Grandmas Who Don't Babysit

Filed under: Relatives, Baby-sitting

It seems that there's another controversy caused by someone in the Obama household. But this time, as the saying goes, it's personal.

Michelle Obama's mother Marian Robinson became the nation's First Grandma when she moved into the White House to help look after Sasha and Malia. This touched a nerve with parents like Toronto writer Catherine Connors (who blogs at Her Bad Mother). Catherine's mom Judy isn't terribly interested in playing with Judy's kids, something Judy is less than thrilled about.

In the New York Times, Judy Connors said, "When I heard about the Obama grandmother, I thought I might like to move into the White House, too. But I'd hire someone to look after the kids."

Call it "Your Grandmother Is Just Not That Into You."The Times posits a few theories for why some modern grandparents might not be interested in being involved in their grandkids' lives. Maybe they are widows or divorcees and are dating. Maybe they are put off by "helicopter parenting" and the way that so many modern parents put their children first ahead of all other things. Maybe they feel like they've done the kid thing already, and don't want to do it again.

I don't know what being a grandparent is like, but my understanding is that the experience is very different from parenting. The grandparents I've spoken to tell me that they love knowing that they can play with the kids and then go home. They also want to be helpful because they know how busy we are. I'm a big fan of the "it takes a village" concept. It makes life a little easier, and as far as I can tell the kids love it.

As usual, the devil is probably in the details. Without knowing anything about the Connorses, it sounds like there may be some tension between mother and daughter. 67-year-old Judy Connors is on her third marriage; the article doesn't say when she last tied the knot but maybe it was relatively recently, and she prefers to spend time with her husband at the moment. Interestingly, the article implies that her husband is more interested in the kids than she is.

Then there are the expectations that some parents have. Some in the article say that they thought grandma and grandpa would be visiting all the time and would help with childcare. I only thought that because my mother told me that's what she would be doing. (She's still a little annoyed that she didn't see her first grandchild until the morning after he was born -- a difference of maybe 10 hours.) If she hadn't informed me that she had every intention of being a big part of my kids' lives, I don't know that I would have expected to see her at my door with a box of pampers and a tube of triple paste.

How about you? Are your parents involved in your kids' lives?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.