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Grandparents - all talk and no action!

(18 Posts)
polar515 Mon 27-Jun-11 14:13:23

We have an 8 month old DS. He only has my parents for grandparents (Dh's have died). My parents have been hassling us for years about having children and also went crazy when we told them we might go and live overseas for 3 years and start a family there, saying they would miss out etc so we then chose not to go thinking family support might be a good idea. They live about 15 mins drive from us now and are both retired and in good health.
Since DS has come along, they offer no practical help at all, not even a little bit. In the early days when I asked for help/opinions, they would come around and cuddle DS maybe once a week, drink tea, leave dirty cups, then go home. My Mum would say, 'I don't know, you're his mother'. They never offer the have him and generally seem to have forgotten what work a baby can be and how to generally do the practical stuff. When I do ask for help, they will have him if I specify exactly the ins and outs and usually drop him and pick him up (this has happened twice for 2 two hour periods) but it's always a difficult ask and you feel like you're putting them out. They never say, 'I tell you what why don't you...etc'
When they do see him though (not more than once a week and always on my delivery) my Mum calls him 'her little baby' and everyone in the wider family goes on how they always talk about him etc.
Many of my friends parents who live locally have had their children for at a couple of hours a week / more or drop by ad hoc to just say hello / help with other things etc / generally take more actions as grandparents.
My DH thinks we should be more direct and specifically ask if they'll have him for a few hours a week as they seem to emotionally want an attachment but won't initiate any practical help. Just wondering what other peoples expectations / experiences are? Am I being demanding? I feel that I have dome it all on my own so far (obviously with DH) and that we could have gone and lived abroad and got the current situation we have by the occasional SKype.
Thanks for your comments.

boysrock Mon 27-Jun-11 14:19:50

No I dont think you're being demanding because of all the hooha from them before he was born.

However, now that he is here and this is how they are it may well be that this is as good as it gets. my own experience was of gp's who were near adopting ds when before he was born but then as I had ds2 18mo later they backed out sharpish. Don't get me wrong they are still involved but in a much more traditional hands off way.

I think gp's do forget how hard it is - until the baby arrives then they have flashbacks and back away slowly. Meanwhile its very irritating as friends tell you how exhausted they are but gp's have dgc overnight so they can go out and recover from hangover.

It's not too late emigrate either.

Playdohinthewashingmachine Mon 27-Jun-11 17:08:19

You're going to have to talk to them. Ask them if they would like to be more involved, and have time alone with their grandchild. Or if they just want to watch from a distance as you look after him.

It is worth pointing out to them, that if they want a close relationship with their grandchild they need to start now. I know people who thought they'd be very hands-off while their gcs were small and hard work, and then they'd enjoy them properly when they were 8 or so and good company without so much work. Of course by then the children thought the gps were boring strangers and had better things to do!

Could you tell them that you're thinking about the overseas idea again, and see how they react? If they hit the roof that gives you a chance to say how you feel.

But no, YANBU at all. It does cut both ways though - if you're too busy to take ds to visit them every week, don't feel you have to.

ThisIsJustASagaNow Mon 27-Jun-11 18:28:46

This is quite a sensitive subject in my own life too. I think sometimes you have to come to the acceptance that some gp's like the idea of it all more than the reality sad

I am quite sad that my own parents are more hands off than I imagined they were going to be, given all the build up and great declarations of how 'we can't wait to have them to stay' and how they wanted their house to be seen as dc's 'second home', how hands on and relaxed they were going to be about it all blah blah. No way do they have that relationship with them at all.

In my case my mum seemed more comfortable with the baby stage than now (they're 9 and 12.) She liked them handed to her (by frazzled me) all clean and asleep and dressed in white and her pushing the pram about. Now they are noisier and messier and don't always want to thumb quietly through a book it's more tricky and my dad does sometimes gets grumpy with them which in turn makes me edgy about the whole thing. They're not difficult children either, even taking into account a hefty bias from megrin. But honestly they're not; my parents are the first to say how polite and well behaved they are, as do others.

My parents are interested and love them very much I know, but it's absolutely on their terms and for short visits only. It's not a lot of help to me if I'm honest. No sleepovers ever requested here eithersad. The children used to ask, but there was always reason after reason why not from my parents and they clearly just didn't want to do it, so now dc never ask. Curiously this is at odds with my own childhood - I was at my grandma's a lot and stayed there often when my parents went outhmm

Now they say when they'd like to have them. In reality that means we've whittled it down over the years to dc going there for tea for about 2 hours some Fridays. Although already older dd is not always looking so enthusiastic these days as she'd rather be off elsewhere. I think my parents always have found it very hard to be spontaneous (they're cripplingly rigid about things like mealtimes and the house is depressingly immaculate due to the endless housework my mum has always insisted is necessary) and you have to be to a certain degree with chidren.

None of this is ever discussed though. I couldn't say anything without it sounding like a criticism and my mum just wouldn't accept criticism without turning it into a major punchup with a lot of bad feeling which I don't have the energy for, so I let it go and thank goodness my in laws are the total opposite.

polar515 Mon 27-Jun-11 18:58:14

Thisisjustasaga now, I can really relate. I'm naturally an open person and feel in a way I want to 'have it out' with them. But I know there would be tears and lots of emotion and that things probably wouldn't change anything (I guess I know they care, they're just crap practically and its all on their terms). I broached similar issues when DS was about 2 months and My Dad just ended up saying I'd upset Mum and of course they loved us all very much etc and they were bothered and said they thought I was depressed because of now being able to get out with the snow!

I do sometimes think more physical distance would actually help the situation?

Its weird cos my Mum has had a bit of an on their terms with her own parents and has ended up with them practically controlling her with emotional blackmail and let downs etc. She always said 'Tell me if I ever get like that' but of course I couldn't.

Octaviapink Mon 27-Jun-11 19:08:19

I don't think you're being at all unreasonable, and if I was in your shoes I'd be furiously resentful that I'd given up the chance to live abroad because of emotional blackmail. Seems like they were all mouth and no trousers!! I agree you should think about the abroad option again, but if not, then set a certain time each week when they will have the DCs. People do become more rigid as they get older and they may appreciate the predictability of knowing when they're going to have their GCs.

faintpositive Mon 27-Jun-11 19:16:37

So why not ask them directly, "do you fancy having ds for one afternoon a week?" Maybe followed by, suggesting that when they drop him back at yours they stay for tea or something??

Explain it would give you a break and that your ds would LOVE it.

Doesnt have to be confontational or demanding (I dont think that you are being demanding btw)

Dont end up like me, utterly utterly resentful and distant and hateful towards my PIL & my mum becuase of their lack of support/caring/giving a flying fuck about us. Now it has just gone too far and relationships are too strained to have anything freindly.
Its my loss as well as thiers and i regret it very much.

ThisIsJustASagaNow Mon 27-Jun-11 19:26:51

I would make the move sooner rather than later if it's something that you really want. Once children get started in school and make friends and/or siblings come along it gets harder to move.

Living any distance away will not now be an option for us, although I do think with hindsight (for me anyway) it would have helped. We've settled in the area we're in and my parents are nearby. They'd be upset if we moved away but interestingly were considering it for themselves at one point which surprised me. They were thinking of spending part of the year abroad as my dad fares better healthwise in a warmer climate. Somewhat predictably though it panned out to be pie in the sky.

Tbh, awful as it sounds, part of me was hoping they would as it would take away the expectation on all sides.

My relationship with my parents can be tense. My mother is a very competitive person and I think she possibly is irked that I've presented her with a situation in which she can't excel (as she assumed she would). We have other issues though and I tread on many eggshells around them so I let them decide where and when and don't expect too much back.

AchtungBaby Mon 27-Jun-11 19:45:22

One of the posters above may have already said this, but the MN consensus about help from GPs seems to be that you're not being unreasonable to want it, but that you are being unreasonable to expect it.

However, I can understand why this bothers you (and, indeed, can relate to a lot of what you've said; GP over-excitement, infrequent visits, no real offers of help, telling you you'll get by when you do ask for help etc), especially as they didn't want you to emigrate before starting a family.

I've kindof reconciled myself to the way that things are by trying to accept that I don't have the relationship that I'd like to have with them, and that that's okay. I'd ask for help from them again, but realise that they might not give it for whatever reason.

emlu67 Mon 27-Jun-11 22:30:51

I'm in the same situation too - I don't expect help from GPs but what I don't understand is the total lack of interest in their own grandchildren. I always feel it is a big ask to ask them to babysit for an hour or two as they never offer. I would usually only ask for something important like a hospital appointment.

DCs are 7 and 4 and the older one is now beginning to ask why she never gets invited to her GPs other than on family birthday get togethers. They live locally yet never invite them over. The thing that hurts the most is that for years and years they were foster parents (babies only) and so quite happy to have other peoples offspring stay with them for months. DCs have not even been there on their own for an afternoon!

Thankfully PILs are very interested however they don't live near and are in their eighties so I can hardly expect them to be hands on.

Anyway I hope it is of some comfort that there are plenty of us in the same boat. Please talk to them about it if you can as I have just felt more resentful as the years have gone by and wouldn't want that to happen to you.

manchestermummy Tue 28-Jun-11 08:55:40

My parents don't help much. They live one mile away and are in reasonable health, but just have their own stuff to do. I think they may be more involved when the DDs are older: babies terrify them. They consider DD1 to be "too active" because she doesn't sit and read all day (at 3.8) and I'm sure mum has decided she'll never go to university because of this hmm. By and large, however, I don't mind their hands-off approach as it means we make all the decisions and no-one else is involved.

That said, there have been times when I wished they did help, just a teeny tiny bit. For example, when I was pg with DD2, I had to beg them to agree to be on standby. They wouldn't discuss it until I was beyond 30 weeks. They said they were happy to have DD1 overnight "if needs be" but wouldn't entertain a trial run: DD1 has never slept away from home without us. MIL agreed to come at the drop of a hat, but she's a 30 minute drive away and has a dog that she insists on walking before she even so much as goes to the toilet, so I knew that if my second labour progressed at the rate of my first one, unless DH felt up to delivering a baby, then my parents would really have to step up. In the end, all mum had to do was sit in our house for three hours with a sleeping DD1.

What really gets on my nerves, though, is when peopel do have help and still complain and complain and complain about not having any help. I have a friend with three DCs. There's a small age gap between DCs 2 and 3, so yes, I concede it's probably tough. All I hear from her is awful her kids are being, how she's stressed out looking after them, how she can't even have a shower or eat a meal blah blah. And yet she and her DH have just celebrated their wedding anniversary by staying overnight in a hotel alone and they've travelled abroad several times without the DC. And her FIL is going to be doing a 100-mile round trip daily to help with her DC1's first week of school as she's going away!

polar515 Tue 28-Jun-11 19:28:37

I know it's weird but it helps to know others are in the same boat. I realise now that some of the difficulties I found in the early days (when I posted on MN too), would have been so much smaller with some real life support at home.
Unfortunately I am hitting the resentful stage already and it's difficult not to start using your DC as some kind of blackmail token (restricting access altogether etc) when parents have / are letting you down / pissing you off. I know this would be wrong though so I will try and keep a smiling face!

EdMumof2 Sat 06-Aug-11 21:49:16

I am so glad I looked at this forum, makes me realise I'm not alone in getting no help from GP's. I am getting to the resentful stage now too, my PIL's live 20 mins away, both healthy, retired, mid 60's and both can drive but never offer to help us even when my partner told them we needed it as I had PND for months and couldn't cope. Got a 3yr old and 18mth old both lovely boys and they make all the right noises and probly tell all their friends how much they adore them, but in reality they are pretty useless...makes me sad as their place is like a showhome and think thats why they wont have the boys to stay as they dont want it messed up....I really want to tell them that when they are older and in their care homes, their grandsons wont be arsed to come and visit them as there'll be no relationship there....Karma I suppose, but still makes me sad as I never had any grandparents - they'd died before I got to meet them so I would love my kids to have that bond. They seem to get more pleasure getting cheap/free meals out and about or meeting friends for coffee/shopping etc....their loss I suppose? I tell myself that I wont get annoyed...my sis-in-law has 4 and has the same problem, but she gets them to come round to see hers by offering dinner/lunch etc...it works but I really dont see why I should go down that road.....makes me so cross! Anyway, I now realise that not everyone gets tonnes of help from GP's.

minxofmancunia Sat 06-Aug-11 22:18:35

OP I can totally relate to this, my parents went on and on about all the amazing times they'd have with dd when i was pg and they couldn't wait to do this that and the other.....then nothing.

It was "we so LOVE seeing dd and ds" see being the operative word, no actual action, They loved to "see" them as long as me and dh were actually there to do the graft. E.g. when staying over at theirs, offer to babysit great obviously but would watch me and dh chasing around getting them in the bath doing stories etc. whilst still trying to get ready. Never ONCE offered to do the bath, never ONCE told me to go back to bed in the morning after a shit night for a couple of hours whilst they watched them for me. God writing this makes me f**king angry angry.

TBH this fake feigned dramatic interest compared to the reality of how they were triggered a lot of memories about my own childhood which has made me v upset re my Mum in particular. She's lazy, self-absorbed, selfish and tbh a tad narcissistic. But on the flip side she can be lovely..it's hard. Now dd is 4 they can't get enough of her because she's easier now, but ds 23 months no chance.

What you have to do OP is what I did, have it out with them, tell them. I did this because otherwise the resentment would have killed me. And now they do do overnights etc. Yes my mum pretty much delegates to my dad or gets my sister over to do the donkey work but it's a start.

Just makes me so want to help out my dd when she has her dcs esp if I'm retired and have a swanning about life in a 4 bed detached with no mortgage like my mum has hmm

minxofmancunia Sat 06-Aug-11 22:24:30

Mum v manipulative in particular, I used to say "why do you never offer?" and she'd say "you should ask darling" knowing full well i never would as her behaviour made it quite clear she didn't want to put herself out and I'm not the sort to ask, or wasn't, I am now!

ratflavouredjelly Mon 08-Aug-11 17:25:20

Yes I can totally understand your frustrations, but I'm far too bitter now towards my parents who are total wankers. I'd advise to talk while you still can and discuss how they may like to be involved.

My mum is a hellish, narcissistic troll who hasn't even seen my 4 yo & 2.5 yo. My dad and stepmum seem far too busy getting legless now to even bother, plus they all live 300 miles away.

But, I often think how lovely it would be to do coffee, have advice and be able to share the bringing up of babies, children, teenagers etc :-(

FullTimeStudentNurseAndMumOf3 Mon 08-Aug-11 22:37:24

I feel very sad for my dc as my pil are idolised by my two eldest children and I completely see why. When we visit them my pil spend hours playing with them etc and I'm really happy that my dc are so happy there. The problem arises in that they never ever visit. Or telephone. My youngest doesn't even know them. ( at 18 months ) and I am resentful. I don't wish for any help ( gave up a while ago after asking once and being told that they go on too many holidays to enter a helpful arrangement). My issue is that I have a 4 and 5 year old asking to see their grandparents. When quite frankly, it would appear their grandparents arnt prepared to set aside a holiday to visit them. We live 200 miles away. My dad sends them a comic once a month and visits at least every other month. He has little money and can't afford the petrol. We don't have a spare room and insists on staying on the settee. I am getting inwardly bitter about them......

FullTimeStudentNurseAndMumOf3 Mon 08-Aug-11 22:38:09

Sorry,
So angry and honest I forgot about editing, paragraphing my reply sad

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