Lifestyle

Ask Amy

Grandmother’s baby-sitting duties interfere with her relationship

Q. My lady friend, “Kate,” and I have been together for nine years. We both have children and grandkids from our marriages. We are active seniors and travel often. When not traveling, we go out to dinner several times weekly, and are fairly active socially.

When my grandkids came along, I made it perfectly clear that I would be more than willing to baby-sit now and then — whether it is for their parents to have a date night, or if an issue arose where they couldn’t find a sitter otherwise.

I said I would not be a built-in sitter; I would not commit to sitting every week on a set schedule. This has worked out just fine for me and my family.

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Kate has four young grandkids — two boys and two girls. She baby-sits constantly for her daughters — weekdays, weekends, etc. Her daughters will ask her to sit at the drop of a hat. They take advantage of her. This has disrupted our life together tremendously.

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I find myself sitting home many nights alone — weekends included. I deeply care for this person, but find myself resentful and lonely many days (and nights). How can I handle this tactfully?

Confused in Colorado

A. You could mitigate some of your loneliness by diving in as a de-facto grandparent for these children, but you have already successfully created limits and boundaries with your own kids, demonstrating the limits to your interest in providing child care for your own kin, not to mention someone else’s.

You don’t say whether “Kate” is complaining about her grandparenting duties. If she doesn’t like being the go-to granny for her daughters, then she should set boundaries, just as you have done.

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Kate has got a new job. It’s as if she has signed up to be on the crew for the world’s most unpredictable airline. She is possibly taking on almost twice the child care responsibility of either of her daughters, as she juggles between the needs of both families. If she weren’t willing/available, these two sisters would find a way to double up and trade off taking care of each other’s children, eliminating the need for granny to step in.

You should talk to Kate, calmly and without complaining. Ask her if she is willing to set aside inviolate “couple time” where you and she can count on being together. Is she willing to clear every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evening for you two? Is she willing to ever say no to a last-minute non-emergency sitting request?

If she isn’t willing to prioritize any of her time — for her and for you — then you should find worthwhile things to do with your own time. Sitting at home and waiting for the sitter to come and sit with you isn’t the best use of your own freedom in retirement.

Q. My boyfriend and I had a huge fight last night.

We sat down and talked about our boundaries and the “do not cross” lines that we have for ourselves. My biggest priority is his safety. His biggest priority is that he wants the freedom to make very risky decisions, such as (in his words): “Driving a car into a metal pole while I’m riding on the hood.” This is just one of many examples he provided.

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I talked to my friend, and he says that this is healthy exploration of his mortality. I can’t wrap my head around this, and I also can’t seem to make my boyfriend understand that thrill-seeking is OK so long as it’s in a safe environment and doesn’t pose a large risk to his health or way of life. Am I the crazy one here?

Concerned about Safety

A. When safety meets stupidity, stupidity always wins. What you both seem to view as “risk taking” strikes me as having no regard for life or limb. I hope/assume he is messing with you, and not actually suicidal.

Unlike you, your boyfriend, at least, doesn’t seek to control his partner — he simply wants the freedom to be a doofus. I suggest you leave him to it.

Q. “Guilty” described being pressured by her parents to attend a wedding where she didn’t even know the marrying couple personally. According to Guilty, her parents were afraid to attend this wedding by themselves, “because they didn’t know anybody.”

Guilty should encourage her folks to work on their social skills! That’s pretty sad.

Not Guilty

A. I agree.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.