Thursday, February 10, 2011

How much is too much?

Disclaimer: please note that this post is in no way, shape or form intended to be a criticism of working parents or an attack on them.

We were looking forward to the week end. Mr Foodie's mum and dad were to take the girls overnight on Saturday and we had made plans to meet up with friends for dinner and generally just take it easy. We don't do it often, once a month at the most. We enjoy having a bit of time away from the girls and we are lucky that Mr Foodie's mum and dad enjoy taking them for the weekend once in a while too.

Up until Noelie was nearly one, I didn't (and couldn't bear the thought) of leaving her overnight anywhere. I even wrote a post about it there. It's not that I don't trust other people to look after my children (well, maybe a bit) or that I don't enjoy the odd night out or anything. I firmly believe that my children are my responsibility and I don't rely on anybody to look after them but me and Mr Foodie. I don't like leaving a small baby with somebody else and subjecting them to a broken night sleep, or having them dealing with night feeds. I don't like asking other people for help in looking after my children. I would only ask after I had twisted and turned every other possibility in my head and came to the conclusion that there is no other option but to ask. Now that she is a bit older and that she can't express herself in many other ways other than crying I am a bit more comfortable with it. Marie, being 7, enjoys going off for the weekend and I am not worried about her at all. She can say when and where she hurts if she does, she can ask for food and is a responsible, polite child (if I go by what people are saying).

Now, you probably have noticed that that first paragraph is written in the past tense. That's because that was the plan up until this afternoon. It's not anymore and I am a bit pissed off about it. I don't mean to sound bitchy but I know that, unfortunately, it is the way I am going to come across but hey, it's my blog and it's a subject that Mr Foodie and I have been talking about for a good while, and we keep going around in circles. He agrees with me (to a point) and is getting sometimes a bit frustrated about it too although he sees it from a different angle than I am.

I can accept the fact that things don't sometimes go to plan, I can accept the fact that sometimes things happen and plans have to change. I can accept illness, forgotten previous engagements. I can accept things out of everybody's control such as broken heating, water leaks, snow, broken cars and the likes. But there are things I find hard to accept.

Mr Foodie's mum and dad look after the new baby (well she is not so new anymore since she is nearly 10 months old). When I say they look after her, I mean, that they take care of her for anything from 2 to 4 days at a time, while her mom works and rests (she works shifts). She recently started working again after her maternity leave and , as far as we know, this is a temporary arrangement, only for few months, until she is back on maternity leave for baby number 2. Now, as much as I was overprotective of Noelie, they are the complete opposite. They left the baby overnight with Mr Foodie's parents when she was a couple of weeks old. And have done so every week or so since ( her reason being that she was tired and needed a break). But now that she is back at work, it is more and more, for longer and longer periods whether she is in work or not. Most weeks, they will mind the baby for 2 or 3 nights in a row. I do understand that she works shifts and is pregnant and has hospital appointments and that she gets tired etc. He works too. But working for himself, he only does the hours he wants and he decides to work at night when he could as easily work during the day. He has that flexibility that a lot of us don't or didn't have when working. He goes to college once a week too, in the evenings but is finished by 10pm. So why leave your baby with somebody else if you can mind her when your other half is at work (whether it's him or her)? Why not just ask that they come and babysit in your house while you're out so that you get up with her in the morning and spend time with her? Each to their own of course, but I know that I felt terribly guilty when I was working over not being able to spend more time with Marie and that was without leaving her overnight!

Now, don't you all start thinking I am jealous of how much they take the other baby or anything like that. It's not at all the way I feel. As much as I think it's not fair for other people to get up for night feeds or getting their sleep interrupted looking after your baby, it is their own decision and their own arrangements. Both parties are doing it willingly. My point is that Mr Foodie's parents are in their 60s, they are not as young as they'd like to think. And a 10 month old baby is hard work, especially one that won't sleep without being held and who doesn't take her own bottles. It is difficult for any parent, but I'd say it's even harder for older people and I'm pretty sure most of you would agree, no matter what your feelings on the subject are.

So what's her problem, I hear you ask. Well, my problem is that their arrangement is starting to have an impact on us. The mom only found out yesterday (ahem) that she would be working late on Saturday and Sunday and has let Mr Foodie's parents know so that they could mind the baby. And despite our previous arrangement, they felt that they could not say no and agreed. They told us that they would take the 3 girls overnight but not to let the other mum know that our girls would be there too.The only thing (and you could say it's our fault) is that we won't allow them to take both our girls and the baby overnight at the same time (that and the fact that they only have one travel cot too). We feel that it is too much for them. Noelie has me exhausted most of the time, Marie is fine as she is much older, but add to the mix a rather demanding 10 month old baby and you more than likely end the day on your knees and that's at my age (no I will not tell you! OK, early 30s). So imagine what it must feel like in your 60s? We can see how tired looking they are when they pop down for a cup of tea to see the girls and they have the baby. We can see how even more tired they look when they leave because the 3 girls were there and the 2 babies were constantly looking for attention from them both. So we politely refused the offer and we told them why (again as it is not the first time we tell them.)

So instead, well, we changed our plans, assuring them that it was OK. We postponed the dinner to 'some other time' and we will have the girls at the week end (not that I mind ). What I mind, is that once again, we are the ones changing our plans. I don't see the other parents changing their plans once in a while. I know this was only to give us a break and so that we could relax for a couple of days and that her going to work is more important. But what about him? Could he not change his plans for once and look after the baby? And let us enjoy one of our rare nights out? And what about the other times when she is not in work and leaves her overnight just so that she can have a break. We all need a break from time to time. We only ask for a break every 4 or 5 weeks (sometimes longer) and we try to work it around the times when they don't have the baby (which is quite tricky considering how much they have her), or any other plans they have made (they have their own lives too!). But now, even when we have plans made that have been carefully worked around all that, it seems that it is not sufficient enough. And it annoys me that we are the ones backing down. I know we are doing it for the right reasons, out of consideration for Mr Foodie's parents who also need a break, because we don't want to cause a fuss. I know that Mr Foodie's parents hate to let us down like that too. Maybe it's our fault for not leaving our girls overnight more often, or for not wanting to be difficult, or even for not being selfish enough. I'm sure the other parents don't even realize that the amount of time their daughter spends with her grand parents has an impact on our girls spending time with them too, or that we make our plans based on them and their schedule. It is a difficult subject to talk to them about as we don't want to come across as criticizing how they decide to live their life. So now, we will go back to the drawing board and try and figure out when we can reschedule our dinner and when the girls can go and stay overnight. So far, it's not going to happen for at least another 3 weeks. Ah well, it will be a well deserved break by then.

We just hope that the situation doesn't get worse when baby number 2 comes along in a few months. We were even joking (OK somewhat sarcastically) that maybe they would devise a schedule so that they only have one baby in the house at a time while the other one is in Mr Foodie's parents'. But then again they would also find it tiring since at the moment, they only have that one part time since they leave her there even when they are not in work.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you deal with it? Please leave your comments.

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