As a first time mother I made a lot of mistakes. My first born were twins and feeling determined to prove that I could handle things all by myself I hoarded the kids and never left them with anyone else. When the grandparents would offer to ‘give me a break’ I took it as an insult and infallibly turned them down. As a matter of fact the only time that my kids saw the grandparents at all was under the watchful eye of me. It didn’t make sense to be staying home with my children and then sending them off for others to take care of. At least not at first. By the time I realized this it was much too late.
Within a few short years I grew weary. I hadn’t taken a shower by myself, slept alone in my own bed or spent even one hour away from my girls since the day they were born. They accompanied me everywhere. When the time came that I needed a break my children were unwilling to go or stay with anyone, including their own grandparents. They would cry as though I was setting them to sail upon the oceans of life alone. Needless to say I caved in and would just bring the grandparent along with me when I had somewhere to go that was not right for the kids.
What I ended up doing was creating a non-stop work year for myself and denying my children the kind of relationship that only comes from grandparents. Leaving the children with grandparents if you are lucky enough to have them around is a huge building block in allowing children to forge relationships. It also shows children that there are other people in this world whom they can trust and who can take care of them just as well as their parents. The earlier you start doing it, the easier and happier the children will be. In my small insecure mind (new mom syndrome) I was very worried that there would come a time when my kids would not want to come home with me, thus indicating that I was a failure as a mother. I failed to see that this would suggest to me that my children had found a safe place, were developing loving bounds and that there was something within my means to help me when my sanity was headed straight down the drain.
Most grandparents can sit for hours on the floor playing blocks and watching Teletubbies or Blues Clues without tiring whereas most parents cannot. Grandparents can ignore the mess all over the house and manage to find or make up more and more games to play. They allow the kids to get off their stupid ‘routines’ and let them just be. They over react with every boo boo, over indulge them in snacks and even may try to sneak a little coke in the bottle. But they do this because they love these children and because it was exactly what they couldn’t do when they were just parents. Taking all that into consideration, why would any child not want to spend time with their grandparents?
By keeping my children constantly undertow I also sacrificed a lot of special time that could have been spent with my husband. Looking back now the kids would have never remembered if we had snuck off to Cancun for a long weekend. My 11 year old doesn’t remember much of anything before age 4. But my husband and I would have been able to sleep in, eat whenever we want without cutting up someone else’s food, drink wine and just be, like we did before we had kids. We probably would have come home more relaxed and even more grateful for the little brats waiting on us.
When baby #3 came I did change my tune a bit. Unfortunately this time the baby was so incredibly attached to me that I couldn’t even fling her off. The other two were still not used to being with anyone else so I was pretty much stranded. It was so bad that when I had my 4th and last child, my third child would not leave the hospital and spent two nights with me, sleeping right next to me in my hospital bed as I recovered from a c-section. I made the decision then and there that I would begin leaving my children with the grandparents as soon as I got home.
Once the kids knew I was okay with them staying, they were okay and it turns out that they absolutely love being over there. They love the extra attention and both sets of grandparents take really good care of them. There are some things I choose not to hear about when I pick them up and other things that irritate me – but the children have definitely learned that what happens at grandma’s house stays at grandma’s house. I feel better knowing that if something ever happens to me they will have a safe place where they are comfortable being. It is also nice to finally after all these years be able to date my husband again without rushing home. We are both looking forward to a summer cruise alone. What used to be my biggest worry, the children not wanting to come home, has never come to fruition. The children always seem happy to see me and excited to come home.
My children have also been continually able to add to the memory book of their mind. They have learned to crochet and plant butter beans, harvest a garden, drive a tractor and learn things from their grandparents that I would never have been able to teach them. The girls love to cook with their grandma and have learned a lot about their daddy and me and have reached a point in their lives where they know now that they have an entire family behind them.
Leaving children with the grandparents can be very hard at first. Although I recommend never making grandparents be responsible for the day to day care of their grandchildren, I do think it is wise, healthy and necessary to allow our children to spend as much time as possible with their kind and loving grandparents. Kid fast approach an age where they will see them as nothing but old and in the meantime it is only fair and natural to allow the bonds to grow and be nurtured with the special kinds of love that only a grandparent can give. It also offers parents one of the best and safest options to have a life of their own for a few brief moments or even a long weekend. When mom and dad come home the time away will serve to only make them even better parents.