How to Say YES to Watching the Grandkids
(and NO to Babysitting Burnout)
Have you been asked to watch the little ones more and more frequently (like at the drop of a hat)?
You’ve begun to dread the sound of the phone ringing knowing your day – as you planned it – is probably out the window….
Babysitting little ones is full of joy – sticky fingers, belly laughs, and warm, sweet cuddles – but did you know that babysitting can actually help your brain function as well? Research published in a 2014 edition of Menopause, shows that grandmothers who help with childcare at least one day a week scored better on cognitive tests, leading researchers to project that spending time babysitting could potentially lower the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study found that grandparents who babysit live longer!
The catch? The study also found that too much babysitting can backfire. Grandmothers who babysat five or more times a week scored lower on the cognitive exams versus those who babysat just once a week.
Saying NO sometimes can be better for your health and for your relationships!
But how do you do it?
It’s time to set some boundaries!
Well laid boundaries set early on make it easier for all caregivers to feel comfortable in working together. With a little pre-planning and reasonable conversations (and expectations) working together will feel good for everyone.
- Decide (and discuss) schedules ahead of time
Want free Wednesdays? Need 24 hours notice? Pick a sunny spot, a piece of paper, and a calendar. Decide on the timing, the schedule, the frequency, and the notice that works for you. (Bonus Points: If you are up for it you can add that in an emergency you are happy to be flexible). Then pick a time to sit down with Mom and Dad and present your preferences. Knowing and discussing your needs ahead of time will help prevent surprises, misunderstandings and feelings of guilt (or resentment) when you have to say no.
- Location – location – location
Let’s face it today’s little ones are – well – busy. Decide where you plan to help and how involved you want to be in after school activities and driving. Some grandparents like attending everything. Some want the time to go for walks and hang around with the little ones. Letting Mom and Dad know ahead of time what your preferences are will help them plan their schedule around your needs which will help keep your resentment at bay if you did not want to attend Karate practice 3 times a week in the spirit of helping out.
- Timing is everything
They just have so much energy!! If only it could be harnessed – or if they could GIVE YOU some! Being clear with Mom and Dad how much time you can safely stay with the littles will help them arrange their schedule better while avoiding burnout or even worse – an accident due to tiredness.
- The Best Laid Plans
Ask Mom and Dad to have a Plan B in case you are unable to help out. Knowing there is an alternate plan already in place will take a lot of the pressure off in case you need to say no.
The (New) Rules
- Lifelong Learning
A lot has changed since your little ones were – well – little. The guidelines about sleeping on their backs vs their stomachs, what to feed them and when and how to put them in the car seat can seem hard to keep up with. Asking Mom and Dad to sit down with you and run through the guidelines Before You Are Babysitting will be easier on you and safer for the little ones. If Mom and Dad have a tendency to throw instructions at you as they run out the door – you can gently remind them that in the future you will be saying “no” until they make the time to cover all the bases with you. Bonus: make sure that all safety gear is with you before mom and dad leave for the day (or night out). You don’t want to be stuck at home with no car seat!
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