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Not a convenient babysitter

October 24th, 2007

I have seen many families where the older siblings resent the younger ones because they’ve been expected to babysit their younger brother or sister. You’ve probably seen movies where this is depicted – an annoying little sister that tags along on the sister’s date.

I think one of the things that irritates sibling relationships are unfair expectations such as this. Siblings end up with strained relationships because they are forced onto each other.

My older daughter Audrey is 6 years older than my youngest daughter Amy. I made a conscious decision that I would never use Audrey as a convenient babysitter. I would not expect her to babysit whenever she is home just so I can go out freely.

Is it wrong to expect the older ones to watch the younger children once in a while? No, it’s not wrong. But if I automatically expect my older daughter to watch her little sister whenever she is home, she will feel resentful at having this obligation thrust on her.

What if she doesn’t want to watch her sister, and just wanted to take a nap? Could she tell me that she doesn’t want to and would I take “No” for an answer when I know full well that she has the time?

If she simply doesn’t want to watch her sister, yet if she has no excuse not to, it corners her into a situation that is not fair to her. The last thing I want happen is to drive her to make up reasons to stay away from home to avoid this chore.

Some argue that we can pay the older sibling to watch her. Then it would not be unfair. I don’t believe in paying an older sibling to babysit either.

Does the husband get paid to watch the kids when the wife goes out with with her girl friends for an evening?

Does the family pay the mom for watching the kids all day? Do they pay her for cooking dinner?

Family is a relationship with each other like no other. Paying each other to do things in the family is teaching the children that we are individuals who happen to live under one roof, and thus we can pay each other to do things.

I want to teach my children that as a family, we help each other out of mutual love and dependency.

Out of love and respect for my older children, I do not expect them to be convenient babysitters. I never ask them to “babysit” in the same way a mother is not a “babysitter.” Once in a while when I ask my daughter to take care of her little sister, she would do it out of love for me to help me out, and love for her sister to take care of her. And she would know that I am not taking advantage of her time.

As a family, we help each other out when it is necessary.

That’s part of being family.

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  1. I like that. We occasionally ask our older son to look after the younger, but it’s rare and it’s always in a safe place where he basically has nothing to do! We do think there’s importance in actively taking care of others, BUT i was an oldest child and still deal with resentment over becoming afather figure to my brother and sister, something I never asked for or was up for.

    So I applaud the respect you’re showing your daughter!

  2. Thanks, Pete. It’s nice to know that my opinions are validated! 🙂


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