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How much should grandparents help?

(173 Posts)
Daws100 Wed 20-Jul-11 13:32:08


Apologies in advance, this is quite a long one!
My girlfriend and I have been ?discussing? how much help we should get from grandparents (mainly my mum) in helping with babysitting. We have an amazing 19 month old daughter.
My girlfriend works two 12 hour days a week but is on a rota shift so only finds out what days she?s working for the month approx 4 weeks beforehand. Our daughter goes to a childminder for those 2 days til 5pm. At this point we have to rely on grandparents to pick our daughter up and take her home for her dinner until I get in from work at 6.30pm (I have to leave work early to make this time so no chance of leaving even earlier).

My girlfriends mum still works (locally to where we live) and is able to leave work a bit early to pick our daughter up for one day of the week, which is a massive help. She is normally available 99% of the time to do this and although doesn?t normally have many other things on in the evenings, would if needed, drop what she has planned to help out. Her mum lives a 5 minute drive from ours.
My mum is retired and also helps out a fair bit but tends to have a busy social life a lot of the evenings and days. Ideally we?d like my mum to be able to pick up my daughter the other day of the week. If my mum has say a month?s notice of days we ask her to babysit (before her calendar gets filled up with social things) and she is free on those days, then she happily does so and loves doing so. However, if she has social things already booked, then she won?t ever cancel or rearrange to pick up our daughter, unless it were to be a big emergency. So with say a month?s notice my mum is available about 80% of the time. If it?s say 2 weeks or under she?s probably available 40% - 50% of the time as by that time she normally has other things booked in her diary. My mum lives a 30 minute drive from our house.
I think one reason my mum puts so much importance on keeping a good social circle is my dad is potentially quite ill and so has it hanging over her head worrying that he might not be around for many years to come and so makes a lot of effort to see friends a lot of the time so she is not lonely if anything happens to my dad.

When my girlfriend thought about going back to work after having our daughter, I have to admit my mum insisted she?d like to help with babysitting where possible. At this time I don?t think my mum or I realised the days my girlfriend would be working would not be fixed and could change all the time, therefore making it a lot harder to plan babysitting around. But for any fixed days, this is mostly fine ? for example, when a 12 week course came up that my girlfriend wished to attend fixed to Friday?s every week, my mum could then plan for that, putting all those dates in her diary and successfully babysat for us for all days (apart from one where she was on holiday) so my girlfriend could attend her course.
My girlfriends also not a big fan of my mum for other reasons like my parents just bought my daughter one fairly small present for her 1st Christmas and birthday and then gave us a cheque each time to put in my daughters saving account, which my girlfriend thought didn?t require much thought from them. I also was a bit disappointed by this, but not as much as my girlfriend. Whereas my girlfriends parents bought our daughter lots and lots of presents for Christmas and her 1st birthday and really spoilt her. My parents also didn?t get us a card to say congratulations when my daughter was born either which annoyed my girlfriend. There have been a few other things like this, but those are probably the main kind of things. These things, together with the babysitting infuriates my girlfriend and she now pretty much hates my mum and I hear a lot of pretty harsh things said about my mum by her.

So, my girlfriends argument is that because my mum said she?d really like to help out, she thinks my mum should be available to pick up our daughter at least one day a week, any day of the week, depending on what days she is working that week (as after all, this is what her mum does without any problems). Because of my girlfriends work rota constantly changing, that day could be any day of the week (although mostly Monday ? Thursday). Most of the time my mum might have about 4 weeks notice, but on the odd occasion extra shifts come up at late notice for my girlfriend (within say a week) then she?ll also expect my mum to be able to be able to drop any plans she has and babysit our daughter then too. If it turns out my mum already has something arranged to see some friends, my mum says she can?t do it and sometimes won?t even just alter her plans by half hour or so to help as she doesn?t want to mess her friends about. My girlfriend gets extremely annoyed that my mum is not prepared to ever rearrange or cancel meeting friends so that she can pick up our daughter. She thinks she puts more importance on seeing her friends than helping us out. It?s kind of like a first come first served scenario with my mum and her time. My girlfriend thinks my mum is a bad grandmother and that she?s not being unreasonable at all in expecting this from my mum and that this is something that all other grandmothers would do (and do do when she compares us against people she knows with children).

My thoughts are that yes, my mum did say she?d like to help out a lot, but I think that has to be within reason with what?s being asked of her. We shouldn?t just ?expect? or take for granted that our grandparents should be able help at the drop of a hat and rearrange their lives around us and the working lives we?ve chosen to live. I consider it a big favour that they choose to help us out as much as they do and that given the unpredictable rota?s that my girlfriend?s work demands, that we do pretty good by both our grandparents. Although my mother isn?t available all the time (and is not as reliable and doesn?t do as much my girlfriends mother), the babysitting my mother?s already done and continues to do has saved us a lot of money and effort, which I?m very grateful for. I also think my girlfriend should perhaps be more grateful and is not being very realistic and reasonable in what she is expecting from my mum. At the same time, I can see perhaps why it annoys her when her mother is fantastic and helps all the time but sometimes my mother is too busy seeing her friends to help out, as this does get to me sometimes too. I think it probably also annoys my girlfriend that although I do sometimes agree with her and some things my mum does, that more so than not I?m more sticking up for my mum.
My girlfriends a great mother and girlfriend, but I think she may be expecting a little too much and shouldn?t be so harsh on my mum with what she says about her.

So bottom line is, should my mum be helping more and be more flexible in rearranging/cancelling things with her friends to help us out more? Or should my girlfriend maybe cut her a bit of slack and is perhaps expecting a bit too much?
We seem to be going round in circles on this and have reached a stale mate. Any thoughts would be much appreciated!!

Many thanks in advance for any replies.

Many thanks!


eurochick Wed 20-Jul-11 13:33:32

I couldn't read all that but in answer to the thread title: as much as they want to.

Sarsaparilllla Wed 20-Jul-11 13:36:17

Sorry, that was massively long but I get the jist

No, sorry but I don't think your mum should be forced into helping out more - she is just helping and also has a life of her own which you can't expect her to drop due to your child care arrangement difficulties, it's nice of her mum to help that much but that's her choice to do so

Why can't your daughter stay later than 5pm with the childminder on some days instead?

Faggotsnpeas Wed 20-Jul-11 13:37:40

Couldn't read all that either, but grandparents have the option to help out if they can/want to. Shouldn't be expected of them.

GooseyLoosey Wed 20-Jul-11 13:37:46

Eurochick - you typed the very words I was about to type.

My parents have recently started to help me and I am grateful for every single thing that they do. Every time they pick one of my children up, I regard it as a special favour that they did not have to do for me. Your mother should be able to see her friends as often as she wants.

As for being annoyed over a first Christmas present - I think your mother's present was by far the best. What can a 1 year old possibly want or need for a present. Much better to save up for when there is something special required.

Firawla Wed 20-Jul-11 13:37:53

I think your girlfriend is BU and expecting too much from your mum, bit of an "entitled attitude". Your mum should not be expected to cancel all her own arrangements to pick up your dd with short notice, as she does have her own life and its important to balance. When the grandparents have no life and always interfere with grandchildren then people are quick to complain, so cant have it both ways and it seems your mum does plenty and is happy to help. Also seems spoilt of your girlfriend complaining about "only got a small present and some money for their account" - comes across quite grasping and rude.

mollymole Wed 20-Jul-11 13:38:58

can't read all that - 'should my mum be helping more & be more flexible in rearranging/cancelling thigs with her friends' - should she buggery - help is a bonus - you have kids you look after them.

Faggotsnpeas Wed 20-Jul-11 13:40:10

Incidently, not that it has any connection, but my parents made it perfectly clear to both and my brother when he had his children, under no circumstances will they babysit in order for us to go to work, and in 6 years have always stuck to that.

itsraining Wed 20-Jul-11 13:40:20

In my opinion they should help out as little or as much as they want to. They are not obliged to help you at all and if you have an expectation that they will look after you then yabu.

I think that you're lucky that they are willing to help you at all. FWIW, neither my parents nor my inlaws have ever seen fit to help us, it's disappointing but their choice.

AMumInScotland Wed 20-Jul-11 13:41:03

YABU to think you should get any help from the grandparents. If they feel able to offer, then that's nice. If not, or not in the way that would suit you, then you get on with looking after your child however you have to.

ChildofIsis Wed 20-Jul-11 13:41:16

They don't have to 'help' at all.
YABU to expect anything from them.

They are GPs and have done their fair share of childminding when they had their own kids.

Having said that it's clear that there is an intention to help from both sides.

The GPs have their own lives and do as much as they want to, it doesn't mean they love their family less if they 'help' less.

If child care doesn't fit working hours then perhaps a different child care provider can be found or a different job.

allnewtaketwo Wed 20-Jul-11 13:41:52

I agree with you. And to be honest, if your girlfriend doesn't like your mother, then why on earth does she want/insist that she 'babysits'/childminds?

Being a working mother who has had to adjust my hours and shell out a fortune for childcare, I do despair of parents who think it is someone else's responsibility to pick of the pieces from their choices in life. You both decided to have the child (presumably!) and you both have a choice as to whether or not working for both of you is possible in the circumstances.

pingu2209 Wed 20-Jul-11 13:41:54

All that Sarsaprilla says is my view too. You have the children, you can't expect anyone to look after them except you.

I would also like to add that at the moment you only have 1 child who is not quite at the 'terrible twos' let alone the 'horrendous threes'. Your girlfriend's family help out a lot, which is great, but you may well find as your 1 child becomes more difficult (which they do) then the older family members may find it a bit too much.

If you have a 2nd child then you may well find the family help reduces even further.

Pootles2010 Wed 20-Jul-11 13:42:06

Good god that was a long post. But no, your girlfriend needs to get over herself.

She is essentially expecting your mother to not plan anything in the evenings on the off-chance that she may need her to babysit.

Your mum is being very generous offering to look after her at all, to expect her to cancel things at the drop of a hat is ridiculous.

Holding the fact that she has not bough 'enough' presents for your 1 yr old daughter against her is vile.

Quite apart from it just being a horrid thing to say or think, 1 yr old's don't need much at all, a cheque is a far better present.

In fact my son has his first birthday on Saturday, we've not bought him anything at all but are opening a savings account for him, and putting the money in there.

motherinferior Wed 20-Jul-11 13:42:13

A friend of mine, who lives down the road from me and is exactly the same age as me - 48 - is finding herself railroaded into doing masses of childcare.

I think - from what I have read of your massive post - that you are being utterly out of order in expecting anything automatically from either of your parents. Why on earth should your mother be expected to drop everything for your daughter? She's got her own life. If you want reliable childcare sorry, you'll have to pay for it.

JemimaMuddledUp Wed 20-Jul-11 13:43:01

I don't think that grandparents should be expected to help out at all. It is lovely when they do/can of course, but it isn't as though it is their duty!

I am very lucky in that both my mum and MIL helped with our DC. My mum helps more, but this is because she is younger than MIL and also her social arrangements are more flexible (FIL does a lot with Rotary/Masons etc and so MIL tends to be involved). I am grateful to both of them for what they have done over the years.

EnSuiteShed Wed 20-Jul-11 13:45:34

They should not be expected to help at all.

It is up to them if they decide to help.

rainbowinthesky Wed 20-Jul-11 13:45:41

I hope ds doesnt have children with a girlfried like yours...

I suggest you organise your own childcare rather than the two of you getting resentful about this. Childcare is not the grandparents responsibility but you and your girlfriends.

rockinhippy Wed 20-Jul-11 13:45:53

They are YOUR Children, yours & DPs choice to have DD & where as I can TOTALLY understand your & your DPs frustration at needing a bit more help & not getting it from the GPs, you just can't insist that people help you, family or not

You need to learn to be grateful for what the GP DO, rather than be annoyed at what they don't wink - otherwise you are just going to spend the next 12 plus years or so winding yourself & them up - gains nothing but stress & headache & bad feeling & FWIW you are actually quite lucky, many people get NO help at all - we have MIL & SIL living not to far away, but they look after DD about once or twice a year - & we'll usually get a call halfway through thathmm - so count your blessings

Maybe a better way forward would be to try & find another Mum in a similar situation & work out a way to help each other with Childcare swaps

good luck

thesurgeonsmate Wed 20-Jul-11 13:47:37

So it seems like most people agree with the OP that it's helpful for his Mum to do what she does and his girlfriends' expectations are unrealistic. But what to do? I'd hate to be in his position!

Morloth Wed 20-Jul-11 13:48:29

There is no 'should', she is your daughter and therefore your responsibility. If you can't arrange suitable childcare then one of you is going to have to change jobs.

Welcome to parenting.

thesurgeonsmate Wed 20-Jul-11 13:49:10

I mean what to do about family relations, not what to do about childcare which seems the easier thing to solve to my mind.

fgaaagh Wed 20-Jul-11 13:49:32

GPs babysitting is a bonus and not their ultimate responsibility. That's for you and your girlfriend, as the parents of the child.

I did get a fair way through your OP before giving up, but it did seem to jump out at me that your GF doesn't appear to realise that GPS babysitting (whilst nice of course) is them doing you a favour.

She doesn't seem to get that.

Your parents have their own lives to live - I have to say from your partner's chaotic work schedule, although there's nothing she can do about this just now, would make me weary to take on babysitting duties for the long term too. Your mum is doing far more than I would commit to, with that schedule. She's basically having to tie her weeks to your GF's employer's schedule - that can't be much fun. She's done her childrearing days, and it's your (and your girlfriend's child) - I think it's about time to recognise the huge favour she's done you so far, continue to appreciate whatever she'll do for you in future, but thank your lucky stars she does it at all.

You + GF needs to arrange formal (paid) childcare if you want to snap your fingers and have childcare at the blink of an eye. I suspect your GF will become much more appreciative of what your mum is doing for her grandchild when she has to arrange paid childcare because she'll end up alienating your mum so much with these demands of hers.

Pootles2010 Wed 20-Jul-11 13:49:38

I would too Surgeonsmate his gf sounds horrible.

OriginalPoster Wed 20-Jul-11 13:50:01

How much should you help her? How much help should you offer her in old age? Everyone's circumstances and attitudes are different. You should concentrate on enjoying your relationship with her, rather than expecting a certain amount of help.

So if you don't want to feel that you should 'have' to do things for her when she needs help, you shouldn't impose your value judgments on her.

It's a two way street.

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