Dear Carolyn: This summer, my mom retired from her long career as a librarian because she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren — my small kids and my older nieces and nephews. My siblings and I advised against this. She loved her work, and she does not do well with unstructured time.

And now, reality is not matching her expectations. We all have busy schedules, though I have tried to squeeze time out of each week for my kids to see her. So Mom is sitting home alone or coming up with ways to fill her time, and it saddens her, and me. She does not try to guilt me about it, but I feel bad anyway because maybe I should have been even more forceful in warning her against retiring for the grandkids.

Do I have a responsibility to make my kids more available?

— Regretting

Regretting: [This is plainly pre-pandemic advice, but I could use a little sunshine.]

You did nothing wrong, so, no guilt. She made her own choice.

I don’t think you have a responsibility to fix this, either, but maybe you could all benefit from a little creative thinking. The busier families are, the more opportunities for an extra adult to be a godsend. She is fully mobile and capable, yes? So, maybe she’d be thrilled to do pickups, a run to a lesson or practice, anything that isn’t taxing — no fair putting her to “work” unless she volunteers for it. Time with them solo also allows her to develop her own relationships with these kids.

Just talking about it with her might prompt other ideas. “How’s it going? I know you want to see the kids more.” Then float the idea of pitching in, no heavy lifting.

Re: Retirement: When my mother-in-law retired from a career as a librarian, the first thing she did was volunteer at the kids' school in the library (with our permission and the kids' blessing). Libraries always need volunteers — experienced ones even more. The school had no problem scheduling her for when my kids had library time. The kids love it — they get to see Grandma at school! And she gets to see the kids every week in their "natural habitat." Wins all around.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Brilliant.

Carolyn: Oh, wow, this IS brilliant. I hesitate to ask her to babysit, since I hate for it to seem like she has to pay a price (dealing with tantrums, potty, snacks, etc.) to see the kids. So this is a great solution.

***REAL-TIME UPDATE: I just texted her to ask what she thought of it, and she's going to look into it on Monday!!

— Regretting again

Regretting again: Real-time update! This is so great.

I would also like to share that I read it as “potty snacks.”

And, while I’m here, I think it’s also fine to say you haven’t asked her to babysit because you don’t want her to feel obligated. She then will be able to say, “Thank you for understanding,” or, “Ooh, ask me! I’ve been waiting for you to offer, not wanting to butt in.” When you’re afraid of miscommunication, it can help sometimes to communicate about communicating: “I’m not always sure how to handle ____. Do you have a preference?”

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