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Grandparents, Remember To Be You!

After advocating active grandparenting for several years now, today I’m reminding all grandparents that they need some time for themselves too. Years and years of taking care of the family often leads women like me to believe that they can go on forever. Sadly this is not the case and however well kept you may be in terms of health and wealth, granny can have her good days and bad. Yes, grannies can fall ill too. In fact, very often grannies who are caregivers forget that they can fall ill. I found this out the hard way last week.

Yes, grannies can fall sick.

As a mother who has encouraged her daughters to excel at school and at their chosen professions, I felt it only natural that I encourage them to go back to work. I have absolutely no regrets in my decision and am very happy that I can help my grandchildren grow up. While many of my friends spend hours on the treadmill, I just have to run a few races with my three year old grandson to have the requisite cardio workout. Similarly, I can do all kinds of forward bends looking for toys under sofas, or crawl around like a tiger, extend my spine to its maximum while I reach out for the balloon that’s threatening to escape, with the agility of a yoga proponent. Some of my friends spend 15 minutes at a laughter club but I get my own mirthful pleasures when the babies gurgle with pleasure. Indeed, looking after young children rejuvenates the spirit and keeps you on your toes.

But I underestimated my own capacity for work: fifty year old knees are fifty years old and do tend to creak. Similarly, a once receptive mind finds noise levels a bit high and unbearable at the end of the day. Constantly negotiating with a smart three year old can drive you crazy especially when the answer is obviously “Because I say so!” Children have never been happy with this dictatorial answer and today’s children who seem to be born knowing which buttons to press, definitely know how to press yours.

Thus, I found that after almost three years of regular babysitting, there was a change going on in my own body. It was aging though my spirit was not. Before I knew it, found my blood pressure rising and my temper (which was always very short) getting even shorter. What happened to the jolly granny I wanted to be? She was slowly disappearing and in danger of becoming a crotchety ogre.

So, this is a warning to all grandparents who are actively looking after their grandchildren or who will soon be commandeered into active babysitting service, do not forget that you are NOT the parent, you are the grandparent. Young, working parents often find themselves in a bind and as a grandparent, you are only too glad to step in when the Bai does the Bunk or the young parents want a night out in town. Or sometimes (like me) you land up doing regular baby sitting on an everyday basis. Of course you need to step in and help (hired help is not always reliable or efficient) but remember not to lose your own self in the process. Young parents, working couples need a support system that provides them unconditional support.

Unlike maids who up and leave without so much as a second glance, grandparents are reliable and regular who not only love the babies they look after but actually nurture them – telling them stories, exploring the world, having a meaningful interaction with them. They go to PTAs and school concerts, help with school projects and even take the children to the doctor if required. Hired help can never match up to this kind of service and I am all for supportive, active grandparenting as we owe it to the young families who are eventually our own flesh and blood. But, often times, we tend to forget that we are no longer young ourselves: we have our needs too.

Just as young couples need to find time to be together, older couples too need to spend some time together. Being a granny doesn’t mean that your hair has to be frizzy and you conversation has to be child centric. You don’t have to spend your day in baggy tracks or crumpled saris. Find time to go for a walk every day, read a book, meet your friends, do some yoga or just generally be yourself. Remember to be you.

As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of two, 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 her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.