A while back I tallied how much I spent in childcare since Savannah was born. When I tried to share the figure with a single mom friend, she stopped me. “Don’t! It’s too depressing,” she barked.
She was right. But, oh, the things I could have done with that money. Bought beachfront property in the Hamptons. Got a boob job, facelift and a lifetime supply of Botox. Opened an orphanage in India and saved thousands of homeless children. Instead, I paid for college girls to sit on the couch and text their boyfriends.
For this reason, Sharon Jayson’s recent New York Times piece, “Need a Babysitter? Don’t Count on Grandma,” hit a soft spot in me. The author argued that parents shouldn’t bank on grandparents being available for babysitting. They are older and, in some cases, still employed. Others, having paid their dues, want to enjoy their golden years, so don’t want to be shackled to a babysitting schedule.
Typical of most New York Times pieces, the comments were juicy and fueled arguments between parents and grandparents who weighed in with their views. Parents who expect grandparents to babysit were called out for being selfish. Grandparents, who didn’t babysit, in turn, were told to rot alone at the nursing home. Between were stories of loving, doting grandparents who discussed the joys of spending time with their grandchildren. A couple grandparents boasted of moving across the country just to be near the little ones.
My daughter never got to enjoy the benefits of having a grandparent involved in her life. She never looked out from the stage of a school dance recital and saw grandma in the front row or helped grandpa weed the garden. By the time she was born my parents were living in another state and both in failing health. Our visits with them were more work than pleasure, as it had me juggling a toddler and wheelchair bound mother. Both died before her 4th birthday.
At my daughter’s grade school there was a roster of grandparents who regularly babysat their grandchildren. I would always see them standing in the pack of parents and nannies waiting during pick-up. One, named Grandma Roz, was a petite Italian woman with a wild black mane and hot pink lipstick. She had the kooky, endearing quality of Mrs. Roper from “Three’s Company.”
Three times a week Grandma Roz would dutifully drive from upstate New York to Manhattan to pick up her only grandchild. With her came fresh baked goods and her famous homemade spaghetti sauce. To me, she’s worth her weight in gold multiplied by 10. What I do for a Grandma Roz.
When I hear moms complain about their mother-in-law or father who babysits, I’m annoyed. It’s like Imelda Marcos complaining she has too many shoes. A problem I’d gladly wrap my arms around and embrace.
“He doesn’t do anything with the kids,” a mom once complained about her father-in-law. “He picks them up from school and takes them to the park. Then just sits on the bench!”
Sounds like just like my babysitter!
“Is your child still breathing?” I want to say.