If Grandma Is Helping With The Kids You Just Need To STFU Because, Free Babysitter

119014659A Redditor in a parenting forum hit close to home today with a question about how to deal with an annoying mother-in-law who is constantly over-stepping boundaries and ignoring his wishes when she watches his children. I know how this feels, because my mother doesn’t listen to a damn thing I say when it comes to my kids. My only advice to this person is – if you want the free babysitting, you better just STFU.

Lately, my mother-in-law has been getting on my nerves with lots of things, and last night we had her babysit overnight for the first time (daughter is 2 years old – she has stayed overnight with my mum twice). As expected, she did things her way, disregarded our requests, and the result was that we picked up an exhausted toddler with dreams of riding a dolphin (thanks grandma!). Grandma herself was exhausted from constant playing (just let the toddler toddle for 5 minutes!), and also didn’t get any sleep because she insisted against our request to put the cot in their bedroom.

I get it – believe me. My mother is in the process of teaching my eight-month-old to clap and laugh when she hears the world “no.” I’m not even kidding. She also second guesses all of my parenting choices, reminds me to do things that I clearly don’t need to be reminded of (Make sure you put a jacket on her! It’s raining!), and takes credit for every milestone either of my kid crosses. It takes an epic amount of patience not to freak on a daily basis.

Then I remember that she is doing me a huge favor. Also, her grandchildren love her, and I am thrilled that they get to grow up with a grandma around. This is not something that I ever experienced. Dealing with an overbearing mother or mother-in-law after you have kids is an exercise in patience – yours. I had to finally admit that I don’t have to win every fight, argue every point, or freak out about every little decision she makes that annoys me. There are plenty of people who don’t have the benefit of having a family member around who is more than willing to take on such a huge responsibility. And although I’m quite sure that I will continue to bitch and write about how annoying it can be – I am thrilled that I have this to complain about.

Setting boundaries with in-laws is difficult, but when you rely on them sometimes you really just have to step back and realize that they are doing you a huge favor. I say, as long as your kids are safe, just STFU. Let grandma have her glory and save your complaints for the ears of sympathetic friends.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • CMJ


    • bl

      Haha. My first thought as well. That seems like a highly specific complaint. Did the parents specifically tell grandma their views on dolphin riding when they discussed on/off limits imaginative play topics?

      My thoughts- Grandparents should give a good honest effort to follow the rules and be up front about what they’re disregarding. Parents should realize that despite all efforts, grandma is not mom and if it’s vital that mom’s rules are followed exactly, 24/7, mom should never leave the baby’s side.

  • MerlePerle

    My mom and I are pretty alligned when it comes to our parenting philosophy. My MIL’s more like your typical ‘watch all the TV, eat all the candy’-kind of grandma. As soon as I leave it’s her house and her rules. I know the kiddos are safe and loved, that’s all that matters to me.

    • AugustW

      My rule is that you can feed my kid anything you want as long as she spends the night at your house.

  • Lee

    Free babysitting is never free. The cost may be a tired toddler who dreams of riding on dolphins, disregarded wishes, or listening to your mom tell you that you are doing it wrong. You just have to ask yourself if you are willing to pay that price. I usually am.

    • ted3553

      yep yep yep. Unless it’s a major issue, I just let it go. My parents thankfully are pretty good. I just let the fact that my Dad fed my 1.5 yr old 4 cookies in a row wash away. He doesn’t eat like that at home-grandparents are for spoiling them within limits. I remind myself that I had no worries about his safety or care while I was away on a work trip or out for the night.

    • Andrea

      Yeah I pay that price any day and twice on Sundays.
      Grandparents are not around forever. Who gives a fuck if when the kids are at their house they eat their weight in candy. It means me and my husband had a few hours of child free bliss. Worth everything/

  • AlexMMR

    Nope, never hire anyone you can’t fire, even if they’ll work for free. Anyone who doesn’t treat my kids the way I want them to be treated won’t get the opportunity to go against my wishes. If they are doing you a favor, than they will follow you’re instructions. If they won’t follow your instructions, they aren’t doing you a favor, they are doing what they want to do for selfish reasons and you have to deal with the consequences.

  • Guest

    Free babysitting is never free. The cost may be a tired toddler who
    dreams of riding on dolphins, disregarded wishes, or listening to your
    mom tell you that you are doing it wrong. You just have to ask yourself
    if you are willing to pay that price. I usually am.

  • aCongaLine

    We don’t allow the ILs to babysit- mostly because watching our girls would tire them out. THey’re not physically up to it. Annd, they spoil and disrespect us as parents, so there’s that. My mother and father are quite respectful of our parenting style, and are physically up to the task. They babysit.

    “Free” babysitting isn’t always free- if you have a toxic family member watch your kids, you’ve got to be prepared to “pay” in other ways- like, you’re parenting gets disrespected, or your kids eat junk, or your routine isn’t followed because Grandma.

    • JLH1986

      This was a huge issue for my god son. He would get a terrible stomach ache and be up all night if he drank too much juice or ate too many sweets. My friend told her MIL he gets ONE popsicle and milk to drink all night, no juice, no cookies, he’ll be sick all night and I’ll have to deal with it. This woman NEVER listened and so every time she babysat my friend ended up all night with a sick kid. Finally, she said I’m tired, you keep him over night. One night of dealing with the aftermath of cookies and juice, grandma never gave him that again.

    • aCongaLine

      I love it when misbehaving Grannies get what they deserve. :) This is what would happen, I’m sure, if my SIL was ever allowed to watch my oldest overnight. What toddler NEEDS a dozen chocolate chip cookies? None. People are just plain bat shit crazy.

    • JLH1986

      ha ha I love “bat shit crazy”. It’s one of my favorite terms.

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    I agree with this. I would have loved for my children to have grandparents that they can stay with where we know they’re safe and well taken care of. Instead of that, I have a father who is basically a shell of his former self in a nursing home, a mother that feels she can’t leave his side for longer than a few hours even though he doesn’t really know she’s there, and my husband’s parents were not much better off (and then his mother died). Grandparents are a gift that should not be taken for granted, even if they get on your last nerve. My children are still little and have never really had the true grandparent/grandchild relationship.

  • Mystik Spiral

    Exhausted and wanting to ride a dolphin?!?


  • Bethany Ramos

    I really have no issues with any grandparents and the free babysitting that they offer (yay!). But my husband does force me not to quiz my mom on every little detail so she will believe I trust her. :)

  • Guest

    It really is a trade off with some people. My friend got free day care from MIL up until both her kids were in kindergarten. She just had to deal with MIL randomly saying she was taking two weeks off for vacation with less than a week’s notice. While I don’t think I could handle that they were hard up for money and had to suck it up.

  • guest

    Oh, you are so right. At the end of the day I could care less what my mom or MIL do as long as my girl is fed, loved on, and alive when we come to pick her up. I was more afraid I would get my cell phone blown up every 5 minutes by grandmas who were trying to allay my first time mom paranoia. Let me enjoy my kid free dinner and drinks in peace and in return I won’t give you a laundry list of rules when you babysit. The people who are micro managing what the grandparents do when they are not around are missing the point – if you can trust grandparents to care for your kids in the first place, there is very little harm to be done by a little spoiling from grandma and grandpa.

  • crickethengineer

    My husband and I lost our parents years before we had kids. I would give EVERYTHING I have to have them around. I know it can be tough dealing with people who disagree with your parenting, but know that you are lucky that you can have that problem. And good luck! The kids will be alright.

    • sri

      OMG, so much this. Whenever my SILs start in on my MIL for being…well… just for not being them and not knowing every single little rule and doing everything exactly the way they do it, I have so much trouble mustering up sympathy. I’ve made peace with the fact that my mom never met my kids, but I can’t sit idly by while they go after their mother for completely asinine stuff (she bought generic snacks, she didn’t drive 2 hours away to get the organic peanut butter brand that they use, she bought the wrong brand of bread, she bought yellow cheese instead of white, she put the kid in time out for throwing things, but time out wasn’t in the right spot, etc, etc, etc) because it’s just. so. goddamn. petty. I would love it if my mom bought the wrong peanut butter or got them the generic snacks because it means that they at least got to meet her and spend time with her.

    • Alexandra

      Wow, what kind of organic peanut butter are they using that is a 2 hour drive away from anything?????

  • SA

    It depends. Honestly, most things you just need to let go of when with grandparents. However, we had some issues with my in-laws that were pretty significant that resulted in some babysitting privileges being revoked for a while. Free babysitting can come at a higher price and it isn’t always worth it. Fortunately we’re working through those issues now and hoping that we’ll have years of peaceful, free babysitting to come!

  • Kati

    My unwritten rules for grandparents watching my kids: only at my house or my in-law’s house. My parent’s house is hazardous. Not for longer than three hours. No one under two (because the one time I left my baby with my mom I came back from a movie to see her trying to haul my heavy, exhausted 15 month old up the stairs at 11:00 at night in, I shit you not, basically a baby headlock, as she has a bad back and he was slipping down to her knees as she laboriously climbed the stairs). No cars (because the thought alone of my parents operating their cars without the addition of figuring out car seats is enough to give me heart palpitations). Does this make me a control freak? Of course it does. Luckily, they all live several hours away, so nobody has noticed my paranoia. Did I mention we don’t get out much ;)

    • Guest

      I am worried about my MIL doing the same thing. Luckily, I know she’d probably fall in the most messed up way possible to avoid hurting a kid (she has a horrible back and is very weak) but I’d be worried she’d break a million bones in the process :-(

    • Kati

      My mom is SO weak from her bad back. She tried to stand up from a recliner holding my newborn and she was so shaky I thought she would drop him. I jumped up out of the hospital bed so fast that I probably tore myself a new one (which is a horrible turn of phrase in this instance, but is sadly accurate).

    • Magrat

      If my grandfather is still around when I have kids, there’s no way they’re getting in the car with him driving. “Granddad, this isn’t a lane.” “So?” And he’s ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAT. We can’t blame it on his age.

    • Kati

      My mother is a terrible driver. Worse yet, she’s panicky. I vividly remember driving over a concrete median at about twenty mph because she turned left into the oncoming traffic lane at a stoplight. We hit out heads on the ceiling because she panicked and hit the gas and there we were, flying over the median, all four wheels in the air. Just no.

  • Guest

    Man, I check Mommyish when I’m already all caught up on reddit but lately it feels like every third Mommyish post is just a summary of a reddit post.

  • Remember Me, or else!

    Like those idiots who complain about Walmart’s service, then keeps shopping at Walmart

    • SNOWSCAS81

      LOL. I worked there for 3 yrs and heard that stuff EVERY DAY. I thought I’d heard it all. I work for a Goodwill store now and people do it there too. They want to haggle over a $2 candle. People can be dumb.

  • Sam Inoue

    I wish my mil would babysit overnight. She should be kind for that! My mil tries, she just thinks my kids are to much to handle. I care about her, but I think my american nature is sometimes more than she can do.

  • LiteBrite

    The boy’s grandparents watched him three days a week before he was in school. This not only gave him great grandparent time but really helped financially with only having him in daycare two days a week.

    The trade-off though was that I didn’t get to have it my way all the time. Sure, I disagreed with some of their babysitting methods, but unless it was a major issue (e.g. feeding my kid Jack Daniels while giving him a loaded shotgun to play with) I just grinned and bore it.

    Note: No one gave my child Jack Daniels and a loaded shotgun. But still, it would have to be a serious disconnect in values to get me to speak up. Otherwise, I just let it go.

  • C.J.

    She is complaining because her toddler is tired and has big dreams after spending time with a grandparent. Sounds pretty normal to me. I don’t want to micro-manage my children’s time alone with their grandparents.I have wonderful memories of spending time with my grandfather, he let me do all kinds of things my parents wouldn’t have allowed. I was safe and fed. I went on a trip with him and his wife when I was 4, those are some of my best memories. He died when I was 12 so I really value those memories. My children are getting to make the same kind of memories with their grandparents. They may not do things “my” way but they are safe and fed and having a great time. They are 8 and 11 and still come home from their grandparents house tired.

    • Guest

      Isn’t having someone tire your child out a good thing?

    • Andrea

      Well that might depend. I totally agree with Maria on this, but a sometimes a tired kid does NOT equal a kid that will sleep. Sometimes being overtired means they are a gigantic PITA.
      Still worth it. But just sayin’

  • Ed to take d

    If you are unhappy with the child care then you need to take steps to change it. You are the parent ultimately. It would upset me greatly and I wouldn’t stand for it if my parents or in laws did not follow what I wanted done. Now the occasional spoiling with presents or extra cookie would be fine but to outright disrespect parenting decisions is another. I always think of it this way, under a certain age your child cannot speak for himself or herself. You as the parent are that child’s advocate and you need to stand up for your child and not be walked upon by others since it may be your child who is harmed

    • SNOWSCAS81

      Agree 100 percent.

    • Alexandra

      Agree to an extent, if there were something harmful that was going on. However, in my opinion and experience, a babysitter may also disregard parents requests, and they are not going to love the children as much as the grandparents do (in most situations) AND you’re paying them!

  • Alicia Kiner

    I’ve gotten to the point that unless it’s a safety issue, or a medical one, what happens at my in laws, stays there. We had some bumps along the way early on with car seat stuff because things had changed so much since they had had kids, and there were some problems remembering to give meds at first. Once all that was ironed out, it was fine. The fact is, they love our kids almost as much as we do, and they’re not going to do anything to hurt them. Just roll with it.

  • sarahbregel

    i think this is a family to family question. if the grandparents overstep, disrespect and cause confusion for the kids it can really become a problem. some things require letting go, i agree. but i don’t think just bc it’s “free” grandparents should get to do as they please. that seems like a sketchy situation to me. my mother babysits once a week and i’ve even had to reign that in when she ignores mom and dads rules, which is often. unfortunately, very young kids don’t always know who to listen to when they are getting mixed messages. mom and dads voices need to be the strongest voices they hear. if too much time at grandma’s is complicating that, it’s time for change.

  • ShanLea

    Agree with this 1000x over! I lost my husband when my youngest was 2 weeks old, my parents handled everything for me since I just couldn’t function. They packed up my house and moved us 1200 miles, let us live with them for over a year, and when I found my own place (a block away), they still find ways to help us out all the time, such as my dad shoveling my walks and my mom driving my older to school when it’s cold so I don’t have to bundle up the little guy for a 10 minute drive. The way I see it, I owe them more than I can ever repay, so the occasional disagreement about how to look after the kids is a small price to pay. If it was something major that either put them in danger or went against a big rule I had put in place, I would for sure say something, but the little stuff just doesn’t matter to me more than the time and care they give to my boys.

    • SNOWSCAS81

      Your parents sound awesome. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • ShanLea

      They are awesome…a little too awesome sometimes! My toddler tonight said “Grandpa I want to stay at your house forever and ever!” after a quick 20 minute visit!

  • Melissa

    I’m so grateful that my mom watches my daughter 1-2 days a week while I’m at work, but on the other hand it sucks when she is occasionally flaky (shows up late or wants to switch days at the last minute), and I feel like I can’t say much about it because, hey, it’s free childcare and she even comes and picks her up in the morning, saving me a crap load of time and gas. It screws my husband more than me if she flakes out because he works from home and really counts on those days she babysits to get most of his work done, because, as everyone with a toddler knows, not much is getting done when a 16 month-old is climbing everything in sight and torturing the dog every time you turn around. And as the son-in-law, he feels even less in a position to complain…so he vents to me–fun. So I guess it’s a fine balance of being firm over the stuff that’s a big deal (please don’t try to indoctrinate our toddler with religious kids videos, mom) and trying to ignore the littler things.

  • Loki

    I wish that was my in-laws. “Free” babysitting from my in-laws equal them trying to get my four year old converted to Christianity, and them telling her how “sad” it is that Mommy is going to Hell and they don’t want her going too! WTF?! We will teach our daughter about religion when she is old enough to understand and can make an informed decision without being coerced one way or the other.

    • SNOWSCAS81

      That’s ridiculous! Regardless of their choice of religion they should NOT be telling your daughter that. It will only scare her. Not to mention that they are being majorly disrespectful towards her mother. Ugh. Attitudes like theirs are the reason that I don’t like organized religion.

    • Muggle

      I was just about to pop in and say something about that. I’m sorry, but nobody should accept free help from an overzealous religious nut, because all they’re interested in is winning souls. That’s it.

      I know so many people whose parents have done something along those lines. It’s one thing when the grandparents are just spoiling their grandbabies, it’s another when they’re going against everything the parents are for and doing something that’s bad for the child.

  • AugustW

    My mom helps out in that I pay her significantly less than I would pay a daycare, but it’s not free. And yeah, she has her moments where she forgets she is Grandma and not Mom and we have to have a talk.

  • anon

    Please. People really dont realize how easy they have it sometimes. Newsflash-grandparents have been spoiling grandkids & disregarding parents routines forever, thats a good loving grandparent scenario. My children have all 4 grandparents still alive. 1 is not involved at all, as in never met them. 2 live within 20 minutes & have never EVER babysat, in fact the amount of times they’ve even visited to see the children- well under 10 times over all the years, no loving phone calls, no how are the kids?- they just dont care. You know what sucks more than a tired kid? A kid who knows their friends have gramas & papas who are invloved & their own dont give a shit. The one normal grandparent relationship my kids have, visits more frequently but still babysitting is maybe a 2-3x a year thing. And thats if we ask very nicely, well in advance & it doesnt interfere with their schedule.

  • Natasha B

    I’m just ridiculously jealous that people have grandparents willing and able to take on their kids for awhile. We have one set cross country, and the others, while only 2 hours away, are still pretty busy with their jobs/life, so we see them, but babysitting is a rarity. So, yeah. I feel the STFU about free babysitting….

  • Alexandra

    Thank you Maria! I’m going to need this advice when my mother moves in with us (in a month or so) to help with our twins. They’re our first babies and I often have power struggles with my mother so this is not going to be always pleasant. I’ll try to remember your words….

  • Surfaces

    I just had to laugh and shake my head. My mother in law essentially raised my stepdaughter because she’s so enmeshed with her mother that there is literally nothing she wont do for the two of them. Ignore the fact that this means my husband doesn’t get to raise his own damn daughter because of the two of them, he doesn’t matter, only them! BM isn’t a terrible mother, she’s just lazy, and I put it down to the years upon years of her never actually having to do anything.

  • Carolina

    Ehhhhhh, this is a question of degree, and I don’t agree that safety is the only consideration. Limits are good and a parent who constantly undermines your parenting doesn’t seem worth the free sitting to me (unless it’s just an occasional night out). I’m not talking about differences of opinion, but if you’re feeling constantly disrespected or undermined, that’s not healthy. I have several friends who use their mothers or MILs as nannies, and the headaches do not seem worth it if you can afford alternatives.
    My own MIL insists on “babysitting” when she’s in town, and I come home to a destroyed house, exhausted MIL, toddler who has been watching cartoons for 10 hours and is sometimes sitting in wet panties. It’s really not worth it. My mother, in contrast, helps all the time, but she seems to respect my views and asks permission: may I take her to see this movie, can we bake cookies, etc. Most of the stuff I don’t care about, but it’s nice that she respects that I am the parent.

    • Carolina

      I would say that the scenario in the Reddit piece is probably one you shrug off. She’s tired and has a fun fantasy idea? On no! If it were a constant ignoring of naps, that’s one thing. But a slumber party with Grandma? Not worth fighting.

  • K.

    Riding a dolphin?

    Shit, mine wants to BE a dolphin.

  • whiteroses

    My parents watch my son for free. They wouldn’t take money if we offered it. My son has a special relationship with them both, and I know that part if the reason for that is because they watch him so much.

    Once I leave the house, they’re in charge. Simple as that.

  • itsnotfree

    This is a little old for response, but it speaks loud and clear to me lately as I’m dealing with three “free” babysitters (mother, sister, and MIL). The term free should be revisited. Monetarily, it’s great and doesn’t cost us a penny. But it’s costly on our relationships (particularly between my mother and I and my MIL and I). There are days I pick up my daughter and have a difficult time engaging in conversation, making eye contact, and just generally not being angry. It’s a strain on our relationship and I don’t believe I (or any mother of a new little one) is at fault. We ask people we trust to do our jobs for us because we can’t be there to do it ourselves. I’ve tried to explain this to my mother – letting her know that it’s not about the food or the schedule – it’s about the reminder I get that I should be home doing this myself every time she does something I have asked her not to do. It’s about the hurt and extra guilt that it causes. It’s about taking away the little bit of control I have over my daughter’s life during the majority of the day. My sister, who completely respects my wishes despite having three children of her own that she raises differently, never causes any stress and respects my wishes. She makes it a truly free situation. The others, as I said before, do come with a cost.

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