I mentioned previously that we have an anonymous forum for parenting questions at work. It's a great idea for people who might be too timid to post a question to the 1000+ people on the list, or for things you'd rather not have attached to your name.
One of the questions/responses that I read last week has been bothering me so much I need to write about it and get it out of my system. (I've changed some of the small details just to anonymize it further, though I have no idea who had the original question.)
The query came from a parent who works full time and his/her two toddlers are in daycare. S/he has about 3 hours with the kids after daycare pickup to get home, eat, spend quality time and get ready for bed. S/he treasures this time with her kids and laments that it's not enough.
The issue is with Grandma, who randomly picks the kids up from daycare and takes them out to shop, to McDonalds, and often doesn't return them before bedtime because "they were having too much fun and didn't want to go home yet". This happens at least weekly. Parent is frustrated by the loss of precious evening time with the kids, the delayed bedtimes, the junk food, and the randomness. (Presumably Grandma alerts the parent before she picks up, so they don't have a wasted trip to daycare and don't freak out that the kids are gone.)
Her question was how to approach this with Grandma, who obviously means well.
So my first response to this was "yikes, what a tricky situation". I totally sympathize with this parent, who genuinely misses the kids while s/he is at work. I can't imagine working full-time and then also having to regularly deal with this kind of random schedule disruption. I also wouldn't want my toddler to be eating at McD's on a regular basis, but that's minor. I see that it's rough - obviously having a close relationship with a grandparent is such a gift, and how great is it that Grandma wants to spend that much time with little kids after a long day at work herself?
I started reading the responses from my (also anonymous) colleagues, and I could not believe my eyes.
80% were variations of these:
- Parent should be happy to get some alone time
- Grandparents deserve respect and to spoil grandchildren whenever, however, and wherever they want
- Parent will be sorry when s/he gets old and her own kids don't let her see her grandkids (I wish I were kidding)
- Get over yourself, parent, not everyone has grandparents alive/nearby/engaged
And then it struck me. I work at a company with a high proportion of folks from Asian cultures, specifically Chinese and Indian. I don't know anything about Chinese culture, but I know a lot about Indian culture. So I can only assume these answers are true to the culture these folks were raised in - that elders always know best, and deserve deference and gratitude no matter what.
I was also really irritated by the way many of the answers were phrased - they were so judgmental, antagonistic, and preachy. I mean, this parent is reaching out anonymously for advice with a problem she is having trouble tackling. Can we get a little compassion up in here? And really, the parent doesn't want alone time - she wants that precious time with her babies at night. Why did alone time even come up at all??
And then of course, there's the fact that I *completely* disagree because the responses essentially amounted to "She's the Grandma, her needs are the most important, suck it up". Mind you, I don't think s/he needs to put the smack down and remove Grandma from the daycare pickup list.
But I do think s/he can handle this gently - maybe pick a day just for Grandma-toddler evening so that it's more predictable and get agreement from Grandma to bring them back by bedtime (or a little earlier for parent snuggle time). Or make arrangements for the kids to spend lots of time with Grandma on weekends.
But I keep coming back to the fact that 80% of the responses see no problem with the scenario and basically dismiss the original questioner. Really?
Lay it on me, peeps. What do you think? Asian friends, did I correctly interpret this as a cultural difference?