My Parents are Tourists in My Village and I’m Sick of It

It was school holidays and my kids were doing my head in. They had been home for 6 weeks and they were ready to go back to school. I was ready for them to go back to school.

I longed for peace and quiet – and a tidy house. I yearned for uninterrupted time to get my work done so I could pay the bills and keep the kids fed. Despite my super organisation efforts in setting up craft and activities for my kid’s enjoyment (which piqued their interest for approximately ten minutes), they were more interested in fighting with each other. Or whinging for more food or that it was boring at home or throwing random things around the house because clearly they can’t stand neatness and order.

Clearly at my wit’s end with patience and needing to meet several work deadlines, I was grateful when my mum offered to look after the kids so I could get some work done. I accepted with heartfelt thanks.

I wish I hadn’t.

My mother walked into my home, mobile phone in hand, and ushered my kids into the living room. She put the TV on, found a channel with children’s programs and that was that.

She sat on the lounge while the girls stayed glued to the TV, scrolling through her phone. After an hour or so, she played a game with the kids, which lasted all of ten minutes before she put Peppa Pig back on the TV and went straight back to her phone.

I was so frustrated. If I’d known the TV was going to babysit my kids, I wouldn’t have needed my mum to come over.

My kids were happy to watch TV, and yes, the outcome of ‘quiet kids so mum could have some peace’ was achieved. But I had hoped they would have done something more creative with their nanna. Is that too much to ask?

Before I could suggest an activity, my mum told me she could no longer babysit as she had organised to meet my dad for a coffee. I was dumbstruck. The offer of ‘help’ basically amounted to two hours of television time for my kids. I think I’m supposed to be grateful for it, too.

This type of interaction from baby boomer grandparents seems to be quite common. My parents are up with the latest technology and busying themselves with interests they didn’t have time for when they were younger. When it comes to doing fun things with their grand kids, or helping me out with the busyness of life, they’re just not interested in going the extra mile to help.

We’re told it takes a village to raise a child, yet my parents seem reluctant to be part of my village. Or they want to be in the village, but as a tourist only. I work my ass off to make sure our family is clothed, fed, bathed and sheltered, while also doing paid work because my partner’s wage doesn’t  cover the family budget. My parents see and hear me struggle with the demands of work and family life, but if asked to help, they have to check their busy schedule to see if they can fit it in. It doesn’t seem to be a priority for them.

I love my parents. But since they’ve retired, they’re more interested in their social life than interacting with their grandchildren. They say the reason they chose to stop working was to spend more time with their grandkids. Ironically because felt they missed out on their own children’s childhood, because they were so busy with work. I never expected much help when I had children, but I had hoped my parents would at least be there to help me out when parenting became overwhelming. Sadly, they’re not.

I want them to step up to help me with the burden of a young family, but they seem more interested in meeting friends for a latte than helping their exhausted daughter. Just putting on a load of washing or offering to cook a meal would make a huge difference to me, but seems beyond them. Their FOMO about what their friends are doing is so high, that they are truly missing out what’s important in life – spending time with their family and helping raise the next generation.

It frustrates me. It will always frustrate me. But all it does is make me more determined to raise my family on my own. It makes me want to shut my parents out of my village. After all, that seems to be what they really want.

Are your kids’ grandparents part of your village?