Like most mothers I’m sure you can never forget the moment when you first heard that you were going to become a mother. Well, I’m equally sure that you can’t forget the first moment you heard that you were going to become a grandmother. The thought that first comes to your mind is ” Oh My God! My little baby has really grown up!” Then when you get used to the idea that you are no longer just a mother, you probably feel scared with the added responsibility of becoming the “role model” for another generation, the fountain of wisdom and practical advice, the emotional anchor and counsellor, the baby sitter and finally the perfect grandmother.
There’s really no hard and fast rule to grandmothering – all you have to do is be loving and careful and maintain a sense of humour.
Advice to a new grandmother
Over the past few months , many of my friends have become new grandmothers. And there are many other women in the world who’ve become grandmothers too! So I am reaching out to all you young grandmothers today.
Little P was sitting in his mother’s lap, his bag of stuff was sitting on mine and we were on our way to the shops when suddenly my phone rang.
“Hi!” said a cheery voice at the other end; it was my sister-in-law who, as a newly minted grandmother, could hardly contain the excitement in her voice. “As you know we’ve just become grandparents and I wanted some advice and who better than you who’ve just finished one year of grandmotherhood?”. Am I flattering myself but was it just a hint of awe and reverence that I detected in her voice?
“Sure,” I replied glad to be of help.
“Well, you see, our little grand daughter just doesn’t sleep at night and I was wondering if you had the same problem and what you did to tackle it.”
“ Aha,” thought I wickedly, Welcome to my world , but not wanting to scare her so early in the game, I quietly assured her that all babies cry and there is no one size fits all remedy for this age-old and really very, very normal and natural “problem”. But after she insisted that there surely was something one could do about it, I told her the truth , which was that there’s really nothing you can do about it.
“What do you mean nothing? I mean wasn’t there something like gripe water that we used to we give our children?”
“Gripe water???” said I ready to gag, remembering my own endless conversations with my daughter about giving gripe water or medicated drops for colic, when suddenly my daughter grabbed the phone and said” Don’t you dare give anything but mother’s milk!”
I took back the phone and explained to my sister-in-law how mothering had changed over the years. It was a far cry from the laid back days when we gave our babies a top-up formula feed as the last feed so that they slept peacefully at night, the days when we massaged our children with generous amounts of oil and scrubbed them with home made pastes and unguents so that they felt warm and cozy and relaxed, when we happily gave our children water to drink especially in the summer and we just about breastfed them for twelve weeks before putting them onto bottles, when we left them in the care of local untrained ayahs while we mothers rested a bit. Indeed with hands on mothering being the mantra these days, mothering has changed completely.
So my poor sister-in-law who was hoping to get the recipe for home made gripe water with organic ingredients for her grand daughter who was being raised overseas was given a rude reality check. Yes, I told her, don’t bother to feel sorry for your son and daughter-in-law who are raising the child all by themselves and without any help. The child is just two months old now – wait for another two before they will agree to have someone else look at the baby for just two hours a day. And just wait for six months to get over before they will happily put the baby on the bottle and just wait for a year before they leave the child with you while they go away on holiday.
Grandmothering can be even more bewildering than mothering but don’t let anything faze you. Remember you’ve been there and done that!
And like mothering, grandmothering has changed drastically too! Today’s grandmothers are not expected to give any advice unless they are qualified pediatricians. They are not supposed to sing nursery rhymes or tell fairy tales. They aren’t supposed to rock babies to sleep nor are they supposed to indulge in baby talk. If they are called upon to help with the newborn, the help largely consists of housework which the young mother cannot attend to or at best doing the baby’s work under strict observation and guidance from the young mother who even if she has a 2 hour old baby in her arms is supposedly more knowledgeable about babies than a grandmother who has raised four children to adulthood because she has the backing of a knowledge base that you never had – that God of All things GOOGLE.
So , I told my sister-in-law the real help you can give is
- Don’t knit sweaters and booties because the grandchildren won’t wear them.
- Don’t make layettes because mothers won’t use them.
- Don’t bother with traditional goodies like laddoos made with methi, gond and alsi. New mothers just find them calorie bombs and will expect you to pitch them out or eat them up.
- Don’t bother with herbal remedies or old wives’ remedies because new mothers don’t like trying anything undocumented.
- Least of all don’t reminisce about your children’s baby days because now they are your children no more and those days are over and those ways are gone.
If you really want to enjoy your grandchild, just go with the flow.
- be a patient listener and a warm lap for a sleeping child.
- be a sounding bag for your daughter/son/daughter-in-law or any one who is dealing with a cranky child
- be a quiet observer and don’t give any advice even if asked for.