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Auntie needs advice on childcare expectations

(7 Posts)
Mcakes Thu 03-Jan-13 11:06:51


My Mum has recently retired and has bought a house near her two sets of Grandchildren. I have helped her out with half the house costs and we are doing it up as a bolt hole for her where she can see more of the grandkids as well as (hopefully) letting the house for holidays to get her a little income.

We got the keys just before Christmas and a few incidents have confirmed that my brother and his wife (two kids age 3 and 5) have quite a different idea to my Mum and me about how much childcare we are willing and able to do. They seem to expect that we will just drop any plans at any time to look after the kids and we hardly get a thanks - more the feeling that we should say thanks for the chance to do it. My brother works full time and my sister in law works part time. When they're both working, the kids usually go to school/preschool or are looked after by her parents.

In contrast, my sister (three kids age 5, 7 and 10) has a more realistic view, she arranges dates in advance, knows she can always call on us in an emergency and is excited and grateful for the possibility of extra help.

I am worried that we are being seen by my brother and his wife as a source of 'free childcare on tap' when we are here. We have both been asked to look after the kids at very short notice (the night before) for whole days, including giving them dinner and bringing them back just before bedtime. These days have not been emergencies, just lack of planning on their parents part and an attitude that 'Mum or Auntie love the kids and will jump at the chance to have them all day!'

We do love the kids and do enjoy their company but resent being expected to drop all plans at literally the last minute and give free childcare for 10 hours or more!

I know that we have created this situation by not being clear about our expectations but, on the up side, it is still early days and I would really appreciate any advice on how to broach the subject now to avoid resentment and misunderstandings growing in the future.

A little more info - my sister in law's parents already live nearby and look after the kids ALOT for no money and little thanks. (they are not well off and have privately confided that they do resent this a little). It seems they have set a precedent for expectations on childcare and my Mum and I need to be clear from the beginning that we are going to do things differently.

My brother and his wife are pretty well off and could afford to pay for childcare when needed.

Am looking after my nephew this afternoon (they phoned to ask last night) and want to say something when I drop him off this evening.

Do you think it sounds reasonable for me to say that last minute arrangements are not really on and to set a time commitment I'd be happy with (e.g. one day a week when I'm in the cottage) and that it's important to me that this is arranged in advance wherever possible. Also to say that of course I am here to help at the last minute in a genuine emergency. I will encourage my Mum to have the same conversation.

Any ideas or advice gratefully received!

PandaNot Thu 03-Jan-13 11:10:57

What would happen if you just said no, it's not convenient today etc?

Mcakes Thu 03-Jan-13 11:52:52

Hi PandaNot,
Thanks for your response.

It's the way they ask - "What are you doing tomorrow?" and then when you say what you have planned, if it doesn't sound too difficult, they ask if you'll have the kid/s.

It's difficult to say no once you've said your plans are (for example) to clean the house, phone some builders and take the dogs for a long walk. Saying no at that point just sounds a bit petty.

Maybe I need to practice asking 'Why? before saying my plans!!

Have moved this conversation to the 'Am I being unreasonable?' thread as it is a bit more relevant there.

fraktion Thu 03-Jan-13 14:32:26

Some activities are compatible with having children around and others aren't. Phoning the builder could turn into a right nightmare if they're expecting you to provide a very child-oriented day.

While it's nice of extended family to provide childcare I do think you need to point out the pitfalls of relying on it too much and practise saying no in front of a mirror!

Piffpaffpoff Thu 03-Jan-13 14:37:26

I think you just need to say no more. The more you take them, the more it will continue to be perceived as regular behaviour.

ReetPetit Thu 03-Jan-13 18:18:29

i think you just have to be direct - they are taking the p**s and i'm sure they know it!!

i would say something along the lines of 'oh,this is becoming far more regular than i had imagined, i might have to start charging you!' put in a jokey sense, or perhaps suggest PAYING for some childcare other than family - let them know about childminders/nurseries you know in the area.
you need to say something soon as otherwise you will become resentful and it will all come out in a big outburst.

They are family - they will get over the realisation that not everyone wants their little darlings 24/7 - you just need to get over your embarassment. it will be fine. just do it and do it soon.

Pancakeflipper Thu 03-Jan-13 18:24:26

You say no. When they say "oh what are you doing tomorrow lovely Auntie-child-care" , you say in a sing song voice "sorry cannot have the kids. Can do a week on Tuesday if that's any good".

Tell them when you a free and book it in the calendar so it's all advanced and the last minute calls will stop.

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