Dear Myself, Future Grandma:
Think back to the day that you held your first baby for the first time – how the entire world shifted on its axis, how you would never be the same. That day, you were only thinking of the warm, blinking life in your arms, and not about how your mother or your mother-in-law felt. But on that day their lives changed, too. Suddenly, they were “Grandma,” and a new chapter began.
You have such a remarkable mother, such a wonderful mother-in-law. Overall, it has been an easy transition as you coordinated your entrances into new roles together. But you have sat with too many other moms your age who bemoan to you, “it’s like they have forgotten everything about raising children!” Too many moms who grit their teeth and shed tears over what is supposed to be a joyful relationship.
I don’t want you to forget. I don’t want you to forget what early motherhood feels like when you are basking in the golden throes of being crowned a grandmother, and to have those moans be about you. So take a deep breath, and take these words to heart.
First, I need you to remember – it is not about you. You are going to look at those grandbabies and your heart will swell. You will be enveloped by the glory that, if you did not exist, this baby would not exist either. That your genes flow through their little body, your blood beats in their veins. But – this is not your baby. It is your daughter or daughter-in-law’s baby. Never refer to this sweet human as “my little boy” or “my little girl.” You did not conceive this baby, did not have this baby punch you in the ribs for 9 months, and you did not labor to bring them into the world. It will be tempting but do not ignore the woman who brought this life into the world. Do not breeze by her to the grandkids, making her feel like a baby factory and nothing more. Make her felt seen and known. Continue to love her as a woman first. Pray for her. Lift her up.
Don’t compete with her. Just because she has joined you on this path we call motherhood, do not try to outdo her, one-up her, to prove to her that you are a better mother than she is. Be confident enough in who you are to avoid feeling as if your identity as a mother is now threatened. Moreover, do not assume that becoming a grandma means you get a “second chance” at motherhood. This is her chance to start growing into the mother she needs to be, not your chance to try to correct the mistakes you made as a mom on the first go-round.
You are going to have to be a master of communication in this new role. Assume nothing; ask everything – “Would this birthday gift be useful to the kids?” or “How would you like to spend holidays?” Respect the answers. Respect the boundaries.
You are going to want to “spoil” your grandchildren – don’t. Do you remember what it is like to deal with an over-sugared, exhausted, overstimulated toddler? It’s awful. Try to support their routines and rules as much as possible.
Do not give new parents unsolicited advice. This will be terribly difficult as you bear the weight of decades of mothering on your shoulders, and it is quivering on the tip of your tongue. Bite it back. Remember how you were given grace and space to figure things out early on? They need that, too. If it is not a matter of life and death, let them figure it out. However, if they ask for advice? Go for it. If you feel like things have changed quite a bit since you were a mother, feel free to say, “This is how I did it when I was a young mom. Do parents today still follow this practice?” The “rules” for babies are always changing – be open to new ways of doing things.
- Do not always give them toys, but give your time in an abundance.
- Make memories and traditions with your grandchildren and your kids; they will remember your presence more than anything else. Be liberal with food – bring them pizza, make home-cooked meals they love, bake cookies, support diets.
- Don’t be pushy about babysitting – there is nothing worse than hearing, “When will you let them stay with us overnight?” – but if they ask you to watch the grandchildren, do your best to say yes. There’s nothing young parents need more than a night off and a sitter they can trust.
- And, of course, give your love. Love those babies with every ounce of joy that bubbles in your soul. Every time you think your daughter or daughter-in-law is doing a great job as a mother, tell her. She’s going to be wondering in the depths of the night if she is doing a good enough job – give her the feedback she desperately craves. Tell her continually that you are there for her, and walk the walk.
Being a grandma is a tough balance – to not be too controlling, yet offer support, to want to smother the babies with adoration, but remembering to respect boundaries. But someone has to do it, and with decades of motherhood experience, you are just the woman for the task. Enjoy these golden, “Grandma” years!
All my love,
Myself, Current Mother