The day I learned I ask my mum for too much help with my kids

Posted in Childcare.

I am incredibly fortunate to have my mum living up the road from me, and that she has always been ready and able to help us with our four kids. Not only is she retired and fairly agile for a woman in her seventies, but she is completely devoted to her grandkids, which means that requests from me for help are pretty much always met with a yes.

Whether it’s watching the twins for an hour while I run errands or having one of the older kids sleep over at her place for a treat, this lady is one committed and amazing grandmother.

Which is why I feel so horribly guilty right now. Let me explain.

The kids had all been sick

We’d gone through a block of sickness, where one kid after another dropped with a virus: fever, headache, lethargy. Usual stuff. It started with my oldest son, it left him after a couple of days and then hit each of his siblings. One after the other (never at the same time of course, these things never happen conveniently). I’d kept each sick child home from school and daycare, and had managed to avoid taking a day off work so far. Then one of my twins caught it on the eve of a work day. Knowing I’d be keeping them both home from daycare (they hate being separated), I dared ask mum if she’d be able to watch them for the day so I could go to work.

Of course she said yes

Did I mention this lady was some sort of super grandmother? She’s the type to say yes even if it puts her out, so when I asked her how she felt about watching my twins, she didn’t hesitate. “Of course,” she said. “It’s no big deal, you go to work.” Usually I don’t like asking her to watch the twins as they are so full of beans they tend to run her ragged, but given that one was lying around with a headache and fairly devoid of energy I figured it would go okay. I’d do a short day at work, make sure I get back early, and my husband or I could always get back if she needed us in a hurry.

I ignored the signs

I left for work that day in my usual flurry of stress, kissing my boys and telling Mum when I’d last given the sick one some Panadol. But on my way to work that day I ignored some quite obvious signs from the universe that I should have stayed home. When I dropped my big kids off at school and turned the car around to head into the city, I noticed my son’s clarinet in the front seat of the car, which he needed for band rehearsal that day. I thought about going back, but I was already on my way. Oh well, I thought. He’ll have to survive without it. I kept driving, but it continued to niggle at me. Then as I headed into the city I hit a massive traffic jam and sat there for 20 minutes as I tried to ignore the growing niggle. ‘You should just go home. Your poor mum,’ the universe chided, a bit unfairly, I thought. I ignored the niggle and turned up the radio. I finally got to work and realised I’d forgotten my lunch. “It’s at home”, the universe taunted me. ‘Where you should be!”

I got the call at lunchtime

All was going well at work until around lunchtime when I picked up the phone to hear mum on the other end. “I’ve had a little accident,” she said, adding that my husband was already on his way home. She’d tripped down the stairs while carrying a blanket for one of the boys and now her leg was swelling up. “I’m pretty sure I heard something snap,” she said. “And you should see the shape of my shin!” By all accounts she needed to be in Emergency immediately, so I raced out of work, hastily explaining things to my colleagues on the way and headed for home. 

A stay in hospital

There’s nothing that fills you with as much dread as arriving home to an ambulance outside your house. I parked the car just as it pulled away with my mum inside. Later that night, once the kids were all home and settled with their dinner, I left them with my husband and headed into hospital to see her. It was a broken ankle and she’d been instructed to stay off her feet for six weeks. Oh dear. Five days passed while they operated on her bones and got her used to hopping around with the walker. I became acquainted with the mobility assistance store at the hospital and hired her a wheelchair and shower seat. It was my turn to look after her.

Feeling guilty much?

I know the accident could have happened anywhere, even if I was with her at the time. It’s not like the twins were being naughty, or that she was struggling to look after them when she fell down the stairs. But I couldn’t help feeling TERRIBLE about the whole thing, and very much like I’d taken advantage of my mum. I should have stayed home, I berated myself.  I’ve pushed Mum too far.

In reality, I know I wasn’t to blame, and my mum would never agree that we’d asked for too much. But I learnt a lesson that day: my mum isn’t young anymore. If I want her to stick around as long as possible, I’d best ease up on what I ask of her. 


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