Grandparents not fair to the kids

My husband and I had the first grand child on both sides of the family when we had our son 11 years ago. He spent a lot of time with my mother in law when I went back to work after he was born. She would help us throw him birthday parties, babysit so we could have a date night, etc. They were very close. A few years later, my sister in law had a baby out of wedlock while she still lived at home. Understandably, my mother in law had to help with her a lot because she lived in her house. Then, a few more years later, we had another baby days apart from my sister in law having a second baby (again not married to the father).

Here is the problem…ever since my sister in law had her kids, my mother in law has done everything for them. She buys their clothes, take them to school, plans their parties, gets them off of the school bus and watches them all afternoon, etc etc. If we ever ask grandma to babysit so we can go to dinner or the movies on a Friday, she doesn’t want to because she is too tired from watching the other kids all week. Fine, we can find a sitter and take care of our own kids…but it makes me sad for my kids.

They want to have a relationship with their grandparents too, but they are kind of forced out. She can never spend time with my kids (either together or alone) without the other kids around. She never helps us with anything any more because she is emotionally and financially taxed by the other kids. Their mother recently got married, but she just moved her new husband into the house too! Obviously, I cannot make my sister in law take care of her own kids, but I think my mother in law does not see the impact that it has on my kids relationship with her. My son who as I said before, used to be very attached to her, no longer even wants to go to her house because he said that the house is always a mess (it used to be immaculate) and they always have to sleep on the floor on the couch because the other kids have their own beds there.

How can I help my mother in law get herself out of this situation, and how can I help my kids have a better relationship with their grandma?:shrug:

I am in almost the exact situation.

My sister and her three kids live with my parents. They do everything for them and have nothing left over for my kids. It’s always been this way.

I know that they see that my sister is not a good parent and if they don’t pick up her slack, the kids really suffer. They’ve tried to make her take more of a role in her kids’ lives, but she just refuses and does the bare minimum.

I get angry both for my kids and myself (I’m not a selfless person), but intellectually I know my parents don’t feel that they have any choice. Truthfully, since my sister (now 46 years old) turned 13, I’ve just been receiving the crumbs of my parents’ attention. I don’t agree with the way they’ve tried to handle her difficult personality, but I know they’ve done the best they can.

I don’t think there’s anything you can do to change your MIL and your SIL. I know you are sad on behalf of your children, but just try to fill their lives with family friends and other relatives who are more available.

I’m fortunate that my husband’s parents are very engaged grandparents. I plan to be the best grandma ever and all my grandchildren will know that I love them passionately.

You can’t.

This is a job for your husband. He needs to be the one to address things with his mother.

Everything you are describing involves work for her, and she’s not getting any younger. Have you ever asked her to come over on a Friday and have dinner at your house with you and your children, with no work to do? She might have the energy to get out of being the live-in nanny and housekeeper all of the time. It might be a godsend for her!

Your MIL could use a break and your kids don’t have some special attachment to her house. Could you take her on a vacation with you, your husband, and your children, something very relaxing that is the kind of trip she’d choose for herself? (For instance, if she loves gardening, something close to a garden you or your husband can take her to visit while the other spouse and the kids do something else.) If you can afford it, I think she might enjoy that very much. Your in-laws, meanwhile, can take care of their own kids and your MIL’s house while she’s gone.

I know many children whose relationship with a grandparent was especially enriched by taking this kind of a vacation every year. If you can swing it, it might be just the thing. Alternatively, you can come and pick her up and take her out to dinner with you or even have her over to your house for dinner, which might also both lighten her load and give her some enjoyable time with your family. You might have her come with you to Sunday Mass and then take her out to brunch afterwards, or have brunch with her at your house.

IOW: Get used to the idea that it will be the best if you arrange her time with your children so that it is all enjoyment and no work for her, which means you will be there to do the parenting. That is what she needs, and I think she’ll come to enjoy it.

Another low-energy idea is for one of you (probably your husband, but maybe you, or maybe alternating) to take her out with just ONE of your children. The other parent, meanwhile, goes out for one-on-one time with the other child. I cannot tell you how much children love to be in a situation like that, where they are the only child looking for attention. If your kids lose altitude by dinner time, make it a breakfast, a lunch, or a picnic you made at home.

I agree. Considering what she has on her plate, it is only natural that she doesn’t have the energy for your children. It’s not that she doesn’t care but probably because she is tired, she can’t. She probably never imagined that she would be raising her grandchildren as her own children.

Instead, focus on giving her a break and time to relax. Invite her over to spend time with the family. Don’t give her any responsibilty other than having a break from her other grandkids. If she wants to help out while you are cooking that is her choice but let her step forward. You could have your husband watch the kids and the two of you can go out and have some girl time as well. Another time, invite her to go out with the family and do something.

If you focus on creating family time, a new relationship might develop. If you begin to put demands on her, or get angry, she could distance her self. Then down the road if she offers to babysit for you, then you can always take her up on her offer. Just don’t take advantage on her generousity either.

She seems to be a very tired woman.


Yes. I have heard many grandparents talk about this when they are major caretakers for their grandchildren. They don’t want to be parents again! Been there, done that, too old now!! They want to be grandparents, which is a lot more fun, makes you a lot more popular, and is a lot less work.

For instance, the OP’s MIL does not have to make special meals for the grandchildren to associate her with great family meals. All they have to know is that when Grandma’s comin’, dinner is going to be good! If they are the ones cooking a special meal because she is coming, that will still be a special memory they associate with her.

The other thing to consider is this: You teach your children how a grandmother is to be treated. If you don’t want to be the on-call babysitter for your grandchildren, but instead want to be treated as the honored matriarch who has earned a break from the hard labor most of the time, that is how you ought to treat your children’s grandmother. If you were good to her, then you’ll have moral ground when you are a grandma and they are parents to tell them that you’re up for doing grandma duty, but no parenting tonight. Enforce limits on what you ask of her, and there will be no surprises when you have the same boundaries for yourself.

We did this same thing. For over 10 years we vacationed with my inlaws. My sil was going through a very rough time and her parents did a lot for her. Since we didn’t see them anywhere near as often, a week in the summer was a good way for our kids to get grandparent time without a lot of stress.

Please don’t expect fair to mean exactly even. Don’t dwell on what your mil is doing for her other grandchildren, but think of ways to give your children a relationship with her that isn’t a burden on her. Your son can remember the special times he had in the past without expecting them to be unchanging. Even without the situation going on now, once there are 3, 4, 5 grandkids nothing is the same!

I am one of 9 grandchildren, and family trips were a very important part of our relationship with our grandparents when growing up. I would definitely encourage family travel with just your nuclear family and grandma.

It seems like you are more concerned that your mother in law isn’t being fair to you, rather than your kids. Your son didn’t tell you he’s sad because he thinks Grandma loves his cousins more, he told you he doesn’t want to sleep on the couch or floor! The other kids have beds because they live there.

Your sister-in-law needed more help than you and your husband did. That’s not unfair, it’s just life. Thankfully, she and the kids had someone to help them out. If anything, your sister in law’s kids are the ones who got the short end of the stick, because neither of their fathers appear to be in the picture. It’s great that they have Grandma’s love and care, but that’s no substitute for a Dad.

Your post is mostly describing the things she does for the other kids, and how she doesn’t do things for you. It does sound like your main concern is what she isn’t doing, rather than relationship issues between her and your kids. Other posters have suggested that you invite her for dinner or on a trip, so that she can spend time with your kids stress-free. If you really do think her relationship with them is suffering because she is so tired, it only makes sense to set things up so she can spend time with them and actually enjoy herself. She must be exhausted.

So, how can you help your mother in law get out of this situation? Well, you’re assuming that she wants to get out of the situation. Maybe she does, but whatever she is doing for her daughter and her children is really her choice. There is no need for you to question her choice to help them. And how can you help your kids have a better relationship with her? You can make it easy for her to spend time with them, without asking for anything in return.

Get over it. These aren’t your decisions to make.

God bless you and thank you for sharing your story!

I agree with others, with all Christian charity the primary tone of your post (as it came across to me anyway) seemed that you were more concerned over what she was doing or you rather than the relationship itself as you mentioned your mother-in-law was too exhausted to babysit your children because she had been watching the other grandchildren all day…as well as “…she never helps us with anything more because she is emotionally and financially taxed by the other kids…”

First let me say there is nothing wrong with wanting help from family! That is perfectly normal and natural and I don’t think you are selfish you were probably just being honest. She used to help you a lot and you miss that, that is normal! However you have to face the reality that you are expecting help from a family member that cannot give help at this time. Therefore you have to adjust your way of thinking. You may not agree with her choices but she is an adult. If you want your children to have a relationship with her you will probably have to do what others have suggested:

  • Invite her over for dinner or out to a movie with your children
  • Invite her to go somewhere special, even if it is inexpensive like for a picnic or for a walk just to relax
  • have your children make her cards and artwork telling her they love her and she is special
  • have your children save their little allowance money to buy her flowers or a small bottle of lotion to make her feel special

These are the kinds of small gestures that can help build relationships. If you follow this path you will not only build the relationship between your children and their grandmother but you might be the one oasis of peace and love in her life that she has. What a wonderful gift you will be giving her! You will probably find that she will be seeking your company out more and more when she starts to see you as someone who loves her and just wants to BE WITH HER instead of just one more family that wants a babysitter. God bless you, hope this helps a little.

Your mother in law can have a relationship with your kids without her having to be their baby sitter…invite her to your home for lunch or go visit her at her house .then she can spend quality time with them.

Also as a gesture of kindness offer once in a while to babysit your sister in laws kids so your poor mother in law can have a much needed break…offer to do this for free then your sister in law isnt asking mother in law for money to pay you.

I agree with those who say that you should ask Grandma to do something that is not work for her. I don’t have children and I am always flabbergasted by the attitude of those with children (both you and your SIL!) towards the rest of us. This probably sounds uncharitable, but sometimes I feel like a prop or staff or something to those with children.

By the way, doing fun stuff with your kids rather than babysitting is not necessarily going to hurt the relationship. I have a couple of cousins who were in grandma babysitting for years as their parents both worked (my mom was quite dismayed by how much), but I can’t say that the rest of us had a less close relationship with the grandparents than those cousins. My grandparents definitely made an effort to do something special with each of us (and there were nine of us, and two were technically steps).

In a way, your MIL is being cheated out of her role as “grandma” to the grandkids she lives with, because she’s already being “mom” to them.

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