Ask Amy: Sibs vie for grandma as 'on-call' babysitter

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • January 3, 2014 - 1:33 PM

Dear Amy: My husband and I play in a band. My mother-in-law takes care of our kids (2 and 6) for some of our show nights.

Some of these are late weekend nights, in which case she sleeps on the couch. We have a baby sitter that we hire half of the time, so she knows we don’t depend on her for every show. And we pay her in favors or help around her home. Sometimes we give her money or buy her lunch or dinner.

My mother-in-law watches her daughter’s child constantly (the daughter is a party animal). The child lives with her.

She has started to call us hours before our shows and comes up with reasons why she can’t help us. Then she calls my husband selfish because he gets upset. Then she will give us a bunch of grief but will ultimately agree to do it.

I am tired of this. I feel like we bend over backward to make this easy for her. It’s exhausting. I want to have a good relationship, but she makes me so angry that I can’t even look at her.

Are we a bunch of jerks for asking for help with the kids, or is she nuts? Do you have any suggestions on how we can make it easier on her, or should we just cut the baby-sitting ties? I would rather have her say no right away than put us through all of the grief, which has been conveyed to her multiple times.

Amy says: Your mother-in-law is already saddled with almost constant child care (according to you), and then you are aggrieved that she doesn’t want to baby-sit for you and sleep on your couch a few times a month. This puts you somewhere on the “bunch of jerks” spectrum.

Yes, the baby-sitting she does for you vs. her daughter is unequal, but she does not owe either of you automatic child care.

When she tries to say no (calling and making excuses about why she can’t do it), you don’t accept it. She sounds passive-aggressive — and so you should accept that for her, griping means “no.”

She might be willing to have your children spend the night with her a couple of times a month instead of coming to your house. But you should also accept that she does not want to baby-sit. The burden for you is not to take this personally.

Haunted by affair

Dear Amy: Seeing all of the letters in your column about workplace affairs inspired me to write. Listen to an old man: Resist temptation. That woman in the next cubicle may be a hottie. You may be down on your wife. But do not have that affair.

I yielded to the charms of a young, tall, athletic, alluring woman. The affair lasted months. My wife found out and was devastated. We had young children. We were separated for more than a year. My kids were baffled. And then — a miracle. My wife agreed to take me back.

We have built a beautiful life. My children are wonderful. We have been blessed with grandchildren. Yet the “other woman” is always there, certainly not in reality, but in our minds. When we see a movie about a philanderer or a “love triangle,” I still wince. I still whisper an apology. My sins may have been forgiven, but are never forgotten.

But as I face “the final curtain,” my affair haunts me. I can’t put life on rewind, but maybe we can save a reader or two. Please don’t stray. It isn’t worth it.

Amy says: Thank you for your eloquent testimony. Now I hope you will forgive yourself.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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