When your baby has a baby and you become a grandma, emotions run high. This momentous event can feel just as moving as having a child yourself. The life you nurtured is now looking after one they helped create, and seeing the family line progress can fill you with immense joy and pride. But there may also be some fear, anxiety and even a little regret as you lament over moments you missed in your child’s life that you want to make up for with your grandbaby. It’s a lot to take in, but you can be an incredible grandmother with these tips.
Stay Involved Without Being Overbearing
Your child will want to learn the ropes of parenting in their own way, just like you did. Although your advice might come from a place of love, your child may see it as nagging and feel frustrated that you aren’t letting them take care of their baby on their own. Remember that this is still their child, and how you raised yours may not reflect the decisions they make in their parenting journey.
Make yourself available, but avoid correcting, overtaking or offering hordes of unsolicited parenting advice. Instead, compliment your child on how they’re doing. Tell them you’re proud of them. Enjoy the hands-off privilege of cuddling a precious newborn that grandparents are blessed with.
When my oldest daughter was born, we lived within half an hour of both our parents. My mother-in-law was retired and came to help me give Sunshine her first bath. She let me know that she was available if I needed help, but she and my father-in-law gave advice only when asked for it. Both she and my mother babysat occasionally for me during Sunshine’s first year. I appreciated knowing they were there even as they let me figure out motherhood for myself.
As your grandchild get older, consider what skills or hobbies you have that you could pass on to your grandchildren. For example, my mom is a swimming and canoeing instructor, so these are activities we frequently do when we get together with her. (My kids will do anything in the pool for Grandma!) My mother-in-law is an artist and I hope someday she can spend some time painting and sketching with Lily and Jade, who are also budding artists. Maybe you have a talent for baking, woodworking, embroidery, or other cultural activities that you can share with your grandchildren as they grow.
Be Honest about Your Jealousy
Many grandmothers develop a sense of envy toward the other grandma in the family. This may be especially true if your son is the father, as women tend to involve their mothers in child-rearing more naturally than men. You could feel left out, worried that your grandbaby won’t connect with you as much or that you’ll always be an outsider rather than a loved and cherished member of the family.
Make sure that you keep these feelings off the table when you see your child and grandchild. The last thing they want to hear as they’re taking care of their new baby is that you’re angry they’re giving more attention to the other grandparents. Focus on where these feelings are really coming from, and work on resolving them within yourself. Maybe distance plays a factor, and if that’s the case, you may consider moving closer or arranging for more visits throughout the year.
Consider Your Retirement Plans
Once you become a grandma, your vision of retirement may change. Now that you have another little life you want to be a part of, will you still head off to a tropical destination or build that house you always talked about? What about gifts and contributing to college funds? Maybe you’ll decide you need more money available than you thought, but you don’t want to continue working for another 30 years.
Now is a good time to reevaluate your financial assets, especially life insurance. You don’t have to surrender an outdated policy for less. Instead, consider selling it for more through a life settlement. You can get your policy value now with a free quote online. Make sure you also discuss what you’d like to do with the parents. Moving to be closer to them in your later years is wonderful, but you shouldn’t be buying the house across the street unless they’re okay with it.
Be Creative about Keeping in Touch
If you live close to your new grandbaby, enjoy that! Discuss with your child and their spouse your expectations (and theirs!) for how often you see each other. Do they want to come over for dinner once a week, a la Rory and Lorelei Gilmore in Gilmore Girls? Do they want you to babysit every second weekend so they can have a date together?
These days, many grandparents provide childcare once Mom’s maternity leave ends and she returns to work. When I worked full-time as a Starbucks barista before my second daughter’s birth, my mother-in-law babysat Sunshine for me. I simply provided her with my schedule when I received it and we discussed childcare plans. If she was unavailable on a particular day due to appointments or her own engagements, then I had back-up childcare.
If you live further away from your grandchildren, then you may have to be more creative about keeping in touch. These days, technology allows for more options for long-distance communication. We have planned Skype dates with grandparents or had Grandma read bedtime stories to the girls over the phone. Once a year, my mother and I plan a camping trip in central BC (roughly halfway between us) so that she can spend time with my children. We enjoy hiking and canoing together during these trips and the kids look forward to them every summer.
Family traditions are another fun way to keep in touch. These can be big annual traditions like the summer camping trip or smaller things, such as the way my in-laws always phone on birthdays to sing “Happy Birthday.” Maybe some family traditions are those started with your own children, which you can now do with your grandchildren. Maybe you want to start new family traditions with your grandkids. Consider discussing with your children what their favourite family traditions were and what traditions they’d like continue (or start) now that they have their own families.
Enjoy the Adventure
If you’ll be spending a lot of time with the new parents after the baby’s arrival, enjoy the moments and step back to take it all in. Keep a journal with you so you can write about what you’re feeling, how it is seeing your baby have a baby and your first impressions of the little one. This is a great way to process your own emotions and it can serve as a wonderful gift to give your grandchild later on.
You may still have children of your own to take care of if you’re a young grandmother. Don’t pressure yourself to fit any mold or act a certain way. Just enjoy the moment so you can fully appreciate the joys, laughs and surprises a new baby brings.
How did you feel when you became a grandma? What tips would you share with other women about to become a grandma?