Dear Readers – The collective email responses to a particular advice column question sometimes fall into a divided We/They view of an intensely emotional topic.
Recently, there’ve been such questions in my columns about the place of grandparents in children’s lives.
Following are just a few of the many strongly-voiced responses to a Daughter-in-Law’s complaint about her unhelpful mother-in-law and meek father-in-law.
She wrote that her husband’s mother who, though nice to her grandchildren, is a cold person who doesn’t offer to help out the couple who both work full-time, with the kids’ after-school care.
Here’s the reaction, including from grandmothers who do help (June 8):
Reader #1 – “I’m a grandmother with a very warm relationship with my son and daughter-in-law (who until recently worked full-time) and their school-aged children.
“My husband and I are always happy to help them whenever they ask us, and we’re available.
“This privilege hasn't been abused or overused by them.
“That said, it’s not the grandmother's responsibility or obligation to help "Disappointed DIL" in any way with her children.
“That’s the writer/mother's job and it’s very selfish of her to EXPECT assistance, yet alone to complain about its lack.
“P.S. I’ve often reflected since becoming a Grandma on my own situation as I raised my two children.
“My mother died when I was very young. My MIL was a full-time homemaker who lived under half an hour away.
“She never offered to babysit nor spend time with them going to the playground and wading pool.
“She did care for my kids at her home when I had surgery or when my youngest was hospitalized.
“Looking back, I thought nothing of it. I had no expectation of anything but her being a loving grandmother, which she was.
“She'd raised four children she very much loved with much fewer household conveniences than me.
“I think she was tired of raising kids and wanted to enjoy her life with her husband at long last.”
Reader #2 – “I have two children in their mid 20's and hope to have grandchildren one day. I want nothing more than to be able to have a loving, caring relationship with them.
“But I don't yet know how I’d feel about becoming one of their primary caregivers.
“I’m 56, work full time, am in excellent health. For today, I’d say: "I already raised my own children, and in my older age, don't want to be responsible for raising my children's children."
“I may change my mind once I do have grandchildren, but not everyone’s cut out to be a great babysitter.
“Looking after small children is tiring and a lot of work. That is why daycare providers are educated and trained to do this job.
“You don't have to be both a grandmother and a babysitter.”
Reader #3 – “To expect that the elder population should take care of the children of their sons and daughters is unfair and selfish.
“I have grandchildren of various ages, am fit for my age, but to have the expectation that grandma will take the children to school, pick them up, and keep them until mom and dad get home, is a high expectation.
“I often see weary grandparents in shops and malls who look drained as they try to hang on to very active toddlers.
“I’m not saying that grandparents should never offer to help, but it shouldn’t be a responsibility of the grandparents through pressure, or guilt.”
Reader #4 – “Somehow DIL thinks it is her MIL's responsibility to step up and help with the kids, while both she and her husband work.
“MIL has done her child-rearing.
“The in-laws deserve the opportunity to relax with limited responsibility.
“They didn't choose for their son and DIL to have kids. Nor did they choose for both of them to go to work.
“Just be happy that the in-laws dote on your children and that they have them in their lives.”
Reader #5 – “Perhaps the MIL didn't want to offend the parents in some way, or had an underlying medical reason that would prevent her from helping.
“Or maybe it just never occurred to her to ask because the parents seemed so on top of things.
“Rather than complaining about the situation, I think that the more constructive solution would be to ask her MIL if she would be willing to help.”
Tip of the day:
Grandparents’ involvement with their grandchildren is a bonus to all involved, but only if they’re willing and capable.