Ask Grandma Maggie

Parenting & Childcare Advice
Peggy Moss (1933-2014), also known as Grandma Maggie, penned a parenting column on this site for many years. Back by popular demand, we are republishing the column, sharing with you the best of Grandma Maggie’s parenting and childcare advice.
Unfortunately Grandma Maggie is no longer able to take questions.

My teen sister ignores her baby!

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baby-215303_640Dear Grandma Maggie,

I’m 21- year-old college student and I currently live with my parents and my younger sister, who is 18. Two years ago my sister gave birth to a little girl, named Katie, and ever since things have been, well, a little complicated. I understand that my sister is young, but even now, after two years, she still refuses to fully accept her responsibility as a parent.

At first, my mother only watched Katie while my sister worked, but for the last year or so my mother has been virtually raising this child. What really upsets me is the fact that my sister (or my mother, as the case may be) will put the baby to sleep, around 8 o’clock, and then my sister will take off with her boyfriend (not the baby’s father) and stay out till 2 or 3 in the morning, leaving my mother to tend to Katie when she wakes up, around 11 or 12 o’clock, almost every night!

I try to help out when I can, but even so my mother has been looking more and more run-down. I know its due to her late nights, but the problem is my mother won’t say or do anything about it. I believe (and I’m sure my mother would agree) that its time for my sister to step up to plate and abandon her carefree, and somewhat unhealthy, lifestyle.

I want to say something to my sister about her behavior and the affect its having on the family, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Also, my fiancee knows about the situation and I’m afraid he’ll open his big mouth, say something stupid, and get us all in trouble! What do I say to her? Should I say anything at all? I just want my niece to have a mother, not a drinking buddy!

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me.

Candy

Dear Candy,

You are right about this. It’s time your sister stepped up to the plate. In fact it’s past time. But if she lives with the family and the house rules say she can stay out every night until 2 or 3 A.M., then I hardly think she will get that message. Your mother must tell her that she is “off duty” at 6 P.M. and the bath and bedtime is your sister’s responsibility, as is being there when her daughter wakes up during the night. As long as your mom is taking care of that child, your sister has no need to be home. Having said that, let me say a big hurrah to all the grandparents who step in when needed. I would hate to see your niece neglected in any way and it just might happen if your mother abdicates as the main caretaker, so be prepared for that.

It’s hard for anyone to be a good mother, but there are 18 year olds who can do it. I would encourage your mother to tell your sister what’s expected of her or ask your mom if she wants you to do it, or possibly the two of you together. It would be important to NOT be judgmental but to just lay it out as being too hard for your mother, and this is what your sister needs to do. I will add that I think your fiance should not be the one to say anything. It’s really not his business.

Good luck.
Grandma Maggie