Grandparent burnout: Do we expect too much of them?

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It’s the topic on a popular pregnancy and parenting blog that is generating lots of discussion. Do cash-strapped families rely too heavily on grandparents to help care for their grandchildren while the parents are at work?

The question was raised in a forum on

Do you think parents are being selfish making their elderly parents babysit newborns and toddles during their golden years?When I say making, I mean unintentional emotional blackmail, where they would feel like bad grandparents if they said no or guilty because if they say no their children might experience some financial hardship. Plus if your sibling depends on your parents to look after their kids, how is this affecting your children relationship with their grandparents.

The author, who is identified as LollyAnn, describes taking her children to her parents house for their one-a-week visit — but finding her parents too burned out from helping care from two of her sister’s children — to give her children much attention.

Responses to the blog post varied.

“I think a lot of grandparents help out because they feel guilty,” one person wrote.

“My parents are far from elderly, but when we first told them that they were going to be grandparents, they made it very clear that they are NOT babysitters,” another wrote.

Another person said, “I try to be careful about this. My mom watches my daughter half a day on Monday and Friday. Maybe once a month I ask her to watch her an additional evening or week day.”

“My parents love to watch my son but they would be the first to tell me if I was taking advantage of them,” wrote one mother. “They babysit MAYBE once a month while we go to dinner or something.”

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