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Parents being used for constant childcare by sister

(26 Posts)
SallyAnn Mon 20-Aug-12 10:48:10

Background: Parents are pensioners - nearing 70. I am the eldest of three daughters. Sister in question is the youngest, late 20's. Myself and middle sister live about 1 hour away, youngest sister lives 5 minutes up the road. We all have children. Children of youngest sister: 2 and 5.

Problem: Sister is constantly around parent's house with said children. Parents are being used as childcare day in, day out. She will turn up in the morning - and stay put till her hubby gets back from work. She will go upstairs and sit on computer, checking facebook, mumsnet etc. Kids are left roaming around downtairs usually - mum and dad left watching them, dealing with food requests and general children wants and needs. If parents need to go out - sister and children will accompany them.

Mum has confided to me that she is very tired and having the children there almost constantly is becoming very draining. They start screaming and being loud as kids will and mum says that she finds herself starting to shake and becoming anxious. I will ring her up to see how she is early evening and I can hear them all romping and screaming in the background. I will say, 'it sounds busy, where is 'J'' - mum replies, 'she is sitting on the computer'. It is making my mum ill and she will not say anything to her. My dad is not in the best of health either.

We will go round to see them at weekends, and sister will even turn up then, depending on what her hubby is doing. I rarely get to see my parents on their own. This sounds petty I know but I would like to see them without having to see her and her offspring!

Mum says I mustn't say anything to her - I am not sure. I feel that if I start to say something I will not stop, there will be a huge fight. I feel she is being selfish.

So Gransnet - what should I do? Put up and shut up knowing my mum is becoming ill? Or start World War 3 by suggesting that she could perhaps look after her own children and stop abusing mum and dad's good nature. Am I just jealous because she has free childcare when I haven't? Sorry so long. Ask questions if you think I have left anything out. Thank-you.

Bags Mon 20-Aug-12 10:57:28

Suggest she reads this article by Jilly Cooper about grannies not being nannies

Might be a start.

Could you have your parents come and stay with you for a break?

AlisonMA Mon 20-Aug-12 11:09:31

Can you 'break' the computer? At least then she would have no reason to leave your parents alone with the children?

I agree with Bags about getting them away and make sure your sister doesn't come too.

Could you be 'concerned' that your sister doesn't have many friends like her and suggest places she could go to meet them, mums and tots, todler gyms etc.? Places where she would need to take the children with her.

Elegran Mon 20-Aug-12 11:11:43

Are you at home during the day? You could ask your parents round for the day as often as you can - without your sister - saying "I see them so seldom on their own" when you tell her that they will be at yours on such a day. If you are at work all week, how about them coming to you on a weekend day?

They could arrange to go out somewhere else, too, and not always be around.

You could say "Mum is looking very tired recently. I hope she is not ill. Is she doing too much? Keep an eye on her while you are there tomorrow and make sure she rests." Phone her in the evening after she gets home and ask how Mum was looking today. If she has any sensitivity she should connect daily childminding with tiredness without you mentioning it.

You could look look out for exciting things for children to do in the neighbourhood and tell her that they sound like just the thing for her children. Are there any playgroups or mother and child groups around? Sounds as though they need some romping in the open air too to get rid of some energy.

absentgrana Mon 20-Aug-12 11:13:00

If it's not possible to have your parents come to stay with you for a break, how about going out somewhere on a day trip now and again?

Elegran Mon 20-Aug-12 11:15:53

Whose computer is it? Not easy to "break" it if it belongs to sister.

I think in the circumstances I would not be too tactful for too long. If things do not improve, she needs to realise that her parents are not Superman and Superwoman and that the children are hers, they are not primarily their grandparents responsibility. If she does not, she will find that they become too tired and ill to be any help at all.

dorsetpennt Mon 20-Aug-12 11:34:00

Can't you and your other sister have a chat with the younger sister? I think Elegran has said it inasmuch as you should not be tactful. Maybe your sister doesn't feel confident and a bit overwhelmed by parenthood. Remove the computer, say it's gone to be repaired. Why can't your parents say to her enough, or come up with a plan such as her coming around a few mornings a week ONLY. Are you all able to chat to her husband? It seems you all complain but don't talk like a lot of families.
It's time for her to step up and take charge of her own family and let your parents enjoy retirement. She may get upset and make a few threats, but believe me she knows when she is well off.

petallus Mon 20-Aug-12 17:48:28

Well my husband and I are about the same age as your parents, he a bit older.

I have two daughters. I would definitely not expect one daughter to have a word with the other on my behalf. In fact I'd be annoyed if she did because I don't think I'm old enough to have to be looked after by my children yet. Maybe in ten years time?

You have already suggested that you might be envious of your sister for having so much access to your parents. Could that be part of the problem? It would be understandable.

It does seem that your parents have too much to cope with but I just don't think it's up to you to deal with it. What would probably happen is that you would fall out with your sister and your parents would still keep on agreeing to have her and the children at their house.

Breaking the computer wouldn't solve the problem at all.

dorsetpennt Mon 20-Aug-12 17:56:42

I think the 'break the computer' comment was meant jokingly - you remember jokes?

petallus Mon 20-Aug-12 18:00:10

AlisonMA mentioned breaking the computer dorsetpennt and Elegran seemed to take it seriously.

So you were rude for nothing!

glammanana Mon 20-Aug-12 18:04:32

SallyAnn Can your parents be convientley out when your sister calls on them ? it does sound as though they could do with some respite from your sisters visits and to have time to enjoy their own company and their retirement,I would go with your other sister and tell her that you are worried about the time her children are being left with your parents and how unfair it is on them,what would happen if there was an accident who would she blame herself or your parents ?To be honest if it where my sister she would be told how I felt and to be responsible for her family herself.Have your parents always given in to her needs are they frightened of upsetting her if they say something?

Annobel Mon 20-Aug-12 18:16:03

Surely the elder child is at school now, so during term time it's the younger child who could presumably benefit from letting off steam at a mums' and toddlers' club if such a thing exists. Your sister is leading a very unnatural existence if she is messing about on the computer all day. Is she, do you think, a bit depressed? If she could be persuaded to take the little one to a toddlers' club, she would meet young mums (maybe dads too) with whom she might have something in common. To quote a currently popular saying - she really should get out more.

nanaej Mon 20-Aug-12 18:19:52

Am not sure if you & other sister work or not , if not could you take it in turns invite your younger sister to you once a week/fortnight /month & bring your mum with her. You could then model looking after kids needs etc whilst making sure your mum gets a bit of TLC & hope the message gets through!

Is it possible to re-site the computer? Bring it downstairs somewhere? The other thing is to persuade your mum to keep directing kids needs to their mum..
Grandchilld 'can I have some juice nana?
Nana ' Go and ask Mummy to get it as I am just busy....'
That way younger sister cannot exclude herself so easily from the daily turmoil that is life with under 5s so may be no different to being at home!!

Can you help your parents to find other regular activities that your younger sister cannot join in! Join a Bridge /Book Club, Women's Institute, U3A etc

Is your younger sister OK? Could she be a bit depressed or has she always been a little insensitive to others needs? It does seem odd that she is there quite so often..does she never take kids to stay & play etc or see friends?

Other than that I think your mum really has say that she loves seeing her and the kids but can it be just two days a week as she is not keeping up with other things she needs to do. Failing that she needs to try phoning her early and saying that she needs a quiet day in bed as she / dad had a bad night's sleep so no kids today please!

janeainsworth Mon 20-Aug-12 18:28:05

sallyann what a difficult situation. I wonder if your youngest sister is feeling that she can't cope? It seems odd if she has no friends her own age who also have children she can spend time with. Could it be that she is lonely or depressed?
I can understand your mother's reluctance to speak to her - I would find it difficult to tell one of my DCs they had out-stayed their welcome.
I would try to speak to youngest sister, but from the starting point that you are worried about her needing to spend so much time at your parents - you may find that there is a lot more to it than wanting them to look after the children while she goes on Facebook and mumsnet.
I hope you can resolve it without conflict.

Mishap Mon 20-Aug-12 18:32:27

I'm with petallus on this one - your parents are grown adults and their decisions about how to deal with any problems that they may or may not have with your sister are theirs to make. I should stay well out of it if I were you!

I sometimes feel exhausted by the care we give to the GC of one DD; but I make the choice to deal with that in my own way - I choose to feel whacked sometimes in return for the wonderful relationship that I am building with my GC and with my DD as a Mum. Only I can decide when I need to say no I cannot do it. I would be jolly cross if any of my other DD's took it into their heads to interfere!!

It is not as if your parents are completely in their dotage. Allow them the dignity of treating them as adults.

Annobel Mon 20-Aug-12 18:41:46

It also occurs to me to ask who meets the older child from school? Surely not your parents?

SallyAnn Mon 20-Aug-12 21:41:38

Well obviously some of you think I am merely jealous and should butt out - thanks for that. Can I also stop listening to my mum moaning to me about the situation then? Because I am the one listening to how tired and miserable the situation makes her feel. Yes I am envious that she sees them all of the time -and all I hear when I am over there with their youngest grandchild is sister's kids this, sister's kids that etc.

Could speak to my middle sister. However she might think I am having a go at her as she is also using my parents for childcare for her 11 year old son. He is no bother my mum says - but obviously youngest sister needs to bring her brood round to see him (plus dog - did I mention the dog?) as they dote on their elder cousin hmm.

Not going to break the computer, lol - it is dad's pride and joy on which he finds all the Aldi specials!

Now I know I am sounding bitter here. But I am looking after a 14 month old, 6 parrots and am also three month pregnant. I am tired and hormonal.

I have offered that parents come and stay with me - unfortunately my dad is a real homebody and doesn't really like to move out of his comfort zone - his own house. He was up till recently taking constant care of his elderly mum - he had done this for 7 years and I think it has made him a little agrophobic - he will rarely leave the house. Unfortunately she passed away at the begininng of the year.

Youngest sister is not depressed - she has plenty of friends who she likes to go and see sans-children. She does have her hands full with two young kiddies - but so do lots of other people who don't take advantage of their elderly parents. The only way I can stay away from the situation would be to have no contact with my mum and dad. I know they are not in their dotage as someone mentioned- but I do think they are of an age when they can expect that their children will come round and be of help to them and not the other way round.

Thank-you for the advice and listening to me moan. Think I am going to try what Elegran suggests - ring up youngest sister and say how tired and ill mum is looking - can you keep an eye on her etc. I aint convinced she will take the hint though - before I moved further away from my parents I had half jokingly suggested that they sell up and move with me and my husband - we could get a place together. Youngest sister was immediately horrorfied because she wouldn't get her inheritance. I tried to tactfully point out that you only have inheritance when someone had died - and who would she like to go first, mum or dad? She has also put claims in on my mums jewelry for any unfortuate event shock.

tattynan Mon 20-Aug-12 22:16:18

Your Mum and Dad are the only people who can sort this out.They need to take control of the situation and explain to your sis that they need their own personal time and space.Other than that change the locks and hide behind the sofa when she rings the bell.

Elegran Mon 20-Aug-12 22:16:45

Good luck, SallyAnn You have a tightrope to walk there.

Mishap Mon 20-Aug-12 22:18:05

If Mum offloads to you about the problem, perhaps you could talk with her about ways that she might deal with it - give her some ideas and options that she might try herself. I really do not think you should butt out in the sense of not giving her your support and caring thoughts, but that you should stand back from taking any action and she should be given the strength to deal with it in her own way.

Once you start taking action yourself (in the way of talking to sisters for instance) you run the risk of creating family rifts which will help no-one and cause your parents even more distress in the long term. Taking sides is a dangerous route I feel.

Your parents are capable of telling her that it is too much, but choose not to do so - I am sure they have their reasons. You can help by allowing them to let off steam to you and telling them you care about them.

Your sister is dealing with her challenges in a way that you do not like; but that is her right, just as your parents have the right to choose not to show her the door.

This does not mean that I am not sympathetic to your feelings in this situation, but I do think that the problem is not yours - it is your parents' problem and they need to deal with it in their own way. You can support them and help give them the confidence to do that if that is what is needed.

petallus Mon 20-Aug-12 22:51:14

SallyAnn it all sounds very stressful and I can quite understand that you might feel things aren't fair to you at the moment, in a number of ways.

It's unfortunate that your mother moans to you about the situation whilst doing nothing to change it and in answer to your question I think yes you could stop listening.

There seems to be quite a lot going on here (as there usually is in families) and the best people to sort it out, as others have said, are your parents.

Mishap's post just above this one gives excellent advice.

I do wish you all the best in getting things sorted out.

Incidentally, I am intrigued about the six parrots! smile

JO4 Mon 20-Aug-12 23:00:42

I think you should have it out with your sister. Tell her that your parents are too old for it all and that it is exhausting your mum.

Your sister might not even realise she is being a pain.

You don't need to start world war three. Try not to. But say something for your poor mother's sake.

Annobel Mon 20-Aug-12 23:02:00

And look after yourself - you don't need all this stress at the moment.

JO4 Mon 20-Aug-12 23:02:12

They are your parents. Look after them.

confusedbeetle Wed 12-Sep-12 14:09:03

You need to decide who's problem this is, yours or your parents. If it is theirs, they own it and have the responsibility to sort it. If Mum moans I would gently encourage her to address it and not get involved at all. Thats the stuff of family wars. Between your mum and Dad they should have the ability to ask their daughter to reduce her visits. You are getting into triangulating by thinking what you can do, instead of what our parents can do