How to (diplomatically) tell your family you're not a built-in babysitter

Oct 19, 2011, 4:09 p.m.

When you reach retirement age, you may notice your family thinks you're always available to babysit. Certainly you love your grandchildren, and you'd like to spend time with them when you can, but keep in mind that you have a life of your own and it's absolutely OK to go on living that life without the everyday distraction of children in your home.

You don't have to drop everything to be a built-in babysitter for your grandchildren. But how do you convey that without hurting feelings? Honesty and diplomacy are always the path. If possible, have the conversation early—even before there are grandchildren in the picture. That way, your children will know where they stand when they begin to have children of their own. By making it clear that they will have to make other arrangements for everyday babysitting, your children won't feel blindsided when they have kids and must locate babysitters for them.

Of course, being diplomatic and not wanting to hurt your children's feelings will play a role in how you phrase your desire to avoid babysitting and what kind of compromises you make. For example, if your grandchildren need to be babysat five days a week while their parents work, perhaps you could babysit one or two of those days. That would give you time with your grandchildren and also time to yourself, to pursue what matters to you. By being both kind and honest, your wishes will be more likely to be respected and the time you spend with your grandchildren will be more enjoyable for all of you.

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