama, but I feel a lot of resentment from my daughter who is a professional (psychologist) who I think expects me to be more available to babysit. Kids are 11,9 and 5. Eldest child has Aspergers Syndrome, so not easy to communicate with. And to further complicate matters, my daughter divorced the two older ones’ father and has 50/50 custody of them. So many complications, so much drama surrounding this family. So we did move away – an hour’s drive so we’re close enough to get there in an emergency but not close enough to be expected to drop everything and just be available.

    For the first time in my life I feel that my life is not only my own but that it is also peaceful and I can just enjoy the time I have left. It isn’t often voiced, but I can sense the resentment that my daughter feels toward me for not being on hand. In fact, when I told her the city home (in which I lived for 30 years) was on the market and we were moving out of the city, her response was “how dare I sell the family home”. Further, I was informed that the children would get to know the paternal grandmother (and not me) if we weren’t available to babysit.

    Like one (at least) of the other grandmother’s on here, I am not a “little child” person. I much prefer older children, late teens or older. And I don’t want the resentment to transfer from my daughter to me if I were to give in and be available as and when she would like me to be.

    I don’t intend changing….I intend to look after me (for the first time ever). But it’s not always easy. Guilt is an emotion that I think is very easily experienced by women, especially women of our generation.

    Thanks for letting me participate in this discussion.

  • hillsmom January 22, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Dear Lillan: I’m replying since your comment came in today. You can spend your life waiting around for other people. One may join groups like “Elder Hostel” (which may have changed the name) where one can go on lovely trips while you are still able. Others have told me they have been very happy with them…YMMV. Good Luck to all who feel “used”, because that’s what is being done.

  • Lilian January 22, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    I worked as a carer for 30 years. Hard work and very long hours. When my children were little, I juggled my work so that I was always there with them. So working nights when they slept and during school hours. They never missed out on my time with them. The last 10 years of working was hard too. I fantasized about having free time and going to places I’d only ever imagined to be amazing.Since I retired at 60, 5 years ago, I’ve been everyone’s babysitter/helper. Every year I say, “Next year I’ll do lovely things”. But every year I’m trapped because my children say they need me. They always tell me “you’re a star”. I’m never invited for tea or to any trips or anything. I feel used by my own children. I love my grandchildren so much, but I’m desperate to be free for once.

  • Linda January 18, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Like you, Myrrh, I also was searching for a site that talks about this situation. I just finished 2 days/3 nights with my 5 year old granddaughter on one of the coldest weekends in Minnesota. She is an honestly dear and loving child. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. My problem is what you have voiced…I am so fatigued from being ‘on alert’ all day Saturday and Sunday, I can hardly keep my eyes open today. I am already worrying (1 year in advance!) that next year they will ask me to watch her along with her (now 4-month old) brother. I honestly don’t think I can do it. My husband is 75 and recovering from a serious medical condition, so he is really no help.

    How do we say ‘no’ when that is really what we want – without alienating them for good.

    And yes, I often invite them over for dinner. But do they ever invite us? no.

    I’m confused.

  • Myrrh December 22, 2015 at 11:40 am

    I got up this morning purposely searching for articles about how grandparents explain to their kids that they want to limit their babysitting time, so I was grateful to find this. However, it doesn’t fit my situation entirely, as I am retired at age 65 and just squeaking along financially. There are circumstances behind this that I won’t go into.

    I find that watching my grandkids (who range in age from 8 yrs to 7 months, from my two sons) drains my energy like nothing ever has before. I love my grandkids and like being with them. I feel that my own sons don’t understand just how exhausting it is (even though I’ve said so); and one of my sons thinks I’m being a ‘drama queen’…which I find very hurtful and disturbing.

    When I have tried to set limits in the past, my one son has been disappointed but has treated me with respect. My other one derides me and tries to shame me. Sometimes I just do what he wants to keep the peace, which has done me no favors.

    I’m not sure what to do to convince my angry son that I’m not withholding babysitting just to make his life more complicated, and I resent having to try to prove to him how it tires me out.

    Do you have any wise words for me?

  • Patti June 19, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I am a 49 year old Grandmother of two sweet girls. My daughter who is 27 has just recently moved back into the area from out of state. Although I have worked full time since I was in my teens, I have recently gone down to part time work. I have been a professional nanny for 12 years and quite frankly, I am just burned out. My oldest grandchild just turned five and has autism. I love her dearly, but truthfully she is a handful to care for. My daughter is overwhelmed with caring for her two girls and is always looking for any chance she has to find someone to watch the oldest. This has been an issue with me as it always comes across as entitled and if asked and I say no she is angry and doesn’t communicate with me for days. I work in the child care field and in my off time it’s just really the last thing I want to do, even if it IS my grandchild. I was a single mom from the time my daughter was four years old. I worked more than full time, kept up our home and provided 98% of her care. I devoted my life to her until she was 18 and made her the center of my world. After she left home I continued working 50+ hours a week and have just this last year decided I can’t do it anymore. I’m tired plain and simple and I have gotten myself to a place financially where I am now able to have some extra time for me. It IS ok to have time for me isn’t it??? I am in a relationship that I’ve been in for years now and together we have two homes and three dogs. My guy works 50+ hours a week and so there are many things that need to get done around the house that I do myself. I’m tired people. I love my daughter, I love my grand daughters but every time I hear “Do you work tomorrow?” I cringe. I know what’s going to be asked next. Do I really need to explain why I can’t or don’t want to babysit? Like others have said before me, been there, done that, now it’s your turn. Please let an old lady get some rest 🙂

  • Faye May 20, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I am a step grandmother. I have personally never had children. These are the children of my husband’s son, who my husband conceived with a woman while we were going together, but not yet married. We stayed together…and latter got married about a year later. Any way, I have come a long way. It was very hurtful for me that this happened to start with, but over time, I came around and excepted that fact that my husband has this child, who is now a man of 36 years of age. I have babysat the grandkids and love them. I have recently retired from law enforcement. I’m now 56 and very active. The problem is that since I have retired (my husband is also retired) my husband’s son and his wife seem to feel that we should be available at any and all times to babysit…they have three kids, ages 6, 3, and two. Once I had a doctor’s appt., when they wanted me to babysit, and my stepson’s wife got an attitude because I couldn’t babysit. I’m very active and still young, I don’t want to nor do I feel obligated to be “on call” to babysit. They haven’t brought the grandkids over to visit in almost a year now.

  • Jackie May 13, 2015 at 10:45 am

    So Sad, Julie. I also work Full Time/Plus in a high stress job. I relocated from GA to FL to be part of my grandchildren’s lives and have been told I am not doing enough, and My Son and His Wife thought they would get More Help when I was living close.
    I just don’t understand this generation. We would have never expected from our parents. But for some reason, they do.
    This all has made things so strained and happened within one month of my relocation.
    Thank you all for your thoughts. I really thought I was alone and have been feeling such guilt…

  • Julie April 30, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Thank you for this. I am also a grandmother working full-time in a high stress job. Being pressured to babysit on weekends and my husband works 60 hours per week including Saturday. Our time together is Saturday evening and Sunday. Kids putting pressure on us stating we are rotten grandparents. Very sad.

  • Leslie in Portland, Oregon August 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    When I became pregnant with my first child, my mother, who was 59 and a life-long caregiver, told me that while she looked forward to spending time with her grandchild, she would not be available to do child care on a regularly-scheduled basis while my husband and I were at work. Her reason was that she had created a life for herself during the weekdays, a life which she treasured. Accordingly, we arranged it so that she was free, but not obligated or expected, to pick up her granddaughter at the daycare center any time she wished and spend as much (or as little) time with her as she wished. This arrangement worked beautifully for four years, at which point my mother suddenly became ill and died. My daughter, now 33, greatly values her trove of wonderful memories of the special times she got to spend with Grandma. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, grandparents should be free to choose, rather than obligated, to spend time with their grandchildren. That’s what I hope for!

  • diane burgess August 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I agree with the comments and applaud Dr. Ford’s clear thinking about this idea that there are many of us who have full time lives in our sixties and do have an interest in being with children and their children but not for babysitting. We will be interested in being with grandchildren for educational and cultural activities, will look forward to helping their parents and the children with developmental stages and hopefully having an impact on their character.
    One must spend time with the children on some regular basis for this foundation to be laid. But not as a babysitting service when the grandmother is working more than full time herself. I know friends whose grown children have actually suggested that the grandmother stop working so that she can be a more “meaningful” grandmother! If Sarah has some luck with health and finances, she will have time to give the children when she has energy and commitment to developing real relationships that will last as memories. Our entitled adult children who have chosen to have children need to understand the commitment that comes with parenthood.


  • hillsmom August 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Yes, very well said…including the comment above. Children are much more interesting to be with when they are older and hopefully civilized. Excuse me while I snicker at the friends who say you’re “missing out” since you’ve been there and done that before. Enjoy your life while you are still able and ambulatory.

  • Walker Thornton August 15, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Excellent recommendations. What seems to be missing in the conversation about the kids’ expectations is any pleasurable whole family activity. It doesn’t appear that Sarah’s adult children want to invite Grandma over to socialize with her grandchildren-they just want to ‘use her services’. No wonder that she feels a little resentment.

    I applaud Sarah for being clear on what she wants–I am just a few years younger but have the same set of feelings and circumstances. We HAVE done our work and it is now our time to kick up our heels and lead a different life.

  • Beth August 15, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I am in total agreement here. Just because women become grandmothers does not mean they should give up their lives once again for the children and now grandchildren. This is what babysitters are for. She is 62, young, vibrant and not the grandmotherly type, and to me, there should be no explanation required!


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