Babysitting Grandkids Is a Choice, Cannot Be An Obligation, Says Court

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Grandparents tired of babysitting grandkids don’t have to do it anymore if they don’t wish to, says a recent court order. 

For years, Kaberi Devi of North 24 Paraganas, West Bengal had a schedule that she maintained diligently. She would spend six months with her daughter in Ahmedabad and then six months with her son in Delhi. For a while the arrangement went well. Then in her 60s, Kaberi, a new widow, didn’t have to live alone, while her children had the advantage of having someone who could manage the house and the kids while they were away at work. Today Kaberi, 78, refuses to visit either children, preferring that they come home to meet her instead. “My children are very busy and when I am there the responsibility is on me. They don’t ask directly but assume I will help. At this advanced age, it’s not possible for me to manage things anymore, especially grandchildren. That’s why I stopped going,” she says.

On May 22, a family court in Pune asserted what grandparents like Kaberi may call a welcome decision. “It is the primary duty of the parents and not the grandparents to take care of their infant children. Grandparents may be there to support, guide and assist in raising the children. However, they should not be burdened to babysit grandchildren as their primary duty, by compromising their relaxation, entertainment and travel plan,” said the court while passing final orders in a woman’s plea for maintenance, reports The Times of India.

In other words, grandparents are not substitutes for nannies. The court was hearing a maintenance plea by a woman in her 40s who alleged that her parents in law were responsible for having to leave her children in a creche. The court rightly said that children were the parents’ responsibility primarily and parenting duties should not be imposed on the grandparents.
The family court judge Swati Chauhan said, “It is not an unusual scene that their children are kept in crèche for their care.” “It is the prerogative of the old and aged grandparents to willingly accept the task to babysit their grandchildren considering their own age, health, strength, engagement in extracurricular activities and other plans.’

Kaberi, who started taking music classes three years ago when her Delhi-Ahmedabad visits gradually reduced, says the court couldn’t have been more right. “Our Indian culture expects grandparents to automatically jump in to take care of grandkids. It should be a choice not an expectation from children, their spouses or even society. I have done my duty all my life and while I love my grandchildren, taking care of them should not be forced on me.”

The judgement has seen some unusual comments on social media. While some elders wondered what was wrong with having grandparents help with child-rearing and babysitting duties, others argued that it is the expectation and assumption associated with it the court ruling was trying to prevent. The family court said it was a “a very prevalent presumption of majority Indian families’’ that “grandparents are a substitute for nannies.” Citing Gerontology, the court added, “It is time to look into the specific needs of the aged in our society.’’

Growing up with grandparents can create fond memories and the grandchildren-grandparent bond is one worth treasuring. However, when it comes to taking care of kids on a regular basis, we hope for both sides, it remains a choice, not an obligation.

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