I Blackmailed My Mom Into Babysitting

My husband and I were pestered constantly by our parents to have kids. So when we finally did have a daughter -- the only grandchild they'd likely ever have -- both of our families were ecstatic. From their joy sprung a dangerous hope on my part: Wouldn't any of those grandparents just LOVE to babysit? For, um, free?

I know it's not nice to think this way, but my need was born out of desperation. For me and my husband, affording a nanny was out of the question; even babysitters and day care seemed steep. As a result, every time family came down to visit, my first thought after "How cool is it to see my mom/dad hug my daughter?" was "Great, a free babysitter!"


For the most part, my parents were happy to watch our daughter while I burrowed into my work or embarked on a once-in-a-blue-moon date night with my husband. Still, this taste of freedom was never enough. Part of the problem was that my family lived far away and had to fly in -- a definite deterrent to easy access childcare. Plus, my daughter was too young to just send her off on a plane or train by herself. Yet even parents with family members living in the same town within easy drop-off distance expressed the same frustration.

"My wife's parents actually moved here from Florida to be near their granddaughter -- and they only babysit once a week!" my friend opined. To me, once a week sounded dreamy and made me insanely jealous ... but this just goes to prove that parents are like junkies when it comes to free babysitting: The more we get, the more we want.

In my saner moments, I could see why my parents weren't banging down my door to babysit: Watching a toddler is work, after all. So in an attempt to sweeten my request, I resorted to bribery, offering to pay for their plane tickets to visit. Still no bites.

Finally during one particularly desperate moment when my daughter's preschool was closed, I cornered my mom and pretty much blackmailed her to come down, warning her that if she didn't, I'd fly in my daughter's "other grandmother" to babysit. Those were fighting words. My mother got irate, hung up, and griped that I'd become a bully.

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And my mom is right: In my desperation for discount childcare, I'd lost sight of the fact that my parents, though largely retired, had lives and commitments that they might not want to ditch, even for their grandchild.

Moral of the story for other soon-to-be parents: Keep your expectations realistic -- aka low -- on what grandparents are willing to do in terms of babysitting. Or if you do have certain expectations on that front, hash them out before you end up in a family feud like mine. Because in the same way you wouldn't expect your parents to do your laundry once you're grown, they didn't sign up for raising a kid -- you did.

Do you expect your parents to babysit for free?


Image © Laurence Mouton/PhotoAlto/Corbis

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