I am a very distraught woman, I raised my daughter and son alone, because my husband died when our children were young. I have been through many health problems, I fought cancer for years. Fortunately, I’m fine now, but all this has made me very tired. My children are now grown up, married and each has their own family. When I was a little younger, I babysat my daughter’s children so she could work. My problem is that now my son is asking me to babysit my grandson who is almost a year old, when I told him before that I don’t have the strength anymore. I told him and while at first he seemed to understand, after talking to his wife, his behavior changed. He spoke angrily to me, accused me of treating him and my daughter differently, that I don’t think about how he will cope if his wife doesn’t go back to work and that I always had a problem with her and he stopped all contact with me. I’m sure these are all her own words. My daughter-in-law also stopped contacting me. When I call them they don’t pick up the phone. I do not know what to do. On the one hand I feel that the relationship with my child is being destroyed and on the other hand I feel too tired to take on such a responsibility. I would like your opinion.
When a young couple decides to have a child, they should have thought about how they will manage to organize their lives under the new situation, how they will manage the difficulties and what options they have.
However, in the Greek family, it is often a given that the grandmother will take care of her grandchild, so that her daughter or daughter-in-law can work. And it is often not understood that this is not the mother’s or the mother-in-law’s obligation but her own contribution which she can undertake if she wants to and if she can. In fact, the son or daughter often demands this help in a discourteous manner and if they don’t get their way, they may use manipulative behaviors in order to achieve their goal or to “punish” the one who doesn’t give in to their demands.
Maybe something similar is happening in your own family. Your son doesn’t seem to recognize your right to decide how you want to manage your life, your daily routine, and your time. Of course, this may be partly your responsibility. A mother who raises her children without respecting her personal needs or taking time for herself often sends the message to her children that she exists only as a mother and not as a person or a woman. Many times, the children who grow up like this have difficulty realizing that they are now mature enough to take on their responsibilities and continue to be dependent on their parents.
But it is up to the parent to help them understand it. Explain to your son and daughter-in-law honestly and lovingly that you cannot babysit their child permanently. Tell them how you feel, what’s bothering you and what you want for your life. Offer them the alternative of helping out whenever they need time off to have fun or rest. Ask them what other solutions they have discussed and together see if you can contribute to them in some way. For example, if they decide to get someone to babysit, you could maybe stop by the house and see how things are going or help out financially. Of course, this all depends on whether you can and want to.
If your son continues to punish you after this, it might help if you explain to him that communication with you is his choice and that if he feels he needs to end it because you didn’t give in to a demand of his that you can’t satisfy, you will respect it despite the great love you have for him.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.