“Yikes!” I thought when I read Shyrla’s Pakua’s recent Kveller post on grandparenting. I was seriously shocked by the tone and content.
My experience as a grandmother, and grandchild, is so very different from hers.
Growing up, both sets of my grandparents lived around the corner and I was blessed to have spent time with them frequently. They were involved in my life and were wonderful role models for me once I became a grandmother.
My husband worked long hours and I never had any paid help with my children or help from my mother or mother-in-law. And although I think I partly learned how to be a grandparent from my own grandparents, I also reacted against the way my mother and mother-in-law grandparented. As a young mom, I remember feeling upset that my mother seemed perfectly fine saying “no” when I (rarely) asked her to babysit.
My grandmother, on the other hand, stayed with my infant for an entire day once a week while I finished graduate school and, once I had finished, insisted on giving me a day off because, she said, “young mothers need time to themselves.” That’s a grandmother! (And when Grandma got old and needed me as I had once needed her, I was there. As I said to my grandsons, “I’m pushing your stroller so you’ll push my wheelchair.”)
I want to be as involved in my grandchildren’s lives as much as they, and their parents, will let me. I enjoy it. It nourishes my soul in a way that nothing else does. When my first several grandchildren were young, I babysat on a weekly basis, even when that meant a substantial commute. When it got to be too much because I had a health issue, I bowed out with regret. But being with my grandchildren was worth more than a million bucks. After all, who else drops everything when they hear my voice and runs to me with hugs and kisses? My husband doesn’t. My kids don’t. But my grandchildren? Always.
And so I offer to spend time with the grandkids. It’s selfish. It makes me happy. And when I see the world through their eyes, my own world is enriched.
Part of the great experience of being a grandmother is the wonder, the awe, the miracle of these human beings who are literally part of you–and the totally irrational, immense and intense love that you feel, a love that is like none other. To me, Shyrla’s ideas about “competence, capability and problem solving” seem totally beside the point.
Unlike Shyrla, who wrote, “I respect a mum who is studying or working more than one who is a SAHM,” I respect all mothers who try to do the best job they can, regardless of whether they are working outside or inside the home. Maybe because I stayed home for many years, I understand that moms who are home all day may need help even more than moms who go to work. It’s hard when your boss is unreasonable, throws tantrums, won’t stop crying and won’t tell you what’s wrong. It’s hard when your boss fails to communicate even the most important items on the day’s agenda. It’s hard when your boss is your baby.
My kids do not “take advantage of their own parents” and I never “feel guilty or otherwise manipulated.” If I can’t help out on a particular occasion, I say so. But I am happy when I can make their very busy, stressful lives easier. I want it to be easier for them than it was for me.
I love being a grandmother. And I know that what I do now will influence how my grandchildren, and children, feel about me during my lifetime. And how they will remember me when I am gone.