A boomer grandma felt obliged to babysit her grandkids. She wanted her life back and stopped doing it.

  • Marjorie Hershberg said she'd jump in whenever her kids asked her to babysit.

  • She felt she couldn't say no. But then she realized she was exhausted and had her own life to lead.

  • Now Hershberg counsels so-called guilty grandmas who love their grandkids but need a break.

Marjorie Hershberg braced herself for what she feared would be an uncomfortable conversation with her daughter Michelle Curtis. The 66-year-old was concerned that her 4-year-old grandchild, Maisie, was confused about Hershberg's role in her life.

"She thought she had two separate homes — mine and her parents'," said Hershberg, who had set up a second and third bedroom in her house for Maisie and her little brother, Aidan.

Her verdict, she said, was prompted by Maisie saying, "Let's go to Mommy's house" as opposed to "Let's go to my house."

Hershberg, who watched her granddaughter and grandson every day, told Business Insider that she shared her worries with Curtis, 38, who worked full time.

"I said that I wasn't doing either of them a favor since Maisie wasn't sure whose house she belonged in," Hershberg said. She said that "as guilty" as she felt, she told Curtis that it wasn't healthy for the entire family.

"I also said that I was exhausted — that caring for such young kids was killing me," Hershberg said.

Hershberg advises other 'guilty grandmas' as part of her life-coaching business

She said that while Curtis was taken aback at first, her daughter came around and accepted the need to set boundaries. "I told her, 'I want Maisie to see me as Grandma, not her babysitter,'" Hershberg, a former teacher, said.

The frank exchange led to Curtis hiring a babysitter — and agreeing to call on her mom only for emergencies.

"I'm absolutely fine with that," Hershberg said, adding that the arrangement has given her the flexibility and freedom to enjoy getting older.

"I truly love my grandkids," she said, "but my husband and I have a life, too."

Marjorie Hershberg with her two daughters and four grandchildren.
Hershberg with her two daughters and four grandchildren.Courtesy of Marjorie Hershberg

Many boomers are eschewing tradition and declining to be hands-on grandparents. They're choosing to spend their retirement — and their money — on travel and entertainment.

It struck a chord with Hershberg, who now works as a life coach. She said she'd met other grandparents who were in a quandary about providing sometimes nearly limitless childcare for their loved ones. "On one hand, they want to help their children," she said. "On the other, they feel guilty for wanting their own space."

She said she launched her online counseling service, Guilty Grandma's Coaching, to help boomers navigate the issue tactfully.

"I've lived the experience," she told Business Insider. "I feel like I'm in a position to help seniors find a balance."

She helped her daughters as a baby nurse when their children were born

Hershberg said she was delighted when Curtis and her younger sister, Laura Levenstein, got pregnant in 2017. In fact, she said, they gave birth within a week of each other.

She said she was happy to be a "baby nurse" to support the first-time moms. "The beginning months can be overwhelming," she said. She cared mostly for Maisie since Curtis lived in the same town. Levenstein, now 35, lives a four-hour drive away.

Marjorie Hershberg in a kitchen with her granddaughter, Clara, in a high chair.
Hershberg cares for her granddaughter, Clara — but not full-time.Courtesy of Marjorie Hershberg

Hershberg said "discord" developed after Curtis returned to her job. "I had offered and was happy to watch Maisie for a while," Hershberg said. But she added that it wasn't the "funnest" of times.

"Parenting styles have changed," she said. "When my kids were little, I'd take them in the stroller and go meet my friends for lunch. If they took a nap in the stroller, it didn't matter."

She said the rules when it came to kids were less rigid back then. In contrast, she said, she found it hard to adhere to a schedule that revolved around Maisie's sleep patterns.

Hershberg also said she missed spending time with her husband, Eddy, 62. Because of childcare obligations, they couldn't stay for long weekends at their home in the country where they loved to hike.

She also wasn't being paid.

She asked her daughter to pay her a salary

Hershberg asked Curtis and her husband to start paying her the minimum wage. "I said, 'If you want me to do this for the long haul — from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. — you're going to have to share some of your salary,'" she said.

Marjorie Hershberg in a selfie with her husband, Eddy.
Hershberg and her husband, Eddy, enjoying time together.Courtesy of Marjorie Hershberg

Hershberg said the request caused "upset." However, she wound up earning $15 an hour. Three years later, she started to watch Aidan.

"I also got paid in happiness from those children," Hershberg said.

But she said the work became more challenging. "I had a lot of steps in my house," she said, adding that it was difficult to keep up with a rambunctious toddler. At the same time, she felt guilty if she declined to babysit.

"You think you are finally done with taking care of them and all their problems," Hershberg said of raising millennials. "And along comes this new child.

"This is when these kids really need your help, because they're two-income families and need childcare."

Hershberg resigned after Maisie seemed confused about whether she lived permanently at Grandma's or her parents' house. "It was the best thing I ever did," Hershberg said.

Hershberg shares her own life lessons with her clients

Hershberg told Curtis she'd provide a certain amount of childcare unpaid.

"I said, 'You have to call me in advance, and you have to respect that,'" Hershberg added. She also said she'd pitch in during a childcare emergency.

She struck the same deal with Levenstein, who now has a 3-year-old, Leah, and a 6-year-old, Clara.

Hershberg told Business Insider she shared her biggest takeaways with her life-coach clients.

"The main thing is not to commit to anything long term," she said, adding that she thinks grandparents have the right to be paid for extended childcare.

"Both sides have to establish ground rules and stick to them," she said.

Do you have a powerful story to share with Business Insider? Please send details to jridley@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider