Dear Annie: My daughter and her husband have two darling toddler girls who I adore. Their parents had no plans for child care when the first was born and just assumed I would step up. Now the girls are in day care because caring for them full time was too much for me. I still watch them when day care is occasionally canceled or the parents go out and often just spend time with them for fun.
Day care works out well, except when the kids are sick and can’t go. When this happens, they sometimes ask me 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 do have disposable income.
Annie, I am 68 and have elderly family and friends I see frequently, as well as other grandchildren. While I sympathize with my daughter and son-in-law, I don’t feel right about potentially carrying germs around after caring for sick kids. I have explained this to the parents several times, but they are starting to talk about the cost of missing work and hint 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 terrible about it? I love them all so much and do want to be reasonable. – Sad Nana in Idaho
Dear Sad Nana: To answer your question, no, there is not a better way to explain this. But that doesn’t mean you should be feeling terrible. The COVID pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective – including how irresponsible it is to expose yourself to viruses and then engage with the rest of the world, especially vulnerable populations like senior citizens or young children.
Still, sick children do need to be cared for, but luckily, there are other options. Some hospitals have programs that provide care for sick kids with working parents. Or perhaps they can find a local babysitter who is more comfortable interacting with a sick child. If all else fails, your son-in-law may have to miss one of his “important meetings.”
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