Dear Abby: Grandma’s happy to babysit kids, but only on her terms

She won’t allow her grandchildren to come into her (cluttered, smelly) house, and insists their parents be home by 9 p.m.

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DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have two elementary-aged children. My mother occasionally babysits for us and freely volunteers to do so. If we sometimes hire sitters, she seems offended. However, she insists she must watch the children in our home, never hers.

While we appreciate her time, it would be lovely to drop the children off at her home occasionally rather than have to leave our house if we want a date night. I have made gentle suggestions, which she invariably declines. I should mention the condition of her home is borderline hoarder status. We have offered to sort things with her, and even hire a company to help her move anything she could part with.

Her house is starting to smell funny and it’s definitely not very clean. I’m at a loss about why she won’t address this. It’s not a time issue; she’s retired. I suspect she’s deliberately making the house unwelcoming to avoid having anyone over, including her grandchildren.

When she babysits at our house, she sets a very early end time (i.e., 9 p.m.), then complains about how tired she is and gets a bit martyrish, although she has told me on many other occasions that she enjoys our kids and they are “easy” to watch. I can’t help but feel this issue might be resolved at her house. Am I unreasonable, or do you have other suggestions? — DATE NIGHT IN MICHIGAN

DEAR DATE NIGHT: You aren’t being unreasonable. I would describe your attitude as “entitled.” Your mother is also entitled. She’s entitled to set the time and place in which she will be performing this free service for you. If your date will extend beyond the time your mom is “available,” you will have to hire someone else, and she will have to accept it.

P.S. Continue to press your mom about the issue of her hoarding, because it may be a symptom of a larger problem.

DEAR ABBY: My partner, “Josh,” is a musician who insists on still practicing with the band even though he doesn’t have gigs. We have two fragile family members who would die if they got COVID-19, so we have tried to avoid any risks. Yet he still does band practice with people outside our household. The bandmates are not careful like we are and one even has weekly gigs with another band!

I want to ask Josh to stop band practice altogether, but I’m afraid he will resent me, fly off the handle and ultimately end our relationship. I wish I didn’t have to worry and ask this stuff, but he keeps putting himself in situations that violate everything we have worked so hard to accomplish. Why is it so hard for him to give up in-person practice? Why can’t he put everyone’s safety first? I’m so conflicted, Abby. What do I do? — BAND GIRLFRIEND IN NEW YORK

DEAR GIRLFRIEND: If you are as deeply worried about the safety of your medically fragile relatives as you have stated, YOU should end the relationship. Josh may need to practice with his bandmates so they don’t replace him. He cannot be responsible for their behavior, and for you to expect him to be is unrealistic.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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