Anne in Real Life©!
This week’s topic is based on a question received from the grandmother of a young mom with three kids under the age of three:
Grandma wants to know how to set good boundaries with her daughter regarding child care and be available to her kids and grandkids without getting burned out.
Based on my experience, with 5 grandkids of my own, I am only too happy to roll up my sleeves and pound away at the keyboard in answer to this very deserved question! How DO you set effective boundaries without upsetting your daughter?
Here’s my take:
1. Make yourself available exclusively by text (well, at least past 10pm). Let the daughter have unlimited access to you (am I alone here?), but in a way that doesn’t upset your apple cart! One draw back exists–for many of us, texting can be infuriating as eyesight and limber fingers begin to fail. If this is you, pickup a tablet during one of your cell phone providers’ promotional periods and download a texting app. The apps are usually free. I got my tablet for free through Verizon last year with only a $10 monthly charge–the larger screen really can make all the difference.
2. Be the adult! Model good boundaries by validating your daughter’s wrought emotions without running yours ragged. In my case, I’ve let it be known to my kids with children that I have a busy life, but that their needs are of utmost importance to me. Of course. I’ve asked them all to please consider my needs just as they would like for me to consider theirs. For example: I need to sleep at night. Therefore, there’ll be no sleepovers until they’re (fairly) sleeping through the night. Openness, compassion and vulnerability are essential elements to this conversation. Clearly.Not.
3. Pick a day. I feel like I am privileged to be a part of my kids’ lives. It’s one of those insidious life-choices that I’ve made. As such, I’ve maintained a work schedule that allows for some flexibility a day or two each week. The young mom gets to choose a morning or an afternoon when I’m available to help her for a period of time, or one full day if and when the need arises for appointments. Sometimes she wants to just hang out, sometimes I tag along while doing errands, and sometimes I just go and sit (or play) while our daughter catches up on laundry. Flexibility is nice. On these days it doesn’t matter! Too much flexibility violates the second rule (see above.) This way my kids know that when they need some help they’ll have to think ahead and if they don’t I can always use this time for a little self-care of my own!
4. Once a month or so, sometimes we’ll do an overnighter. These nights are usually reserved for date nights or something special (straight A’s on a report card maybe?). We most often take just one or two at a time. We’ve learned this can be a time of bonding with their cousins while they’re younger or a time of getting grounded as a teen. We hope and pray they’ll all grow up to love each other in all the seasons of their lives and know that family CAN BE a blessing! Or so we like to think.
Remember, you can write me a letter about anything, at any time, and from anywhere! Just send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Real Life” as your subject line.
That’s all for now dear ones. This is Anne…in Real Life©!