I am a modern grandmother. My granddaughter calls me “Baba Margaret” – and I fully expect the “Baba” (Russian for Grandma) will drop off in a few years. Like most grandmas, I’m busy these days. I manage two businesses and my granddaughter and I live in different countries and time zones.
Like many women my age, I’m not a stereotypical grandma. I’m tech-savvy and curious. I love to travel to fascinating places on a whim. I like to think that I am aging disgracefully and magnificently. I love fashion and the only pair of yoga pants that I own is actually used for yoga, not lounging around the house. Much to my granddaughter’s dismay, I have no idea how to make an apple pie from scratch.
Part of the problem with labels is that they put us into categories in the eyes of others. When I say that I’m a grandmother, people smile warmly, assuming that I have reached “that stage” of life. They probably think of their own grandmothers, one or two generations ahead of me, who really did see their grandchildren as the only focus of their lives. For them, my life’s purpose has been defined.
What most people forget is that I, and almost all grandmas, have secret lives. We love our grandchildren with all of our hearts – but, we are much more than just grandmothers.
Many grandmas I know feel like they are making things up as they go along. There really isn’t a “playbook” for how to be an active woman who loves her family but who also refuses to be invisible. In my secret life, I pursue my passions. I travel, write, workout and explore. As an entrepreneur, I hope with all of my heart that mission-based business, Sixty and Me, will be successful in helping boomers to find new friends.
Like many grandmothers, I sometimes feel conflicted when my children ask me to look after the grandkids at an inconvenient time. On the one hand, as a grandmother, you are expected to drop everything and look after your grandchildren. On the other hand, as an active, modern woman, you have your own life to take care of. Do you feel the same way?
Being a modern grandmother requires you to balance traditional family responsibilities and pursuing your own passions, career and friends. If you are bold and fearless, you can accomplish both. But, this means revealing the details of your secret life – not just to your family, but, also to yourself. Doing so requires us to accept that we are more than a grandma. Unlike previous generations of grandmas, we have at least 30 more years to live. That kind of time requires planning.
Like grandmas across the ages, I love doing “grandma things.” I’m happy to knit scarves, build rockets, play with Lego and read “Velveteen Rabbit.” I also play a mean game of Scrabble. But, I don’t see my role as a grandma as just having fun.
I want my granddaughter to see that women of every age can be intelligent, driven, complex and passionate. I want to take her with me on my adventures, not just follow her on hers.
Then, as she gets older, perhaps she will learn to appreciate, rather than fear, the aging process. Maybe when she 30, she will see her first wrinkles and tiny battle scars, not signals of worse things to come.
We are complex at every age. This is true when we’re 6 and it’s true when we’re 60. Let’s give grandmas the credit they deserve. Let’s recognize that older women may be the center of their grandchildren’s lives, but, they also have their own secret lives to live.
Do you think that women are too often expected to put their role as grandmothers above the other parts of their lives? Why or why not? Do you think that the role of grandmother has changed over time? Please join the discussion.