General Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Is this par for the course with grown children? Am I being petty?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) December 9th, 2012

My husband has four grown children, and raised three of them as a single dad. All three of them live on their own in the same town as we do and they all have kids. His boys each live with a significant other and his daughter lives with her kids on campus at the college she attends. The only time we ever from these people is when they need someone to watch their kids. My husband texts them fairly regularly and sometimes gets a response, sometimes doesn’t. I don’t try to communicate with them anymore because I have yet to receive a return text or phone call from any of them. They never hesitate to call me when they need someone to watch the kids.

It hurts my feelings that the only time they are interested in us is when they need something. It also makes me less inclined to help out. I know my husband would like to spend time with his grand kids, but truth be told when we are babysitting I am the primary caretaker because he can’t really do much. Helping out with my husband’s cares, taking care of my own school-aged kids, working part time, and getting ready to start student teaching full time has me spread pretty thin and taking care of these kids (all toddlers and some not super well behaved) is just exhausting.

So am I being petty here? Is this pretty much the way it goes with grown kids? Any ideas about how to get past my frustration?

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29 Answers

Shippy's avatar

No I don’t think you are. Even if they were your grand-kids, and I know this is not the point, you would be ‘allowed’ to stipulate when you can or cannot baby sit. I think this is an interesting question all round for a lot of reasons. More mature people have active lives, and are ‘living’. If our adult children have kids, they need to also feature in things like baby sitters. For when relatives are not available.

Regards the no reply to texts, I find that adult children never grow up with regards to their parents. Meaning it can often be one sided. Then when the parent is gone, they realize the mistakes they made. You can’t really change that, I feel.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have any children, but as someone from basically a very objective point of view, I think don’t always say yes to babysitting if you don’t feel like doing it. The grown children might feel like the “grandparents love being with the kids.” They also might think that you are home anyway so it isn’t a big deal. I see grown children treat their parents like they don’t have their own life all the time. My mom made it pretty clear that her kids were her kids, and if I ever had kids they were my kids, she also was pretty judgmental about parents who made the older kids take care of the younger ones. So, I would never assume my parents were automatically ok with watching my children if I had them. However, I know my mom, and she loves young kids, so I know she would enjoy it as ling as she has say in when it happens, as long as her time is respected.

In terms of whther they call you back when you or your husband calls or texts, I think that might be a separate issue of respect and consideration.

creative1's avatar

Nope that isn’t how it is in my family, my siblings and me rely on each other for sitting each others kids. I was the primary babysitter for my sisters and brothers kids when they were small since I didn’t have kids and since they are now grown they will either sit for my kids or my neices will. My mother has only watched my daugthers twice in the over 4 years since I got them.

Coloma's avatar

Younger people can be pretty self centered, however, as “they” say…” good manners never go out of style.” I think it’s time to take the direct and honest approach and simply tell them how you feel instead of stewing about it.
I would express that you have observed their pattern of only making contact when they want something from you and that this bothers you.
Expect them to be defensive, most people are when you hit a little too close to home, but, the open, honest approach is the only way to go.

My personal “rule”, IF, I really care about keeping a relationship of any kind, is that, as soon as I become aware something is on my mind that I am having a hard time letting go of, time for a confrontation.
It really is about you and your husband expressing your feelings and they can choose to either hear you and show respect or, they can be pissy and mad. Their choice, just be true to yourselves.

burntbonez's avatar

This is normal. You are not related to the kids, and most people do not feel as fondly about children they are not related to as those they do. You have no genetic investment in these kids. Clearly you are being treated as a free babysitter.

You are in a tough spot, though. You can discuss this with your husband, but it will hurt his feelings to know you don’t feel that strongly about them. He wants to take care of them, but it is difficult for him, I guess because of some disability? Ideally, he would take care, but he can’t.

SO I think you need to discuss with him how exhausting it is, and how you would love to have his grands around, but it is too much. If the kids would like to hire someone to help, you could host the grands, but you can’t do it on your own any more. Hopefully he will be understanding.

SuperMouse's avatar

@creative1 I didn’t think about it until you mentioned it, but my sisters and I have always watched one another’s kids. That is probably part of the reason this isn’t sitting super well with me. My father and his wife have (literally) never babysat any of my children. Ever. When I was married to my first husband (the father of my kids) his parents took them very, very rarely.

@burntbonez you make a good point about not feeling super connected to these kids. I love all of his kids, all in all they are pretty neat people. That being said, I didn’t meet any of them before they were grown ups so my connection with them is different then it would be if I had watched them grow up. Since my husband was a single dad who rescued his kids from a horrible situation, he still feels very overprotective of all of them and is not super open to discussing this kind of thing. To be fair he is getting more and more open minded and understanding, but I don’t want to push it too far! FYI, he is quadriplegic which is why he can’t take care of the kids by himself.

I don’t want to take these kids and be resentful because that always causes problems between my husband and me. I also don’t want to always say no because that causes problems as well.

glacial's avatar

@SuperMouse Is it possible that his kids think their relationship with their father is closer than you think it is (or even than he thinks it is)? I remember after I left my parents’ house, I wanted to call a lot less than they expected me to, yet I still felt we had a close relationship. If they are communicating somewhat regularly (even if it is a little one-sided), maybe they don’t think it’s out of line to be asking the two of you to babysit often. I can understand them being somewhat more comfortable contacting their father directly, instead of the two of you together – maybe they’re afraid you’re not so open to it. Just based on what you’ve said here.

creative1's avatar

@SuperMouse Why not be a little less available to them and when you politely say your busy at the time they are asking you to sit make a suggestion to call and see if one of their siblings would be available.

SuperMouse's avatar

@glacial I think that is absolutely possible. Now that I am thinking about it, I also think it is possible they believe they have a closer relationship with their father than I do. That probably plays into this as well.

I think I should add that my husband always feels bad when he has to say no to them, which in turn makes me feel bad. Around 9:30 last night his son called and asked if we could watch his daughter and step-daughter at 8:00 this morning. That would have meant setting the alarm at 6:00 a.m. for the both of us to be up by 8:00 or it would have left me alone with the kids. I said no because of the super short notice and early morning. I know my husband was very unhappy having to turn down the request.

gailcalled's avatar

@SuperMouse: This has nothing to do with a generality about grown children or your being petty. You are feeling exploited, with good reason.

You and your husband need to talk about this and see whether you can work out a compromise. In a real sense, you are letting them bully you because it is so successful.

Hatch a reasonable plan and tell them, kindly and gently, what it is. If you and their dad allow them to be self-centered and unkind, then why should they change?

Not easy, I know, but you should deal with this before it gets worse, which it will.

have you got a therapist who could design an objective and reasonable game plan for you?

WestRiverrat's avatar

I don’t think you are being petty, and it is not par for the course.

Make it clear the grand kids are welcome when the parents visit or you invite them over.

If the parents want the grand parents to be babysitters, charge them for babysitting.

That is how my grand parents did it with their kids, and it worked pretty well. But then my Grandparents had 10 kids so they would have been overwhelmed if the grandkids were all dumped on them.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Try an experiment. (You know I love experiments.)
Think of some task that takes at least hour – something that needs to be done at your place: cleaning out the rain gutters, mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, changing the oil in the tractors or mowers, getting your car inspected, painting the small bathroom, backing up your PC, cutting the grass, replanting the flower bulbs… Something.
Now ask one of the kids to help you this week. Say you can’t do “XYZ task” by yourself and could really use the help. Then see what happens. Listen very carefully. Very carefully!!!
That will tell you precisely how to respond the next time you get a call.

You have to make the phone call – just the way they call you. If they call during supper then you make the call during supper . If it is usually at 8:30 then call at 3:30.

I have pretty much written a relative off because it has always been “take, take, take” with only a promise to help. After 4 times (Actually more than 10 times) with no payback I decided I will always be busy. So far I have refused once.

marinelife's avatar

As you are up to it, I would continue to have the children over so your husband can maintain his relationship with them.

Don’t think of it as doing for his kids, think of it as something you do for him.

glacial's avatar

Yeah, I’m with @marinelife. As long as it is not adversely affecting your health (or his), it is a good thing to do, even if it is hard. I doubt you would ever look back and say “I wish we had spent less time minding those kids”. The converse may not be true.

That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty occasionally declining (as you did with short notice), but I don’t think ultimatums are going to do anything but make these relationships more awkward.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@marinelife If @SuperMouse feel like she is being taken advantage of then she is.
I like the idea of running the experiment to see if the adult kids are purely users. They need to learn and understand that her life is important too. Nobody should be treated like a doormat
If they say they can’t do it because they have the kids then off to have hubby babysit while you paint the bathroom (or whatever task if fitting) with the adult child.

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ Agreed.

” Helping out with my husband’s cares, taking care of my own school-aged kids, working part time, and getting ready to start student teaching full time has me spread pretty thin and taking care of these kids (all toddlers and some not super well behaved) is just exhausting.”

SuperMouse's avatar

@marinelife and @glacial I do want to say that we help out whenever we can. We also have an agreement that if it is at all possible we will always take his daughter’s two girls because her only other sitting option is the girls’ father and that is a bad environment. We are always there in case of emergency to watch any of them; I move heaven and earth to be there when they are in a bind. My frustration lies in this expectation that he/we should be at their service whenever they ask.

@LuckyGuy, I really like your experiment idea. In the next three weeks I need to paint and rearrange the entire basement. I am going to ask for some help and see how it turns out. We have paid his oldest so to do some work around the house, it has been over a year and the job still isn’t done so I am not holding out much hope.

gailcalled's avatar


We have paid his oldest so to do some work around the house, it has been over a year and the job still isn’t done so I am not holding out much hope.

Hmm. Not one free day in over 365?

gailcalled's avatar

I just reread everything and found this in fine print.

FYI, he is quadriplegic which is why he can’t take care of the kids by himself.

How often do his kids help their father out?

CWOTUS's avatar

Have you told them, plainly, “We would like to see you guys socially more, either your place or ours or both, and we’d like to hear from you from time to time aside from the times when you want us to take care of the kids.”

Or is that not true? I get the feeling that you feel somewhat resentful regardless of whether they write, call, visit or entertain you, and maybe they’ve picked up on that and that’s part of the reason why they no longer attempt to keep the channels open. That was a rhetorical question. I don’t expect or particularly want an answer; it’s just something for you to think about.

Alternatively, perhaps they resent you for some reason.

YARNLADY's avatar

How communicative were you with your parents when you were that age? I usually have to console myself with memories of how seldom I called my parents when I left home.

chyna's avatar

I was in constant contact with my mother as were my brothers. Everyone has different relationships with their parents, but when someone is blatantly using you, it’s time to step back, even if it is a relative.
I like @LuckyGuy‘s idea, but you will have to make this determination based on how your husband is going to react to doing something like this.
I don’t think you are being petty at all.
Let us know what you decide to do.

SuperMouse's avatar

@gailcalled his middle son helped us move about a year and a half ago.

@CWOTUS we have told them kindly that we would like to see them socially more often. I actually really enjoy all of his children and as long as it isn’t a huge imposition (which it really can be sometimes in light of the rather busy life I have going on) I enjoy watching the kids. My real issue is with their only being interested in any kind of communication when they need something. I will say that I am not the least bit interested in these kids entertaining me. Also, I am the first woman their father has been seriously involved with since he got custody of his kids. They came first in his life until I came on the scene, and by that time they were all grown up and living on their own.

@YARNLADY I kept in touch with my dad regularly after I moved out.

@chyna I mentioned @LuckyGuy‘s experiment to my husband and he was willing for me to give it a try. I am giving it some serious consideration but I am pretty sure I already know the outcome.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’d feel the same way as you and what does it matter if that’s how ‘kids are these days’ – let your partner know.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@SuperMouse If you are planning to do the experiment, you need to prepare and run through a few scenarios first. Have a “To Do” list ready and keep it by the phone. You will need to follow every request with a request – immediately. This will be hard for you. Practice. They have been doing this for years and are already masters. Think of the sentence structure they use and reflect it.
You need to practice saying “No” and asking for help in the same breath.
“I am so sorry I cannot take care of Little Peter this afternoon. I’d be happy to have him over next Tuesday when you are helping me clean the rain gutters. Grandpa would be delighted to spend time with him.”
Hubby needs to absolutely back you up with a similar comment. Something like: “We really need to have the rain gutters cleaned but I can’t do it and Mom certainly shouldn’t be up on that ladder. How about you getting up there the next time you visit with the little one? What time will you be coming on Tuesday? ”

This approach will accomplish 5 things at once.:
1) It will show everyone that you have your own life and are not a doormat
2) You and your hubby will be on the same team. You will not stew alone.
3) You will not dread the phone ringing with its inevitable request.
4) It will potentially teach demanding kids that life is give and take.
5) You might actually get some tasks done.

Good luck

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JLeslie's avatar

What @Simone_De_Beauvoir wrote reminded me of something I had been thinking, have you discussed it with your husband? Does he support you sometimes saying no to requests of watching the kids? Does he acknowledge when he says yes, it is really a yes for both of you?

Cupcake's avatar

Sorry you are dealing with this struggle, @SuperMouse.

I think you need to be clear with the (adult) kids that you sometimes feel taken advantage of and want them to contact both you and your husband when they don’t want anything in return.

You also really need to talk this through with your hubby. Since he can’t take care of the kids on his own… he really needs to detach and let you decide if you can help with them or not. Totally up to you. Without guilt.

I wish I had siblings to help with my kids. I don’t. The grandparents do all babysitting. I really, really wish that when they did not want to babysit they would say no. I also really, really wish that if they felt taken advantage of they would let us know.

hopeful5141's avatar

I have a step daughter from my first marriage, and sadly it is the same situation, only reaching out when in need of something. Boy does it ever hurt. I have learned to just say no without a lick of guilt when it is not convenient or feasible for me to do what she is requesting. I have no problem doing so, and it has made things easier all around. I think kids do tend to behave this way, if they can get away with it, step or otherwise. You sound very busy, and taking care of you, frankly, is just as important, if not moreso because you already have many responsibilities. Your husband, if he wants a more involved relationship with the grandkid(s) should ask his daughter to visit with them a bit more, or maybe you can stop by to say hello. You sound like a dedicated person, and that is a rare thing these days, but don’t forget to be kind to you.

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