Difference Between Grandparents Helping Physically vs Financially?

Updated on February 19, 2013
J.T. asks from Oradell, NJ
22 answers

This isn't really an issue. Just curious if I'm misunderstanding something. It seems like people criticize grown-ups for taking money from their parents. "Failure to launch" type thing. Yet no one seems to criticize when grown-ups have a lot of physical childcare help from the grandparents. I don't really have a bone to pick as I've had neither really. All the grandparents are too far away and fortunately we haven't needed any financial help. But why is there such a difference or do people view them the same way? I'm only talking about grandparents who have plenty of money vs their kids constantly overspending and their parents having to bail them out. I'm an older mom and honestly don't love toddlers so kind of foresee helping my kids a bit more financially than doing a lot of babysitting. Who knows - it's way off yet just what I picture. Yet sometimes people criticize that so much. Heaven forbid I help my kids finanically. But I see lots of grandparents doing childcare and somehow that's ok. (I'll readily admit I'm jealous of that.) What's the difference really? Sometimes I think some mothers rely on their own mothers too much but I'm not sure I could openly say that. Somehow it's ok but it wouldn't be ok if the grandmother paid for babysitting help?... Or am I misreading things?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I get what you mean help IS help.

The part that gets me is the people that EXPECT ( demand?) help -- financial or other types. Not cool.

You know what I mean:
"She watches the other grand kids all the time..."
"His new wife wastes more money that we're asking to borrow..."
"My mom wants me to bring my kids there, but it would be so much easier if she came here at 6:00 am...."
Those kinds.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I don't know either - all I know is I see an awful lot of grandparents doing a great deal of child raising in today's times.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

I know, right?

In our area full time childcare ranges from a normal of 1600-2500 per month PER child.

If my mum had cut me a $2500 check each month, it would be <gasp!>. But since she watched my son for me, instead, its smiles & warmth & "that's so lucky!"

I see "it" as the ongoing trend of "American Fear". Its predominantly a lower middle class to solid middle class fear of someone, somewhere, having it "easier" than they do or did.... And seeing that as either an attack on themselves, or as a confirmation of their own superiority (anyone who has it "easier" in their minds assumed to be either incapable or morally deficient).

I call it an American thing, because in all my travels, Ive only come across this attitude here.

Elsewhere the attitude is more commonly that everyone is doing the best they can with what they've got... And to paraphrase a mom on here from last week... Everyone has choices and options, some people have more options.

Not that jealousy doesn't exist elsewhere, nor that the idea of "our way is best" doesn't exist elsewhere... But the fear of others having "more" (and actively blocking social service programs to those who have least), and the character assassination? Not so much. Isolated phenomenon, instead of a cultural norm.

I should add... There are definitely culture groups that DONT do this here in this country. But they're definitely "culture islands". LOL, that usually have their own prejudices as well.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I don't think there is a difference beyond how often, how much. If your parents give you a few dollars here or there, so what. If your parents watch your kids here or there, so what.

When you have a child you can't afford and expect your parents to pay what is equal to child support, you have a problem. If you have a kid and expect your parents to be your day care, you have a problem.

This is not to say some parents have money that they would rather share while they are living or parents that want to watch their grandkids. It is just when it is expected, necessary, and you feel you are entitled, yeah, I am going to bad mouth you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My father is somewhat well off. He's blatantly told me that if I need it, he'll pay for my kids' college tuition. He's also paying for our home remodel. I've not asked for either of these things. His view is I'm getting the money someday anyway, he'd rather see me enjoy it while he's alive.

I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel to have such generous parents. They are wonderful people who gave me a fantastic childhood. They are also phenomenal grandparents. Calm, caring, loving to my kids and my nephew and nieces. They are what I strive to be in my marriage, my relationship with my kids and someday my grandkids.

You can probably guess, I have absolutely no problem "getting financial help" from my parents. My husband makes a great salary. We don't necessarily need the help. But it HAS made life quite a bit easier. I'm not going to say no to my folks' very generous offers. I don't feel like I'm sponging off of them and I don't feel like my pride is taking a hit either.

Unfortunately, they live on the other side of the world from me, so there was no real opportunity to have them watch my kids on a regular basis when they were young. My niece and nephew, however, who live in the same city as them, see them several times a week - in fact most times when I Skype with them, they're together. They are model grandparents. My brother, sister and I are extremely lucky.

I guess what I'm saying is it's different for different families. In MY family, we all have no problem with accepting help from our parents, be it financial OR physical. My parents are able and happy to do it. If they weren't able or happy about it, then we wouldn't accept help from them. We'd love them and respect them no less. And I would feel just as lucky having such awesome parents.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

To me the difference is volunteering vs asking/expecting.

If you volunteer to help pay for childcare, or watch the kids on Fridays or to pay for Billy to go to camp, to me that is fine. You are the one making the decision to part with your time and/or money.

If you offer to watch your grandkids vs daycare, and are paid for your time, an amount less than or equal to a public daycare, I am fine with that.

If on the other hand, you are in a situation where your kid expects you to watch the kids during the week because other daycare is expensive and well, you are free, I am NOT okay with that.

If you are expected to loan (i.e. never see it again) your kid money because they went out and partied before planning, I am not okay with that.

My daughter is enrolled in 2 dance classes. My Mom offered to pay a portion of the tuition. I did not ask her to do it. She said that she had paid for each of her girls to take dance and so she was going to pay for her granddaughter too.

I live in the neighborhood with both sets of grandparents. My mom used to babysit for us (with pay), but that ended due to medical issues. My kids now hang out at a neighbors house before and after school and in the summer. The grandparents are backups for emergencies and sickness when they can't go to school or daycare. They also know that if they want, they can call and have the kids come down, most any time they want.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

My niece paid my sister to babysit her kids the same rate it would have cost her at full time child care. It allowed my sister to build her Etsy business and make a name for herself. She does over $15K per year in profits now that both kids are in school full days. When they are out of school she watches them on those days. She has the kids and they get her attention but she has time to sew when they're napping or watching TV or playing piano with their grandpa.

They have a good life.

So I think that having a grandparent or parent watch the kids is a good thing when it's equitable.

We had a class in Relief Society where an attorney from another Ward came and talked about helping the kids once they are out on their own. He talked about how even when the goal is to stay married and work through any issues that sometimes divorce happens. He taught the parents how to word things where their children were the owners of what they helped with. How to word it where it might not offend the spouse that was a good mate too.

He also talked about inheritances going to married children. How a spouse could take that money or property and use it, lose it, throw it away. There was a lot of information about how to help your kids.

All parents want to see their kids make something of themselves. They want to see them succeed.

Right now I have 2 friends that are helping their adult children who are married and have children of their own go to college to continue their careers, one is going to become a doctor and is over half way through medical school. One is going for his Masters in Business. They are both working on their degrees and both sets of parents are helping this family so the mom can stay home and the husband can go to school full time without the worries of work to keep him from making straight A's.

They also buy groceries for them in the form of food storage. My friend is so faithful in this and she has all the tools, canners, and grinders needed for them to stay fed for years.

The other one is helping her daughter go to college for her teaching degree. Her kids are all in school and she wants to go to work. So mom and dad are helping them each month. They supply them with food storage items too. Groceries for a family can take up a huge chunk of the budget so having that taken care of it phenomenal.

So I think if you have kids that are trying to better themselves and have proven they are not wasting your resources for non-gainful things then you should help if you can find a way to do so that would not put you in a position where you could lose part of your own household.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think this is a great question and it did come up the other day when one mom was jealous of a friend who had parents who helped her husband and her financially. I believe it was framed as a 'lifestyle choice,' if I remember correctly.

Anyway, the only difference to me is that if I had a child who needed care-giving (so they are not school age yet), and a grandparent offered to take care of the child while I worked, that is more valuable to me than financial help to pay for daycare, personally. Because I would rather my child be with a family member than in hired help's house or a daycare facility. Of course, this comes w/ caveats like only if grandma/grandpa is a good, balanced person who can physically/mentally handle the task.

But otherwise, I agree with you ... help is help. And for some reason financial help comes w/ more of a stigma.

And hey, you may surprise yourself when grandkids arrive. My mom refused to watch our daughter when we first asked her (when I was pregnant). Her reply was that 'she wanted to be grandma, not babysitter.' Hmmm. Funny thing, though. When she heard that my husband's mom jumped at the chance, wow, she started singing a different tune. Then baby arrived and she was in loooooove. Changed her mind pretty quick. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think Jo really summed it up perfectly!

My husband's parents are deceased so obviously there are no grandparents on that side. My parents have babysat some and helped us financially a couple of times (nothing regular-just a new dishwasher here, and a few hundred towards a new furnace there). We have never asked for or expected their help. They are financially set and have offered it gladly. My mother begs me to babysit because she enjoys being with her grandchildren.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I have a lot of Grandparent friends, via the ones I know at my kids' school.
And THEY do ALL the babysitting/daily/dropping off and picking up the kids afterschool/taking them to their lessons etc.
THUS... the Grandparents have no time for "retirement" nor any time to do their own personal appointments/Doctor appointments/Dentist etc. nor anytime off.
Because, the parents, even if they are working, just EXPECT the Grandparents to babysit, whenever... because they are seen as "Grandparents" who have nothing else... to do. And are home.

Now, these Grandparents I know... DO "grumble" about it. Because, they are old/tired/have their own medical concerns/mobility issues etc., and they are also driving their Grandkids, around. While the parents are working or busy with their own lives.
And they do not get paid for it, nor anything else.
Sure, some of these Grandparents do tell their kids, that they don't want to do babysitting so frequently or they are busy. But then, they get a guilt trip put on them. Or are given attitude, by their grown kids who have kids.
So it, sucks. For the Grandparent.
And being they are "free" childcare, well, that is another issue, right?

Sure, there are Grandparents that do not mind. They just want to get to see their grandkids. So they babysit.
So, they are stuck in the middle.

Me: I do not, EXPECT my Mom to babysit my kids. Even if my Mom lives with us. I do not, expect her to do this. And even if I do, it is only once in a blue moon that I ask her, and then it is only for a couple of hours. And I have all my kids meals etc. prepped already. To lessen the "burden" on her. And my Mom, will even say sometimes, that she is too tired or busy herself. So she speaks up.
Regardless, I never make her feel guilty for not wanting to babysit etc. That is just wrong, to do so.
No Grandparent, HAS TO... babysit. To me, this is not a have to thing.
It is a choice. And it should be up to the Grandparent.
Some Grandparents simply do not have the energy nor the health... to babysit.

And yes, I know some parents, that simply seem to busy to even be around their kids. They use their parents as babysitters just so that they can go out all the time by themselves.

Some people can afford childcare, but use their parents as babysitters. Even if the Grandparents are elderly or have health problems or mobility problems. They are not cognizant... of their own parent's mental or health concerns. And to me, this is selfish.
For example: I know one Grandpa... that while watching his Grandson, he fell. He fell & hit his head. And had to go to the hospital. He got bandaged up. He is elderly. His wife was home as well, luckily. Because if not, what would the Toddler do? And he'd be laying there, unconscious. Real safety problem.
Then the next day, he was babysitting again. Good grief. Because, the parents didn't think much of it.

So, because I have many Grandparent friends, and I HEAR all this, and they tell me... in a venting manner... I really empathize with them. They do a TON, for their Grandkids and are, not really appreciated for it. But they are unsung heroes. Some Grandparents are with their Grandkids more than the parents, are. Sad.

No Grandparent, HAS TO... help financially or physically, for their adult children, to babysit or to provide material or monetary, help.
But if they want to, and are appreciated for it, that is fine.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I would gladly accept either, but it's not going to happen...

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answers from Chicago on

It depends on the situation. I'm the one who originally brought this up, and the main difference is that I REIMBURSE MY PARENTS for their babysitting. I don't just expect it. They don't babysit all that often (a few hours a month), and like I said, they get reimbursed for it. We don't exchange cash, but hubby and I are taking them on vacation this summer, and we have them over for expensive dinners all the time as a way to say "Thank you." We use them, as opposed to a real sitter, because they love their time with their grandkids. But I launched from my parents home years ago, and hubby and I take pride in providing for ourselves.

Jo W's answer is dead on. There are different ways of failing to launch, and it can be both physical and financial.

My biggest peeve with my friend was that she relied on public aid, when hubby and her are both physical and emotionally capable of having real jobs making real money, but then she cries "life style choice." Her parents then further enable this by buying them everything else they need.

And guess who gets to take care of them when they are old? Hubby and me, because we put aside tons of money every month planning for retirement. My friend isn't preparing for anytihng. She has failed to launch, and her parents are doing her a grave disservice because I don't think her parents are wealthy. They won't be leaving them with enough money to support themselves when they are gone.

I honestly could careless if my friend wants to live in poverty when she is old. What bothers me is her comments about "it's all about life style choices" when other people are footing her bills. It's more than a failure to launch, it's a sign of irresponsibilitiy. I similiarly get ticked off when I see people using their public food dollars to buy baby food in those expensive food pouches. Come on, people, make your own damn food, especially if you have no money. It costs next to nothing......

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think part of the difference is that there is an expectation that having grandparents physically care for their grandchildren provides benefits to the grandparents and grandchildren, as well as the parents. Whether that's truly the case, I think that tends to even out the scales for most people. Receiving financial support looks more like it's all taking on one side and giving on the other, which is what I think many find objectionable.

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answers from Chicago on

I will never have either luxury since I don't have family besides 1 sister. I have friends that have these luxuries and I am happy for them. I plan on doing both when I have grandbabies, God willing.

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answers from Chicago on

I try not to count who is doing what, as, if everyone is being the most loving they can be, it all works out in the end.

But now, thinking back on it, I can see how we all played our parts. My parents took great care of me as a kid; I took great care of my little brothers; my mom comes for 1 wk to care for my other kids when I have babies, and when my family comes to town she always offers to babysit so we can go out.

My grandparents watched me until I went to Kindergarten; I rode my bike to my grandparents' apartment every day in the summers to help with my grandpa who had Parkinsons (this included dressing him in the morning, taking him to the bathroom and shower, processing his food and thickening his beverages and spoon feeding him, and staying until bedtime to put him back to bed).

Some day, my parents and my in-laws won't be able to care for themselves any longer. My in-laws will be moving back in with us in the next few years so that we can help them more, and they can help us more. They will age in our home, and we will take care of them for as long as possible. They watched my oldest son from birth to 18 mos.

My in-laws left behind a fortune in Iraq so that they could give their kids the freedom offered in the US. My MIL was an OB/Gyn, my FIL a mechanical engineer. When they came to the US they found factory and retail jobs, and are still working today (72 and 73 yrs old). They gave us $10,000 for our wedding and $40k for the downpayment on our home. We have been paying them back ever since, and will assume all of their financial obligations once they move in with us.

Circle of life, and as long as everyone is acting out of love for eachother, there's no need to keep score of physical or financial help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

From the receiving end, it's about pride. It's one thing for the grandparents to help provide care for the kids, so you can save money and get ahead, partly because it's what grandparents are supposed to do-spent time doting on their grandkids. It's much harder to have to take money from grandparents to help cover expenses, because as an adult (especially one with kids) you're supposed to be able to make it financially on your own. When you do have to rely on grandparents for financial help, you feel like a failure and others look at you the same.
My MIL has watched my niece (6) and nephew(4) 2 days a week since they were 6 weeks old, because she wants to spend time with them and because they wanted to help with childcare costs. She does this all year round, 7 am to 5-6 pm, even though my BIL is a teacher and is off in the summers. She will do this again when their third arrives in August. They both have good jobs, regular promotions, never been laid off, never had financial struggles.
My MIL watches my children (4 and 2) 1 day a week from about 11 am to 5-6 pm, basically whenever she wants to pick them up and bring them back, and has since they were about 8 weeks old. She will do this when our #3 arrives in June. I have a home daycare, so childcare costs aren't a factor for us. That's part of why she only takes my kids one day a week, the other part being she only has one day to spare. My income fluctuates and my husband was laid off from 3 jobs from '09-11. We have had some major financial struggles. My mom has helped us out with loans that we repay with interest, but can drop to interest only when times are really rough. Even though my husband is now making almost twice what he used to make, our expenses are higher and when the daycare has sudden losses and is light, as it is right now, we are strapped. My in-laws just offered to pay for the majority of the costs of the Spanish-immersion pre-k we want our daughter to go to next year. Without their help or a major increase in my business, it would have been extremely difficult, but our only option to get her into the K-6 immersion program in the future. It would only be one year of cost, as it's a public school. We didn't ask for the money from them, but gratefully accepted when they offered. It's hard to do, to admit that we can't just grab what money we need out of a savings account. In a way, we feel like lesser parents.
If you look at it objectively, we actually "cost" a lot less than my BIL/SIL do:
$5000 once for pre-k ($20000 if they make the offer for all of our children-want 4)
approximately $80/ week X 52 weeks X 5 years X 3 kids
Still, people would never bat an eye at the situation my MIL and BIL/SIL have, but would (and I'm sure WILL) have comments on our situation-ie. If they can't afford to pay for pre-k, why send her? Why does she have to go to such an expensive program? Why are they having another baby if they can't afford the children they have already? When are they going to manage their money better?
Other people would look down on my BIL/SIL because of all the time committment they require from my MIL so they can save a few bucks.
Helping your adult children either costs you time and saves them money or costs you money. How you help will be appreciated no matter what you choose.

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answers from Chicago on

I think everyone has their own solution. If my mother were in a position that she could/would be full time day care for my son (paid, of course) I would take her up. If my mom were in a financial position to help I would accept it but also help her in other ways around the house in return. My mother is near my other sister and helps out with her older daughter who is easier to keep than my son. In fact, my mother came to me for 10 days to help out (day care problems) and see if she could temporarily take over - everyone was fine at the end of the day but my mom was exhausted. My son requires a bit more of everything than typical kids do.

My fiance's mother constantly helps out (geography and physical condition allows) in many ways, she buys him his winter coat every few years - but she buys them for ALL the grandkids it's her "thing." If she picks him up for a "date" and they go shopping she buys him what ever she sees fit, shoes, jeans shirts etc. My son's school requires uniforms so much of his play clothes she has bought. My son's always had issues with having his hair cut - her hair dresser (bless her) is the ONLY woman we have found that is able to cut his hair, she pays for that. When we lived apart from his parents she would randomly send us a few hundred here and there and would send us very nice gifts. It's just kinda how she (his mom) operates, we don't fight it there is no point.

Some people just want to help, they help with money OR with time/physicaly. I do not see us as failure to launch, but slow to launch maybe, his brother IS failure to launch and his sister is OFF AND RUNNING and we all get equal "aide" from grandma.

I think it is ALL personal perspective/perception.

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answers from El Paso on

I, personally, couldn't accept either. The only way I could accept regular babysitting from grandparents is in one of 2 situations: 1) I pay them or 2) it's only once or twice a month and only for a few hours so my husband and I can have a date night or something.

As it is, neither one of these situations even COULD apply to us as we live so far away from our families, but we're both very much into self-reliance. It would take a REALLY bad situation for us to accept either free babysitting (on a regular basis) or money from our parents.

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answers from Dallas on

I am not there yet so I will qualify my answer with that.

Either physically or financially can be a good thing or a bad thing. It can be incredibly helpful or enabling. There are more than a few factors that can influence it. Your attitude, their attitude, who decides on how it's spent or when the child has enough. It can cause dependence or resentment. Who needs all that?

I didn't have either kind of help, so those kinds of feelings didn't play a factor in my relationships. You admitted your jealousy and so I will too.
I was jealous of people with families who lived close and could watch kids. Or people who didn't have to be careful with their spending because grandparents made up the difference. Most benefitted greatly both ways.

Some however, failed miserably. They depended on finances from GPs to the point they put pressure on GPs. Or never appreciated anything and wasted so much that my kids never had the chance to even dream about.
Or GPs expected the money to be spent a certain way that caused friction and hardship because they were so unreasonable.

Child care is not appreciated the way it should be.even the poorest GPs can provide child care. And do it cheerfully.
I could only dream of not taking my sick kids with me to get their medicine.
I could only dream of date nights or exercising at a gym. Those things you can buy but it's great to have grandparents around to keep them. It too, can be exploited but it's just not put in the same category as financial support.

I think you may have seen the rant on here about the girl who had a friend who talked about lifestyle choices when her friend's lifestyle choices were funded by GPs. It just is not authentic to compare when one has GP help and one does not. Occasional gifts are good. Only you and yours can decide on financial gifts and it's inherent problems.

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answers from New York on

Really it's no body's business. If you want to financially help your DD or DS with their children financially, then do it. The Chinese do it all the time and think nothing of it. I think it's really a cultural thing. Here people aren't really looking down on grandma handing out money. They are looking down on people accepting money from grandma, because grandparents are often viewed as being poor and living off a fixed income, so people think senior citizens need every dime they get in order to pay for their food, shelter, and medical bills. Some DDs and DSs don't like their parents giving them money, because it make them look like they are still depending on their parents rather than being independant to their friends. As my husband put it, "America's a tough place with tough people, so you have to be able to take care of yourself." Personally I don't see anything wrong with it; however, it feels funny to me when MIL tries to give us money. I was brought up never to accept money from my parents unless I was really in a big "pickle." It also makes me feel like my MIL has a bigger say in what is bought with that money. For example:MIL decided to buy us a living room set. We argued over the furniture. I wanted a nice tradition set that actually went with the room, since it's an old victorian style house with the octagon rooms. I had already hung victorian style curtains. Also it's my house too, since DH and I bought it all by ourselves without her help. MIL prefered a sectional, which I felt was too big for the room. DH wanted leather furniture. We literally yelled at each other in the store, especially when DH walked right up to the first leather furniture he saw. It was a set that could be a leather sectional! DS and I tried to get him to at least look at the other leather furniture in hopes he would at least pick something smaller. No, the only compromise was that we didnt' buy the corner pieces. So now I have 2 huge leather couches in that room. One is 2 recliners attached to a console and the other is a 3 seat couch with 2 recliners. Guess what? Now MIL and DH admit I was right. The furniture is too big and bulky, cold, and smells like a shoe factory! A little too late for that. The company won't take it back. The moral of my story is that even though, DH picked the furniture, MIL bought it since she liked it too. If she didn't meddle in our business, we wouldn't have gotten it since it was too expensive in the first place and would have smaller more delicate furniture that fit the room.

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answers from Bellingham on

I see both as being part of a loving family. I have helped my family out financially when they needed it, and my family have helped me financially. Same goes for physical help. My parents, and my husband's' mom have helped look after our children, and we look after them when they need it. It all seems part of helping family to me.

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answers from Detroit on

I wouldn't say that I'm jealous of families in either position-I DO hope that they realize how lucky they are and return any involvement with adequate graditude.
My mother lives too far to babysit. She does go to a local waterpark with us annually and it IS very helpful ( she can take younger kids to the room for snacks, or naps while we play with the older kids).
My father passed in 2011 and had many health issues prior to passing. He was great with the kids, and I feel fortunate that I was able to help him often-even while juggling a full time job, full time college, and four kids.
Both my parents tried to give me money from time to time, and it took some practice-but I had to learn to accept it occasionally (my dad would get upset because I ALWAYS refused) I usually put it towards activites with/for the kids.
DH's Dad is gone and his mother is "too frail" to handle the kids for longer than 5 minutes.
I grew up in a family that met up weekly at grandmas house. Everyone would bring things (food, drinks, chlorine for the pool) and help each other out. I wish that I could do something similar for my kids-even once a year-but everyone's too busy nowadays.

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