Taking mum for granted

My mam is 67 and not in the best of health. One of my sisters drops her three kids off on a regular basis and my other sister has just moved home with her child. My mother also minds one of my cousins children every now and again. Whenever I tackle her about it she says she is ‘happy to help’ and that ‘there is no minding on them’. I know my sisters circumstances are far from easy but they don’t seem to see the consequences of all this extra work on my mother. They see what they want to see. I have tried to reason with them but they think I am making mountains out of mole hills. How do I talk to my mam about this? How do I get her to set realistic boundaries.

Worried ..

Firstly, may I say how kind you are to show an interest in your mothers welfare – clearly your sisters and cousin are only interested in their own. Most mothers will do anything to accommodate their children – being there to comfort them as toddlers, easing the trials of everyday life when they start work or get married and have children of their own, but all too often, this unconditional love is taken for granted and abused. You say she’s not in the best of health so this situation certainly can’t be doing her any favours. Young mothers who are physically and mentally much more agile find looking after a young child or baby a real handful never mind a whole bunch of them at 67.

Your mother has brought up her family and, much as I am sure she loves seeing her grandchildren from time to time, it’s unfair of your siblings and cousin to expect her to be on call as you are basically talking four + children on a very regular basis. I do hope she is handsomely compensated for her troubles, after all, I am sure the children are getting far more one on one from granny than they would do in a crèche? Have they invited her away on holiday yet – that’s another old chestnut for free babysitting while they enjoy themselves!

I remember one granny in a similar position who, on a very regular basis had to shuffle up the stairs backwards in a sitting position with her grandchild on her knee as she couldn’t carry the weight of her up the stairs for her afternoon nap, very dangerous for both concerned but she didn’t want to say no as she didn’t know when she would see the child otherwise.

Anyway, the long and short of it is to have it out with all concerned and insist on realistic expectations all round. Your cousin needs to arrange her own babysitting within her own family, your sister who has moved home needs to pick up the slack with childminding her sisters brood as well as her own child when they come around and your mother should be left to enjoy her retirement and grandchildren in small doses, preferably having been invited to THEIR home for dinner!

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