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Babysitting Bubbys

Malki Lowinger

Their own kids have long since left the house, and yet you can still see signs of little children in every room—from toys to smashed cheerios. Welcome to the world of babysitting bubbys

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shaindy* will never forget the night she came face-to-face with the prospect of becoming a babysitting bubby. She and her husband were out to dinner with her son and daughter-in-law, who were then expecting their first baby. For Shaindy, this would be the first grandchild.

“I’ll bet you can’t wait until the baby is born,” her daughter-in-law said, “so you can start babysitting for us.” No doubt the newlywed had visions of her mother-in-law staying overnight; walking with the carriage in the park; taking over the feeding, the diapering, the bathing, and the caring — for hours or days at a time.

But Shaindy soon put those visions of bliss to rest. “I don’t think so,” she said, perhaps a little bluntly. “I know I’m going to love the baby. But babysitting is just not my thing.”

Undeterred, her daughter-in-law smiled and said, “You’ll change your mind after the baby is born. You’ll see.”

It’s now been a few years and, baruch Hashem, several babies later, and Shaindy rarely babysits, even though she lives only a few short blocks away from her grandchildren. “I love them to pieces,” she says. “But I already raised my own kids. I’ve been there and done that. I have a life and my own schedule. If it comes to it, I’d rather give them the money to hire a babysitter instead.”

On the flip side of the spectrum, there’s Chaya Gitty, who has made babysitting grandchildren her life’s calling. Her daughter drops the kids off at Chaya Gitty’s house in the morning before work, then picks them up in the afternoon. This means that Chaya Gitty spends the better part of her day in the company of an infant and toddler. She tells me this without a trace of resentment or even boredom. As far as she’s concerned, there’s nothing else she’d rather do.

“What about your own time?” I ask her. “Don’t you have places to go? Things to do? Don’t you get tired of being tied down to the kids day after day?” But Chaya Gitty doesn’t see it that way. She’s the happiest grandmother in the world.

If you’ve entered the “bubby” age bracket, and your kids live nearby, chances are good that you’ll be called on to pinch hit as a babysitter. Inevitably, your child will have to run out for a simchah, a sheitel appointment, a graduation, or even a few days of bein hazmanim rest and relaxation. Sooner or later, you’ll be called on to care for the children.

Do most of us, like Shaindy, feel that our diapering days are over? Or do we welcome the little ones with boundless joy as they fall into our arms, happily ignoring the spit-up on our clothes and the smashed Cheerios on the floor?


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