DEAR ANNIE: My daughter and her husband have two sweet girls whom I adore. Their parents had no plans to babysit when the first born and just assumed I would move on. Now the girls are in kindergarten because it was too much for me to take care of them full time. I still watch them every now and then when daycare is canceled or their parents go out, and I often spend time with them for fun.
Daycare works well, except when the kids are sick and can’t go. When this happens, I am sometimes asked to watch the children. My daughter is paid hourly and has little sick time. Her husband sometimes travels or has important meetings. They live modestly, but have disposable income.
Annie, I am 68 years old and have elderly family and friends that I see often, as well as other grandchildren. Although I sympathize with my daughter and son-in-law, I don’t feel right about being a potential carrier of germs after caring for sick children. I have explained this to my parents several times, but they start talking about the cost of missing work and imply that I am not very helpful or supportive. I feel so guilty!
Is there a better way for me to explain this to them or alternatively stop feeling so awful about it? I love them all very much and want to be smart. — Sad Nana in Idaho
DEAR SAD NANA: To answer your question, no, there is no better way to explain it. But that doesn’t mean you have to feel terrible. The COVID pandemic has put many things into perspective – including how irresponsible it is to expose yourself to the virus and then interact with the rest of the world, especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly and young children.
All the same, sick children to do care must be taken, but luckily there are other options. Some hospitals have programs that provide care for sick children with working parents. Or perhaps they can find a local babysitter who is more comfortable with a sick child. If all else fails, your son-in-law may have to miss one of his “important meetings.”
DEAR ANNIE: I have been ill recently. My daughter texted my husband that I don’t let others take care of me and that I want to be a caregiver. She said: “She is not very well looked after. She always wants to take care of others.” My husband took it as an insult that he doesn’t care about me. He snapped at her and said some nasty things. Anyway, they’re mad at each other.
My daughter talks to me, but my husband is silent with me because he feels that I should have taken his side. I knew exactly what she meant, but he’s just reading too much into it. He won’t even let me cook for him. He says, “You take care of yourself. I will take care of myself.’ I hate the silence and the fact that they don’t try to talk it out. Now I’m stuck in the middle. Help! — I hate the middle place
DEAR MIDDLE: Texting is a surefire way to cross wires. Your daughter’s message is clear: the best caregivers often make the worst patients. However, her wording, combined with the lack of personal delivery, suggests otherwise.
Your way out of the middle is to play mediator. Get your daughter and husband together in a room and help them talk about it. This misunderstanding is too minor and juvenile for anyone to remain silent. I’m also willing to bet that this argument did nothing to help your recovery, which should be the top priority here.
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