I am an unreliable grandmother. But it’s not for the reasons you may think.
I love my children. I love my grandchildren too.
But I love me more, and I felt I deserved some “me” time before going into the next phase of my life before I leave this earth.
I asked my sons when they were in high school to please not have any children until I turned 50 years old. I explained how I was literally a child slave for my mother, having to babysit my younger siblings, cook and clean beginning from the third grade until I had my own kids. My mom also used to volunteer my babysitting services out to her friends for babysitting services, for free.
By the time I was 18-year-old, I had my first kid. I was 20 when I had my second son. For the next 23 years, I’d be saddled with rearing my own sons and countless others through college. It’s often a thankless job.
My entire life has been dedicated to caring for other people more than I cared for myself. As a woman, mother, caretaker, provider, wife, teacher, cook, banker, bus driver cheerleader, disciplinarian, therapist, advocate, family physician, dog trainer, housekeeper, and human being, I felt like I deserved the right to stake out a piece of my own life that was dedicated to all things me.
I asked my sons nicely to not make children too early. I staked my claim to my time early, and I provided ample evidence in pleading my case. I emphatically stated violators will suffer the wrath.
Sometimes, we women just gotta be selfish.
Asking early and often planted the seed and helped my children to see me as human and not a robot or maid. By the time they were 18, they got the picture.
The message was mama ain’t babysitting, so I better have a good job and a great wife.
I didn’t want my children to rely on me as a safety net babysitter, like most young new parents tend to do. And while it’s nice for young couples to be able to rely on a mother or mother-in-law to babysit grandchildren, young new parents tend to only think of their own needs when they calculate the free labor and love of moms and mother-in-laws.
Most couples deciding to have kids and using their parent(s) or in-laws as free childcare centers give no thought about the amount of time, patience, and energy it takes to raise a new set of little people. Adult children don’t seem to understand how tired (and cash strapped) many grandmothers already are before they take up the role of full-time caretaker.
I bluntly told my kids what kind of grandma I was going to be if they had kids before I turned 50.
I was going to be the kind that was AWOL. Unreliable. Disengaged. I was going to be the grandmother that loved her grand kids, from a distance.
I needed time to decompress from raising and nurturing them. I wanted to think for myself, enjoy my free time, travel, and spend time with my husband alone. Those are all the things you can’t do when you have kids. Women can’t reconnect to their spouses, date if they are single or widowed, or learn who they are post children. A break is needed before the next generation comes along to protect our emotional and physical well-being.
Raising kids is taxing financially and emotionally, especially if you’re raising decent people. Our kids don’t realize that, until after the get them. And since I already know this, I reserve the right to reclaim my time before I give more of it to my children.
I want to travel to islands to get my groove back, fish in the ocean, shake my ass at Calle Ocho, and get so wasted I sleep until I feel like getting up. I want to eat what I want, when I want, and I want to curse when I feel like it. I don’t want to be a role model/teacher for a season. I want to be human. I want to have girlfriend getaways, and flirt with me younger at lunch than me to prove granny is still poppin. Can I go out and party all night with my adult friends? Sometimes I want to be fucking irresponsible, which is something you can’t do as a parent, grand parent or caretaker.
Men get to have mid-life crisises. Why can’t grandmothers if they want to?
I can’t do any of that babysitting for my kids. I can if I’m unreliable though. My grand parenting services are available limited time, and that time hasn’t come yet. Until then, I’m flying to visit in stealth mode. I send gifts, and give my kid cash to help with some behind the scene parenting stuff. I send pictures of me, so my grands will know who I am, and when I come to town, I take lots of pictures to remember my future granny obligations. I give lots of hugs, take lots of rides, and we eat lots of homemade cakes and treats.
And then as quickly as granny came, granny’s ghost. She’s gone back to try and live her best life before the clock turns 50.
We women, grandmother’s in particular, must do more to care for ourselves. We must reclaim some of our time and lives before we perhaps get too old, too tired, too fearful, or too ill. Sometimes our spouses or significant others demand or desire more intimate time now that the nest is empty. Can’t be intimate or have sex when kids are in the home. Neglecting your sex life is a huge no-no. If you have kinds, you’ve already won that trophy. No need to allow the grandkids to steal your sex life too.
Sex keeps us connected. Care taking requires we neglect a lot of other things in our lives, including our sex lives. When you decide to keep the grandkids, you’re also making plans for your spouses or partner’s time as well.
We can start by making our petitions to our young children so that they understand you don’t exist simply to care for other people. You don’t want to be on your death bed saying you wished you’d done more, when you intentionally set yourselves up to not be able to.
Self-Love with No Regrets
People try to make me feel guilty for being a disengaged grandmother before 50, even after I share with them the reason. While I’m surprised at the lack of support and consideration by fellow moms and future grand moms, I don’t care much.
They aren’t going to keep my grandkids for me, and I’m not signing up to babysit their grand kids either. Their opinions don’t matter. At the end of the day, my wants and needs are important and valid.
On the flip side, I have heard many grandmothers complain about having to keep their grand kids so much, how their kids are taking advantage of their free time, retirement, and flexible schedules, but they feel like they need to help their kid(s) because they understand how taxing babysitting grandkids can be.
Every woman has the right to decide what type of grandmother she wants to be. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Each woman will also have to deal with the consequences of too much, or too little grand parenting. Such is life.
I’m still choosing to be the unreliable grandmother, with no regrets. I have a few more years to enjoy my life, live, be silent, think, decompress and use my own brain cells for just me. There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself, especially when your nest is finally empty.
With no regrets, I choose me.
Marley K., 2018