My friend’s mom lives right next door to her. Like, literally, right next door. Some might think next door is a little too close, but for a mom with young kids (assuming you and your mom get along), I think this situation sounds mighty helpful—your sought-after “village” mere steps away. But there’s a catch: this friend also has two sisters with kids as well, so they have to share their mom (AKA “Grandma”).
A conversation with this friend made me think more about some of the complications of #grandparentlife. I reflected on the times my mother-in-law needed a vacation after watching my two kids while my husband and I went on our own vacation. I know my mom starts taking Airborne in the days leading up to a visit because snotty kids can get grandparents really sick. I’ve listened to gripes from friends about their siblings who don’t realize the magnitude of their ask when requesting their 70-year-old parents watch multiple young grandchildren for multiple days.
We decided to poll our own personal grandparent-networks and our audience to find out what they really think when they’re asked to watch their grandchildren. We received hundreds of replies!
We heard from a variety of grandparents—from those who live in the same home as their grandchildren to those who have to hop on a plane and fly across the country. Some watch their grandchildren daily, some monthly, and some only wish they could, whether it be because they still work full-time, live too far away, or are never asked. Most had between one and four grandchildren, but others had over ten.
Here are some of the themes we found from The Everygrandparents:
They Are Happy and Excited to Be Asked
When asked how they felt about being asked to watch their grandchildren, overwhelmingly grandparents reported feeling excited, happy, and loved. Of course, a few also said tired, torn, and stressed, but I think we can relate to those feelings as we know too well how much work babies and children can be.
Additionally, the majority of grandparents either wish they could spend more time with their grandchildren or felt the time was just about right.
“I love having that time with them, watching them grow and change into amazing little people.”
“I’m so thankful they share their most important people with us.”
“I just love being with my grandchildren and hope I live long enough and am healthy enough to care for them for a long time.”
They Always Try to Be Fair When Splitting Their Time
When asked whether grandparents had conflicts between their adult children when it came to watching multiple sets of grandchildren, most grandparents seemed to have pretty good communication with their grown kids. Many had set rules and boundaries but acknowledged exceptions and conflicts do come up. Like my friend and her sisters, having good communication between siblings is also key so you’re not overburdening your parents with conflicts between their own kids as well.
“On occasion, I’m asked to watch multiples on the same day. I take it as a first-come, first-serve basis. Or if one sibling has other childcare options and the other doesn’t, the one who doesn’t gets first dibs.”
“We try to do what each family needs when they need it. Hopefully, it evens out so there are no hard feelings.”
“It’s tough when it’s short notice (like a snow day). Also, it’s tough balancing time and babysitting between my two children’s kids. Sometimes there is a conflict when they ask for the same day.”
They Want to Feel Appreciated and Trusted
Many grandparents mentioned feeling privileged and lucky to be asked to care for their grandchildren, but it’s important for us children to remember we still need to show appreciation for our parents and not take them for granted. Plus, it’s a good reminder we all turned out OK (barring any serious issues you may have with your parents or in-laws) and they probably did an OK job.
It also helps to be flexible and acknowledge their realities, whether it be their age or how familiar they are with your home, your city, your kids’ schedules, etc. Grandparents have their own lives too.
“I raised four children and they survived, but I had more energy then.”
“Even though I love it, it is hard work and tiring. I would do anything for my kids and grandkids, but I don’t want to feel taken for granted—it’s important to me that they thank me for my help.”
“Don’t over ask or take us for granted. We love our grandkids but may not like babysitting them. That’s fair and should be respected.”
“Give me credit for raising two of my own. It’s OK to let me be alone with them, please don’t control too much.”
“I love one-on-one time because I get to be the one to cuddle with him, put him to sleep, etc. When his mother is here with him, he usually prefers her. The one-on-one time has allowed us to become so much closer!”
“I’ll most likely be more attentive and take better care of them than I did my own kids, LOL.”
“Know I love them and would never put them in an unsafe situation.”
“I would like to watch them at my house and not only at theirs.” (This suggestion was mentioned a lot.)
“Some old methods still work.”
They Do Remember What It’s Like
Many grandparents shared they like giving their grown children a break from parenting because they remember how hard it was. Take them up on it!
“Let loose and have a little fun. The kids are safe and secure. Stay out later than when you were a teenager.”
“I’m crazy in love with each one of them. I’m here for you and love it when you call on me and need me. Parenting is exhausting; we love stepping up and giving you a break.”
“I would be happy to watch my grandson so they can go on a date, out with friends, etc. I appreciated my mom’s help and want to give my daughter that same break. My husband and I enjoy the time with our grandson.”
They Are Better at Being Present Than We Are
Many grandparents lamented how quickly time flew watching their own children grow up. As grandparents, they seem to be able to slow down and savor everyday moments. “Making memories” was mentioned over and over as the thing that gives them the most joy in spending time with their grandchildren. They also love seeing how their grandchildren resemble their own children but still marvel at how each child develops their own unique personality.
Additionally, many had strong suggestions about screen time for the grandkids (and their grown kids too).
“As a parent, you are so busy teaching and being a child’s everything you miss the little moments. As a grandparent, you get to enjoy the little moments and they are breathtaking and awe-inspiring.”
“I find joy just listening to the remarkable observations they make.”
“I don’t have the same stress I had when raising my own children; therefore, I am able to give more of myself and enjoy the small things.”
“I love seeing my children in her (my granddaughter), but also seeing how much she’s becoming her own person.”
“Slow down and enjoy the little things, put down the technology as often possible and be present.”
“Share all the time together you can, away from cell phones and computers. Eat together, read together, and find all those special moments you remember yourself as a child. Treasure mom moments and make memories.”
They Are Still Proud of You
Cue the tears. These are some of our favorite quotes when we asked grandparents what’s the one thing they’d want their grown child to know.
“I am so proud of the mother my daughter is to my grandchildren!”
“Trust your judgment. You are both great parents.”
“It’s so nice to be close to your grandchildren and get closer to your children in return.”
“We are so proud of who they’re becoming. They’re excelling at parenthood, and they are raising a world-changer.”