*My daughter-in-law never asks me to babysit. My husband and I live close by and are always excited to be included in family events and activities, but she never asks me to stay with the kids when she’s not there. Before you ask, I have a great track record of watching the other grandkids. They live far away and I make a practice of visiting many different weeks throughout the year. During those times, the couples take full advantage of my willingness to watch their kids. I just don’t understand why my local daughter-in-law would prefer to hire a stranger rather than ask me to come over.*
*I know you will say I am making up stories in my head about why this is, but I have to wonder if I offended her or if I made some kind of misstep with one of the kids when they were newborns. What makes her think I’m so untrustworthy? The honest truth is that this has changed my relationship with her and made me feel distant from my son. Please let me know what you would do.*
*— Ready to Babysit*
You say you “have to wonder” if you have offended Daughter-In-Law (DIL), but I take issue with this statement. You don’t have to wonder about this; you are choosing to wonder because you aren’t asking directly, “What gives?” Perhaps you are afraid of the answer? Perhaps you already know? Regardless, until you make a point of being honest about your wonderings, you are to blame for allowing this to change your relationship with Son — plain and simple.
Your letter makes me wonder something as well. Have you ever directly asked to babysit? Have you invited Grandkids to your house so “Mom and Dad can have a night out”? Or are you waiting for them to get the hint that it’s okay to impose on you this way? I imagine you are thinking this isn’t an imposition. Even if it is, some grandparents push through that because of the relationship-building benefits of being an on-site caregiver, along with the boost in esteem that comes from spelling some tired full-time parents. So why not make your offer more concrete?
Put it in writing — an email — and be sure to send it to both DIL and Son. Be effusive: “Grandpa and I would love the chance to be a closer part of Grandkids’ lives! Please use us when you need us and consider a biweekly date night on us!” With the going rates for nighttime babysitters climbing every time I try to get a census, I imagine this would be a welcome gift. If they refuse, then and only then can you start to wonder — and even (gasp!) ask directly — why they are pulling away.
*Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphyLPC.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacy@stacymurphyLPC.com.*