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Annie’s Mailbox: Granny is not a built-in babysitter

Dear Annie: My mother-in-law, “Joan,” lives nearby. Since the birth of our son three years ago, she has not once offered to babysit or have him sleep over. She never asks to spend time alone with him. When I’ve suggested it, she tells me how tired she is, and yet she runs around with her friends all day. On those rare occasions when we absolutely are desperate for her to babysit, we practically have to beg, and it’s only for things like doctors appointments. She would never babysit so my husband and I could go out for an evening.

However, Joan wants to go everywhere with us. She thinks that qualifies as spending time with her grandson. She also says she wants to be there for his first vacation, first movie, first day at school, etc., which makes us feel as if our son can’t achieve any milestones without her.

I have dropped hints that my husband and I could use a night alone, and I’ve mentioned how other grandparents enjoy having their grandchildren over, but she never responds.In addition, if we all go out together and our son acts out, Joan just sits there. Apparently, Joan wants to be there for the fun, but not the other stuff.

My mother and my friends think Joan’s attitude is strange. They say grandparents normally take the kids out to give the parents a break. I am sick of asking her to watch our son when we are in a bind. Am I being selfish, or is she not being much of a grandma? – Beleaguered Mom

Dear Mom: Both. You may not like it, but grandparents are not obligated to take care of your children because you want a night out. Of course, it would be nice if Joan took a greater interest in spending time with your son, and she may be more inclined when he is a little older, requires less supervision and they can communicate better. But if you want a good relationship with her, please take babysitting services off the table.