So, you have become a grandmother! Congratulations! And let’s be honest, the coronavirus can’t really dull the event.
Well, then, how are you feeling about it? Excited? Apprehensive? Not ready to see yourself as a grandma? Join the club. Many of us feel that way at first.
Just after my second grandson was born, I decided to write a book exploring how women feel about being a grandmother, based on interviews I conducted with grandmothers from a range of backgrounds.
It seemed such a complex subject, with so much to talk about. I had already written other books of this kind, so it was just taking a slightly new path.
In the course of writing it, I learned a lot about how grandmothers of all shapes and sizes feel when a brand-new person enters the family. The book is full of quotations, and I’ve decided to share a few of them with you.
However, I should note that the women interviewed were very open and honest – in some cases exploring painful difficulties within their own family – and were promised anonymity. In consequence, they are not named.
The main thing grandmothers think about is the baby, of course. Will he or she be OK? Is he or she healthy? And then there is your response to the baby. You may be more excited than you ever imagined:
“It really is like falling in love. You’ve got this all-encompassing, must-protect-at-all-costs feeling – a glow. It’s wonderful. You’ve got to do everything you possibly can to make sure that nothing ever, ever happens to this person.”
Some feel an important bond:
“There’s an immediate kind of recognition – it’s a look in the eye, it’s a feeling of ‘you and I understand each other’. I can’t explain it, but there’s definitely a bond with a new baby.”
With a new baby in the family, everyone focuses on the baby, but you are the mother of one of the parents, and you can’t help but wonder how they will cope.
This can lead to a lot of worrying:
“I got too involved at first. I used to worry are they doing the right thing? Are they getting up in the night? Are they doing it all different to how I’d done it? – I was almost in a panic. It was their way, not my way, and I found that quite difficult.”
And this also leads to the difficult issue of proffering advice:
“Every grandmother has to be issued with a zip. There’s a fine line between help and interference, and you have to learn it. Nobody can teach it to you, because everybody’s experience is different.”
Maybe you never thought about your involvement in all this before, but you will be confronted with an important question: how much childcare do you want to do? Perhaps your daughter is going back to work and needs your help. Or it would be helpful for her to have a day off.
But what do you want to do? Just the occasional day or evening babysit – or something more. Some grandparents are keen to be involved, but not everyone is:
“When the first one was born, I said, ‘I’m not a babysitting grandmother.’ Which meant that I didn’t want to say that every Thursday I could be a babysitting grandmother. I couldn’t, because I was still earning a living. Of course, I did look after them at times or in the evening.”
A new grandchild affects not only the parents, but the whole family. Your husband becomes a grandfather. Your other children become aunts and uncles, your parents – if they are still alive – become great-grandparents. It casts a wide net:
“You see all the family strands playing through. It’s like a form of weaving, the fabric of families coming together, and you start to write another story together – I find that so moving. Suddenly we’re making this new fabric.”
But don’t forget about yourself. Oh my goodness, you have a new role in life and a new title! It is quite shocking, because it makes you think of your own grandmother, as seen through your childish eyes – and she was old! You’re not old, of course, just mature.
Perhaps you have a problem with the image:
“My first reaction when I heard I was going to be a grandmother was, oh God, that’s not very sexy. I was in my fifties and I was having a relationship with someone who said he’d never been to bed with a grandmother. I just told him he could have a new experience…”
But it does make you stop and think about who you are and your future:
“Becoming a grandmother makes you question the fragility of life. You feel you are moving up, passing on. You wonder how long you have to live. There’s another generation that has come up – and you belong to the one who would have to leave to make room. I’m not eternal. I’d just like to see what’s going to happen.”
There is nothing like a new generation to set the mind wandering. What will the world be like when this baby is grown-up? How will he or she affect everyone involved? What is it all about?
“Khalil Gibran said children are the arrows – you’ve got the bow and the parent shoots the arrow, but they’re no longer yours. They have to live their own lives. Grandparenting is a bit like that. You have to help them as the springboard to start them off and hope that they will live well, that they will care about themselves and about other people.”
And this is just a few of the issues that new grandparents think about.
Welcome to a new adventure.
What does grandparenting mean to you? Are you a new grandparent? Do you recognise these issues as matters you think about? Do you have other concerns? Please share them so we can chat about them below.