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The Grandmother’s Rules of Procedure (GRP)

By Liz Kitchens November 10, 2023 Family

I was sitting in a Starbucks with a friend. My friend and I are grandmothers. To say this is a role we treasure would be an understatement. As we were sipping and chatting, a mutual friend popped in for a caffein infusion after having been denied one during an early morning blood test fast.

Sharon is a new grandmother to a six-week-old baby girl. Sharon had just returned from a trip to Denver to visit her precious miracle (and her daughter and son-in-law.) We exchanged newborn anecdotes and the complications of new relationships as grandparents and parents strive to figure out roles in the early days of a baby’s life.

Postpartum Depression Is Real

Postpartum depression is real. I recounted how after two weeks at home alone with my newborn daughter, my then husband came home to find me sitting on the sofa drinking a beer, eating a Snicker’s bar, and smoking a cigarette as my daughter fussed in her crib. “I don’t think I’m cut out for this,” I wailed. 

Grandparents Can Shine a Light for Their Families

Grandparents, at least the non-judgmental ones, can really be a help. Even if parts of us are dimming, grandparents are perfectly positioned to shine a light for their families, even if it’s only a flashlight.

Parenting is fraught with responsibility and anxiety. Once men and women assume that parental yoke of responsibility, they become nearsighted, often able to see only three feet in front of them. But grandparents have the luxury of an aerial view.

“He’ll be fine,” we reassure them.

“She will get the hang of nursing and so will you. It is so worth it.”

“Kids are resilient. He won’t remember this slight next week.”

“She’s just acting out because of the new baby.”

“Don’t worry – she’s a lovely girl and will find her own group of friends in school who will appreciate her.” 

The Grandparent POV

The grandparent’s experience, if offered without judgement, can guide their child-parent out of the darkness.

It’s a valuable role. My mother died when my daughter was three and my son was nine months, so they never really knew her. My first mother-in-law violated many of the Grandmother Rules of Procedure guidelines. I invited Eloise to stay in my home following the birth of my daughter, and I regretted that decision within hours. In hindsight, I recognize her own anxieties permeated every criticism.

“You shouldn’t nurse her! She’s not gaining weight. She’s not getting enough nourishment.” 

Breastfeeding was hard enough but having someone standing over my shoulder admonishing me was brutal.

“I think David has an eating disorder!” 

My son was 10 at the time. He was and remains a picky eater. I didn’t need her fears thrust in my face; I had enough of my own. I needed her to comfort me, to tell me everything was going to be okay, to hold my baby when I was sleep-deprived from getting up three times each night – not tell me what I was doing wrong.

A Formula for Grandparenting

I concocted a Grandmother’s Rules of Procedure in my book, Be Brave. Lose the Beige! Finding Your Sass After Sixty. Here are a few of those rules you might already know:

  • Shine a light for your kids and provide a perspective on parenting;
  • Be useful;
  • Lightly skirt parental rules/mandates/be indulgent;
  • Don’t play the guilt/victim card with your kids or grandchildren;
  • Keep your mouth shut. Keep your own anxieties and opinions to yourself or share them with friends similarly situated; and last, but far from least,
  • Be an advocate for yourself because grandmothering can be taxing on the body.

Following the GRP (Grandmother’s Rules of Procedure) Will Sass Up Your Role as Grandparent

The Be Brave. Lose the Beige Manual of Maxims #31 says, “Following the GRP (Grandmother’s Rules of Procedure) guidelines will sass up your role as grandmother. It’s sooo worth it!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What grandmothering rules did you create with your mother and mother-in-law? Are they similar to rules you are using today with your adult children and their offspring? In what ways are they similar or different? How have those rules helped you as a grandmother?

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When we had our son in the mid-90s, my mother-in-law became a new Oma. In German household grandmothers are called Oma, and she loved the title. Fortunately, the Germans that I have met have a standing rule of after three days both family and fish must go. So it is kind of a rule. My mother-in-law would come in on Monday be there, Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday and Friday should be on a flight home. She has three grandchildren that lived in two different parts of the country and she was happy to take a little less than two weeks to go spend with them. This was just enough time to see the family and to see how everything was progressing and to let the kids know that Oma and Opa are there if they need them. The only thing she added to the experience of being a new mother was her singing. She knew I’d figure it out, but her singing was over the top. If she saw a leaf fall, she would remember a song or a winding road or an apple in a cart. She would remember a song. She would sing all the time. She is still alive and in her mid to late 80s and she is still the quintessential Oma. I want to be like her but grandchildren are not in my future and I’m ok with that.

Liz Kitchens

I love your story Robin. We called my German born grandmother and grandfather Oma and Opa too! I love those names. Thank you so much

The Author

Liz Kitchens is the author of Be Brave. Lose the Beige! Boldly Breaking the Rules after 50. Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige! focuses on women of the Baby Boomer Generation, Lady Boomers, as she has dubbed them. Liz is the founder of What’s Next Boomer? a website dedicated to helping Baby Boomers navigate retirement or semi-retirement options. Liz can be contacted at

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