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Why do they need so much help?

(58 Posts)
lane70 Tue 28-Jun-11 18:03:38

My son and daughter-in-law have two young boys, age 5 and 2, lovely children. Son works fulltime, daughter-in-law works 3 days a week. Older boy in school, younger one in nursery. Comfortable house, two cars, adequate income. Why do they need so much help?

I had a similar schedule when I was raising my two. My husband worked full time and I worked part time. I didn't have a car, didn't even have a washing machine until the eldest was 12, never had a drier. Never crossed my mind to expect my 70-year-old mother-in-law to come and lend a hand with household chores.

Never mind. She loves the children and is a great mum. That's the main thing. I'm glad I'm not married to her. smile

Faye Wed 29-Jun-11 19:15:28

Hattie64 I read your post a few times and am still laughing.grin I love it, we should all aspire to be like you. smile

lane70 Wed 29-Jun-11 20:18:33

JessM, yes, I thought it would probably be a novel. I'll look out for it.

I do think grumbling can be good for the soul. smile

Joan Thu 30-Jun-11 06:46:40

I think we grew up faster than they do today. I was just thinking about my first job in 1961 - it was in the civil service as a clerical officer in a county court. I was 16, and right from the start I had jobs to do like dealing with debtors' and plaintiffs' queries, handling money, and courtroom clerk and court usher duties. In court I had to sit with a ledger and enter all the judgments in it. This was nothing special - it was the same for everyone.

Nowadays, well here in Australia anyway, no-one would give a 16 year old that sort of responsibility. I'm not saying they couldn't do it; it simply doesn't happen because they leave school later, stay at home longer, study longer etc.

I do remember Mum telling us all that when we had children she would NOT be looking after them, except in emergencies. I had no-one to help when mine were little, because we were over here, and both sides of extended family were in the UK. Mum would have helped a bit, but would never have done anything she didn't want to do, and I would never have asked.

I think that is the problem - volunteering is one thing - help being expected/requested/demanded is another thing all together.

Then there is pride: I would have died of shame if I had to ask for help. There was one time, when my youngest was new born, I had a three year old too, my back was terrible after an awful delivery, I could hardly walk, and my husband was in bed with a dreadful flu. I managed. No choice. Later, people said help would have been available, but I was incapable of asking for it.

Different times, different attitudes I suppose. Who is to say who's right? I know I felt so very alone, and so exhausted, which was not good.

JessM Thu 30-Jun-11 07:19:52

You're absolutely right Joan. Adolescence is a fairly recent invention - early 20th century people went from childhood to adulthood early and without much of a transition period. Adolescence now seems, in some cases, to last until mid or even late 30s! A friend of mine recently remarked "when i was 19 I was in charge of a ward of sick patients all night!"
A whole lot of factors at work here...

harrigran Thu 30-Jun-11 10:48:39

You could have been talking about me JessM, I was often in charge of a ward on nights whilst only 19. Now I assume one would have to finish university before being given that responsibility. I left school at 15 and felt I was mature and ready for work.

lane70 Thu 30-Jun-11 11:23:07

I also felt very alone and frightened at times but I managed, because I had to. Having to manage in really difficult situations taught me that I had the strength to do it, and gave me pride and self-respect. I wouldn't go back and swap it for a life in which I was able to avoid those difficult situations by relying on others.

But there it is, people are different. For whatever reason, my daughter-in-law has different values and sees life differently.

JessM Thu 30-Jun-11 12:31:12

I think it is interesting that when one becomes a grandparent there is a big power shift. We want access to our grandchildren. Our children and their partners are suddenly in control of that access and how the relationship between us and our grandchildren can develop. It does change things. I think though Lane70 that you do have some power inasmuch as they obviously need your support!

lane70 Thu 30-Jun-11 13:06:10

You are right, JessM, that's the nub of it, I've realized from discussing it here. Now that I've understood that, I think I'll be able to find a way to handle things better, by putting a little more (emotional) distance between us. I've been reluctant to do that, partly of course because I'd love to be close to my grandchildren, but also partly because I worry about not fulfilling my son's expectations of the amount of devotion due from a grandmother LOL. I worry too much!

They don't really need my support, it's more of an expectation -- connected, as you say, to access to the grandchildren and what kind of relationship can develop between myself and the grandchildren. It's funny I didn't see this before. I've been seeing it in a kind of Darwinian perspective, in which the mother (whether human or animal) concentrates on resources and sees everyone around her as just another resource -- which annoyed me. But now I think it's more a case of her parcelling out chores to anyone who comes in because that's her way of ensuring that she's in charge and she sets the agenda. Which is fair enough.

Of course it's more complicated than that. Interesting.

JessM Fri 01-Jul-11 07:31:54

Glad you are feeling better. It is hard to see a DIL's insecurity when it is expressed in this way!
It is also a pretty "full-on" life when you have two kids and a job. I know for my DS and DIL it seems an endless list of household tasks. At least one load of washing, often two, per day!
Life was tough for many of us when we were younger but maybe not many of us had jobs when the children were little.

maxgran Fri 01-Jul-11 10:55:25

I also have a son and daughter in law who have two incomes, two cars, one boy at school another at nursery. I babysit for them sometimes when my son is working away and his wife works evenings and when I am there I will wash up and tidy up but thats it ! My son told me that my DiL complained that her mother ( who died a few years ago) used to come round and do housework for her when her first son ( his stepson) was little so I guess she thinks I should do the same. I told him I was happy to babysit but their house is their responsibility - I have my own to clean !

Having said that, today's parents seem to busy with many women having to work full time so it must be hard sometimes.

baggythecrust! Fri 01-Jul-11 11:24:17

Partly because I wanted to bring up my own kids and partly because there were no grandparents or any other relatives nearby to help with the child-minding job, we didn't have a car when the kids were little. Holidays only cost us the price of the travel to visit grandparents one lot of whom very kindly took us with them on hill-walking holidays within the UK. They were going anyway and renting a cottage anyway and it was a way of spending time with their grandchildren. We were invited. If they hadn't invited us we wouldn't have expected anything. Clothing costs had to be spread out carefully over the year and we just did without a lot of the 'stuff' that people seem to think is essential nowadays. It seems to me that a lot of parents nowadays want everything, plus free child-care and housework. Of course they are busy. What do they expect? People who choose to look after their own kids rather than go out to work and let someone else do that are busy too. It's a busy job. I don't always believe the talk of "making ends meet," though of course it's true for some, because it depends on where you put your "ends". A family with two cars and every latest gadget has harder ends to meet than a family with no car and less stuff. It's a choice. They don't need the help; they just use it because it's there. Nothing wrong with that if you accept that that's what it is and nobody feels imposed upon.

crimson Fri 01-Jul-11 13:02:47

Isn't that a fault of a society that wanted people to spend and buy new things constantly? Peer group/social pressure these days makes it difficult for anyone to clothe their kids in second hand clothes or drive an old car. My life as a young mother with children was one of sharing an old car with my husband and getting clothes form charity shops; childrens clothes were passed round the village, as were toys. Then, something in me changed as well, and I wanted new things. It's no longer possible to drive an old car on the cheap, as I learned to my cost when I tried to get my local garage to fix a second hand car I'd bought that had computer was a specialist job and had to go to the manufacturers garage. Cost me a fortune and still wasn't reliable so I had to buy a new one. My ex always fixed our cars; they lasted forever, but even he can't do that now. Our economy seems to be based on people buying new and replacing frequently..phones, tv's etc. On the one hand we're told to recycle, but on the other we're encouraged to buy new all the time. Now that people aren't buying due to lack of money and job insecurity the economy is in a mess, leading to more job losses.

JessM Fri 01-Jul-11 14:34:39

There is also a lot of pressure to give children what their friends have. Which is a lot more than kids had 40,50,60 years ago.
We probably had very few toys ourselves when young. I remember playing with the remains of an ancient construction kit that was probably about 4th or 5th hand.

lane70 Fri 01-Jul-11 19:36:31

JessM, I also had a job and two kids. I didn't have a car, a washing machine, a drier, or an endless supply of disposable nappies.

After all, what is so arduous about putting a load of clothes in a washing machine that's sitting there in one's own kitchen?! I used to have to take the wash to the launderette -- on the bus!

Things are just different today. I've learned from this thread that my son and daughter-in-law aren't the only couple who see themselves as constantly hard-pressed, in spite of all the advantages they have which we did not have. And yet we didn't see ourselves as hard-pressed, at least I didn't. It was just what you had to do, and what it was normal to do. We had a lot of laughs. Nowadays so many people actually seem to want to see themselves as in need of "support". I don't think it's a healthy development myself.

The other thing is, that when we were rushed off our feet, we used to make sure everybody was fed, clean, and clothed, and let everything else go until there was more time to deal with it. My son and daughter-in-law don't do that.

However, they do find time to give the children plenty of love and attention, which is the most important thing. I can do my tut-tutting to myself, silently. smile

lane70 Fri 01-Jul-11 19:49:17

maxgran, I do think that a daughter-in-law's relationship with her own mother has a big influence on how she sees her mother-in-law. Do you think your daughter-in-law's mother was happy doing her daughter's housework, or do you think she felt pressured into doing it because of the weight of expectation?

When my mother came to visit, she didn't come expecting to help out in the house, and was never asked to. It never would have crossed my mind, to be honest. But there it is, when I was little us little kids always knew that by the time it was our turn to be served, the drumsticks would be gone and also the wings, and we would get the gizzard, or if we were lucky the neck. Nowadays the children get served first and by the time it gets to the old folk, there's nothing left but the gizzard! LOL! (I'm only joking, these days thank goodness there's chicken enough for all.)

expatmaggie Fri 01-Jul-11 21:29:21

When we visit we are not on our home ground and have to fit in with what is normal in that household but it doesn't mean you are never to say No to anything. I have two daughters and there are two different ways of looking after a household, kids and a jobs.

I usually cook for my grandchildren and if I'm going to babysit over lunchtime I take a bolognese sauce and heat it up- because it is easier for me than doing it from scratch at their house. My MIL was an excellent cook and she cooked a lot for us, but never did housework, quite the reverse I always got the house spotless before she came as she usually stayed a week.
We had no car at the beginning, and we just had to be better organised. But we all had fewer clothes. Sometimes I think back to my first summer in South Germany when I had one dress on and one in the wash, a cardigan and a pair of sandals. The weather was warm and sunny and life much simpler.
We must not forget that modern life has aspects of childcare that we never dreamed of. Computers have to made child safe, TV has to be rationed, the internet access controlled.
We didn't have that to bother with. Todays parents are not to be envied.

maxgran Mon 04-Jul-11 10:26:24

My DiL's mother and Father spoiled her rotten. They had her later in life after having 3 other children with a large age gap. Apparently she used to have tantrums and they waited on her hand & foot. My son, on the other hand was taught to look after himself and not expect people to do things for him.
My DiL and her mother were always having arguments and fights though !

I know what you mean about kids being served forst these days !

Elegran Mon 04-Jul-11 11:10:19

With wild dogs in a pack, it is the rule that the boss and his mate get first pickings of a kill, followed by the most important sidekicks and so on down the line, with the youngsters coming way down the pecking order, until they get strong enough to find their own level. Domesticated dogs accept that their (human) boss eats first and are quite happy about that if he/she is definitely top dog. If they are habitually fed before the master, they can get delusions of grandeur, and some end up unmanageable and aggressive.

A lesson here for those who treat their children as little emperors?

maxgran Tue 05-Jul-11 12:18:52

Elegran,... Thats why so many parents have problems with their offspring then !
A good analogy !

baggythecrust! Tue 05-Jul-11 12:28:36

I liked it too, elegran.

Elegran Tue 05-Jul-11 12:45:59

Dogs need leaders. Children need parents, not doormats.

lane70 Tue 05-Jul-11 16:47:45

Yes, I agree children need parents to be in charge. I wouldn't describe my grandchildren as spoiled. They're well disciplined and well behaved. They just are the constant focus of parental attention. Poor things, I feel I would have found it suffocating, but who knows, maybe this is a better way to bring up children. A lot has been learned about developmental psychology since the days when I was bringing up mine.

absentgrana Tue 05-Jul-11 18:20:55

Some (possibly quite a few) years ago Libby Purves wrote an article in The Times called When do I get the breast of chicken? She pointed out that as a child, she came last and had to settle for wings along with her siblings, then as a mum she came last and had to settle for wings? I hope she gets the breast of chicken now.

baggythecrust! Tue 05-Jul-11 19:12:49

I think it was Katherine Whitehorn who said that with raising children it's not what you ought to do but what you can stand. I know I couldn't have survived without some me time and it didn't do my kids any harm for me to say: Leave me alone. I'm having my reading time. They all love reading too.

crimson Tue 05-Jul-11 19:41:38

Used to look forward to her articles in The Observer [would cut them out and keep them fir future reference]; she's writing in the magazine again now [only a paragraph or two].