In my experience, grandmas naturally love to help other people. Even if we consider ourselves to be “modern grandmas,” with our own passions, we still find time to take care of our families and share our wisdom with the world. Many of us, for one reason or another, have even found ourselves raising our grandchildren full-time.
This begs an important question though. If we are taking care of everyone else, who is taking care of us? Of course, part of the answer to this question is that family relationships should be reciprocal. Just as we support our kids and grandkids, we should expect to be supported by them too.
In reality, things aren’t always this simple. Our kids are often busy and stressed. Our grandkids are, well… kids. In addition, the social relationships that we spend decades building when we were working may have weakened in recent years.
This is one of the reasons that I think it is so important for us to come together and support each other. As grandmas, we have a common set of experiences. We face many of the same challenges and opportunities – and we don’t need to face them alone.
Part of the challenge is simply finding other grandmas to talk to. Some of us have friends who are grandmas, but, not all of us. In addition, our friends are often not available when we need them.
This is one of the reasons that I started Sixty and Me. I wanted to create a place for women our age to support each other. For the most part, I think we’ve been successful, but, there is always more that we could do.
So, today, I am so happy to introduce you to another wonderful community for older women. In my interview with the founder of the GaGa Sisterhood, Donne Davis, I discuss the importance of finding social support as a grandma. Donne explains that her community is designed to address precisely this issue.
Please watch my interview with Donne Davis and join the conversation at the end of this article.
For Donne, the GaGa Sisterhood was a product of love. She wanted to help women like us to explore and discuss what it means to be a grandmother today. From the beginning, Donne wanted to help modern grandmas to feel empowered and socially connected.
Donne’s desire to start her community also came from her own personal situation. Donne loved her young grandchild with all of her heart. At the same time, she was trying to balance the need to pursue her own passions. She felt like she needed other older women to talk to, women who understood what she was going through.
As a first step, she wrote a book called “When Being a Grandma Isn’t So Grand.” In it, she provided 4 tips to help grandparents get along better with their grandkids’ parents. Then, she went a step further and started the GaGa Sisterhood.
In our interview, Donne is honest about the challenges facing grandmas. She starts by discussing the need that grandmas have to share parenting advice. She says that, because we have our own experience as moms, we want to help our grandkids’ parents to avoid the same mistakes. This is a fair and honest desire, but, it can also create tension. As a result, as grandmas, we need to tread lightly.
Donne encourages grandmothers to keep in mind that modern parents are also finding their own way. Even if they respect and love us, they still have the right to make their own decisions. We made plenty of mistakes as parents and they will too.
Next, we discuss how the role of grandmas is changing. Grandmothers today have their own lives. We are trying to juggle work, social and family commitments. As a result, our roles are not entirely defined by our family relationships as they once might have been.
One of the great things about managing a community like the GaGa Sisterhood is that you get to hear everyone’s stories. Over the years, you start to see patterns emerging and Donne was kind enough to spare some specific advice for grandmas.
The first piece of advice is to establish open communication. It’s unrealistic to think that you will have a good relationship with your grandchild if you are at odds with his or her parents.
Many grandmas feel like they are not valued or appreciated. As a result, it’s important to set expectations on both sides. Make sure that there isn’t any confusion about practical issues, such as how often you can visit, what your grandkids are allowed to eat and how to deal with their bad behavior.
The second piece of advice that the women in the GaGa Sisterhood give is to agree on activities with your grandkids’ parents before making plans. Always respect the parents’ wishes. At the end of the day, they have almost complete control over how much you see your grandkids, so, it’s best to be flexible when at all possible. Grandparents rights won’t save you from a family conflict.
Finally, simply be the best grandma that you can be. If your grandkids live far away, embrace new technologies, like Skype and Instagram. Personally, I love to have ice-cream parties with my granddaughter on Skype.
Grandmothers come in all shapes and sizes. We have different perspectives and different lifestyles. At the same time, there is so much that we can learn from each other. So, let’s share our wisdom. Let’s celebrate our successes and support each other when things don’t go to plan. I can’t wait to get to know all of you a little better!
What do you like most about being a grandma? Do you agree that it is natural for grandmothers to want to support each other? Please join the conversation.