Most of my posts have been about my own mothering and advice to young parents. But today I would like to share some thoughts on grandmothering with new grandmothers.
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, a newly minted grandmother who 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?”
“Sure,” I replied glad to be of help.
“Well, you see, our little granddaughter 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 then, there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
“What do you mean nothing? What about all that stuff about gripe water which we gave our children?”
“Gripe water,” said I ready to gag 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 how mothering had changed over the years. It was a far cry from the laid back days when we gave our babies a formula feed as the last feed so that they slept peacefully at night, to the days when we massaged our children with generous amounts of oil and scrubbed them with homemade pastes and unguents, to the days 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, to leaving 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 homemade gripe water with organic ingredients for her granddaughter, 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 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 a holiday.
And 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 you never had – that God of All things GOOGLE.
So , I told my sister-in-law the real help you can give is to be a patient listener and a warm lap for a sleeping child. Don’t knit sweaters and booties because the grandchildren won’t wear them. Don’t make layettes because mothers won’t use them. 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.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood.