This is part of my online book on Healthy Boundaries Made Simple.
One reader asked:
How do I convince my Mom to stop indoctrinating my twin boys when she babysits? I left the [Redacted] church long ago, and I don’t want my kids brainwashed by its teachings.
Being a parent is really hard. Kids need constant food, supervision, and when they’re young, diaper changes. And the only thing harder than having one kid is parenting twins. Double trouble all of the time.
There’s nothing better than having family members to babysit! Built-in babysitters are a lifesaver when you need to work, run errands, or have a simple reprieve.
With that said, this free labor comes with limitations. You see, babysitters are a package deal. You get someone to take care of your boys, but you also get their customs, traditions, and general approach to caregiving. And you get their religion, too, because it’s part of who they are. Part of the babysitting package.
There are exceptions to this. Your Mom must be mindful of anything that causes harm, e.g., food allergies.
But outside of that, you can’t require anything of your Mom. Even bedtimes—which I’m a huge fan of!—can’t be mandated. You might request that the boys be in bed by 8 PM, but she might let them stay up. She has autonomy and might feed them rocky road and Red Vines until the wee hours. And she might read them stories from her religious books.
This is doubly true when your kids stay at your Mom’s house. You can’t mandate what she says or does in her own home. Her house, her rules.
Now, if any of this sounds unreasonable or unfair, let’s consider the golden rule, which says: Treat people the way you want to be treated.
You don’t want people controlling what you say and do in your own home. Your house, your rules. Likewise, when you offer free babysitting, others can’t dictate your general approach to caregiving. They might request things, like a specific bedtime, but it’s really up to you as a caregiver to decide what to do.
When a parent asks you to babysit, they’re getting all of you. There’s no splitting the caregiving part of you off from the rest of your soul. No horcruxing allowed! You’re a whole person, and when you babysit, you bring all of you. If someone doesn’t like that, they can find another babysitter.
So, to the reader who asked the original question, I would say you can’t require your Mom to not discuss her religion when she watches your kids. You can request that she not do this and then wait and see what she does. If she continues to share things you don’t like, perhaps it’s time to find a new babysitter.
In addition, this is a good time to share with your twins an age-appropriate version of what you believe. Express what’s in your heart, how you view morality, and how you decide what is ethical and fair. And just as importantly, show them what you believe with your actions, with how you treat them.
As your boys grow up, they’ll be exposed to a dozen different beliefs and worldviews. You can’t shield them from every ideology and philosophy. All you can do is show them what you believe and trust that they’ll figure things out for themselves.