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How Much Should You Expect Family Members To Babysit For Free?

Fort Hunt Patch parents weigh in.

When I was a teenager, I had several friends who would complain about how much their parents relied on them to babysit their younger siblings.  And while teenage gripes about babysitting are nothing new, there may be other family members who are hesitant to be the go-to caretaker when parents need a break.  But there are others who might argue that babysitting, like other things, is just another family obligation.

Do you think babysitting is a family obligation? Are family members the family members the first people you call when you need a babysitter? Do you set limits on how much family members can babysit? Do you ever pay them?

Weigh in on the debate in the comments section.

Mary Porter, CHC April 01, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I've never had the benefit of having family close by since we've had kids to take advantage of their babysitting services and I have to admit I've always been envious of the friend who says "oh, I just dropped the kids with my sister...." I know there are relatives who cherish any moment they can get with their little people and never turn down a request. I have one friend whose mother-in-law flies in from Ohio every week to take care of her two children (one elementary-schooler and one toddler). I'm amazed by this but she is retired and loves to be with her grandchildren. For my friend, the airfare, room and board is less expensive than childcare and the kids have the benefit of being with someone they love. On the other hand I've seen friends who have totally abused the family/babysitter relationship, expecting mothers, sisters, nieces to provide free child care when they are at work or want to go out - as if its an entitlement. The mothers, sisters and nieces feel like they can't say no, yet there's no reciprocity and it's bred resentment and alienation. Even if I had relatives close by I would never assume the expectation that they would sit for free whenever I needed it, but that's just me. Each family has to gauge their relationship in this respect, but I would caution parents who make the assumption to look for the warning signs that they may be pushing the envelope with their expectations.
Stephanie Fultz April 01, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Like Mary I've never had the pleasure of having family close by to babysit. We would love it, but normally when our parents or other family come into town, they usually offer one night of babysitting to let us get away. However, based on the different family dynamics we have, we know that some family members are more prepared to watch a busy toddler for a few hours than others, so we work to make sure that we make the appropriate plans with each family member individually. My mom was a stay at home mom when I was growing up, and all my family lived near by. I remember that Wed was my moms day to herself, so I would go to one of my grandparents that day. It alternated each week, and I think it worked out for everyone, but there were boundaries and expectations set up ahead of time. I think the thing to remember is that your family deserves as much respect as any other friend or babysitter would when watching your child. Giving as much notice as you can for babysitting, make sure you child knows how they are expected to behave, communicate with family about your plans and the times you will be out. Also, even though you may not be able to return the favor with offering your own babysitting services, there are other ways you can help out family members that take care of your child. Older kids may want to do something special with their friends, or grandparents may want help with mowing a lawn. Sometimes all you have to do is say thank-you.

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