Alex O'Brien

Family & Pets

How to say no when you’re unable to babysit grandkids

How to say no when you’re unable to babysit grandkids

For many families, the high cost of childcare (especially when there is more than one child) means it is quite common for grandparents to be called upon for assistance when mum or dad go back to work.

Having a couple of days per week with your grandchildren sounds nice enough, but what if you actually don’t want to be committed to regular childcare each week? How do you say no, or at least have a say in negotiating the terms?

There’s no point avoiding the topic or saying yes if you really mean no. After all, your child or son/daughter-in-law needs to go to work and will most likely be quite upset if you pull out at the last minute. Now is the time to sit down and have an honest, face to face chat.

Perhaps you would be willing to help out, but not at the level that you have been asked to do. You could say something like:

  • “While I love spending time with the kids, I’m just not ready at this stage to commit to minding them four days a week. I feel that it is just too much for me to take on. I would be happy to help out for two days each week though if that’s helpful to you?”
However if you feel as though you just don’t want to commit to a full day, now is the time to say it.

  • “I understand that you have to go to work and that the childcare spaces are limited and expensive. But as I have only just stopped working myself, I’m not going to be able to take on the two days of child minding at the moment. I have a lot that I plan to do in terms of travel, and getting back into my artwork. Perhaps I could help out in other ways such as picking them up from school or childcare a few days per week?”
For some grandparents, the idea of running around after a toddler makes them feel exhausted already. After all, you have raised your children and done the running around after little ones when you had your own kids. If you honestly just don’t feel like you are up to the task, you could try something like this:

  • “I am worried that I’m not fit enough to run after the little ones, and I have concerns that my home isn’t suitable for them to be spending lots of time due to its size and stairs. I am more than happy to take the kids on a weeknight or a weekend if you want to go out and do something. Why not use me as your person to call on when you want to go on social outings.”
If you are willing to help out in some way, but don’t want to end up feeling resentful or over-worked, now is the time to negotiate the terms. For instance some children might expect you to vacuum the house or prepare the evening meal, which is pushing the friendship a little.

  • “I am happy to commit to the two days per week to mind the kids. However I will need you to pack them a lunchbox each day so that I don’t have to go out and buy kids food and prepare it. I will be able to throw a load of washing on every now and then but I won’t have time for much else as I want to give the kids my full attention.”
Related links:

The secret to raising mindful children

Grandparenting in the 21st century

The new rules of grandparenthood