Is it wrong for grandparents to say no to babysitting?

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Exasperated grandmother with children

TV presenter and parenting influencer Anna Williamson explores the dilemma faced by grandparents in the post-pandemic world

“With our freedoms now returning, my daughter is keen for us to have the grandchildren to stay for two weeks in the summer. We’ve missed them, of course, but we’re embracing our new liberty too and have plans of our own. Is it churlish to tell her ‘no’?” asks Judith Gould from Surrey.

It’s now been over a year of living life in the new normal, although with vaccinations and warmer weather underway, the prospect of restrictions finally easing is within grasping distance. But there’s been a mixture of emotions about the ‘freedom’ we’ve all been missing. 

I have certainly noticed the polarised views of those who are anxious and cautious about returning to a more sociable life, and those who have pretty much packed the overnight bags, car engine revving, and cannot wait to be able to enjoy some time away from home – not least for the parents among us with plans of ditching the kids on ‘affection-starved’ grandparents. 

I’ll confess, as a parent myself, my husband and I have been fantasising for months about a weekend break without our boisterous offspring – we’ve even planned it down to the copious drinks we’ll enjoy without having to worry about being responsible parents for 48 hours. But this cunning plan relies on willing grandparents. I’m fortunate in that my folks and in-laws are pretty hands on, but they also have busy social lives and made it fairly clear from the start that they weren’t to be glorified unpaid babysitters, at our beck and call. That’s something we’ve always respected and the lines of communication have always been clear. In short, we make sure we don’t take the mick. 

Post-pandemic aspirations

Couple talking to senior parents

Lockdown has been tough on us all and it’s understandable that those who have been feeling the strain of juggling homeschooling, working from home, parenting, running a home and enduring umpteen Zoom calls a day might want a jolly good break from it all once the green light has been given. 

However, it’s equally understandable that those who have been more isolated, bored, lonely and starved of seeing anything other than the same old surroundings for a year also want to explore the ‘outside’. 

No one is right or wrong in their post-pandemic aspirations. But there has to be consideration for anyone whose help you might be calling upon to facilitate your own objectives. 

In this instance, it’s clear that both mum and daughter are individually needing some ‘break-out’ time, a chance to unwind and explore away from the oh-so-familiar four walls that have been both a safe house and a prison. Empathic communication will help here. It is certainly not churlish to not want to have your grandchildren to stay for an entire fortnight – that’s a big ask. And it doesn’t mean you haven’t missed the kids; it’s just that you value your own needs, too. Explaining what you have planned and compromising on how you might be able to meet halfway could be the answer. Perhaps a week, or a weekend? Offering anything, should you be willing, would sweeten the pill a little.

Everyone needs a break and a chance to rejoin society. Find a way to enjoy it solo and together. That would be the optimum.

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Photos: Getty Images

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