On being a grandmother

It seems that more and more of us are getting to the era in our lives where our parents are becoming grandparents. Perhaps even not through you yet, but through your brothers and sisters. I’m not sure that many of us give more than a cursory thought to our parents when thinking about starting a family, but as Julie so rightly points out here, perhaps we ought to.

Julie, (Esme’s mum) is back (hurrah), and talks here about how she sees her role as a grandmother. It’s a brave piece, and  I’m sure that there are a growing number of parents who feel the same as Julie (I’m sure my parents do). For all of us of potential child-bearing age, this post is a great reminder that we need to think about our expectations of our parents, and how we plan to include and involve them in our (future) children’s lives.  

I think that I’m a bit of a disappointment as a grandparent.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore my nearly 3 year old granddaughter.  She is bright and funny and loving and generally amazing.  But (oh what a big word ‘but’ can be…) I have had my children.  I have gone without sleep for what felt like years.  Oh wait a minute, it was actually years.  I have fed, clothed and paid for – and still do in a couple of cases – and cleaned up after and taken from school to activity and back again.  I have worried and fretted and sat by sick beds and wiped bottoms and runny noses.  I have cut a gazillion finger nails and combed hair and treated nits and well generally been a mum.  And I loved it.  Every fraught, love filled hour of it.  But now I want some time for me.

I am nearly 10 years into a relationship (and 4 years married) with the most amazing, caring and loving man.  The day we became a couple we had a family of 6 children overnight.  At that point they were aged between 7 and 18.  We didn’t have that part of a relationship where you are just the two of you, where you build your relationship and have time alone before you start adding numbers to your family.  Now that our youngest is away at college we are finally ‘empty nesters’.   This is now the point at which we find out if we can live together, just the 2 of us – and 4 dogs, 8 hens and 2 ducks…  But this is also the point at which we are becoming grandparents and we have to be very careful how we manage this new part of our lives with being comparative newlyweds.

Our granddaughter and her mother now live about 10 miles away but up until last month they lived with us.  Amy is an amazing mother and Maya the best little girl on the planet.  I was there when Maya was born – yes, actually at the ‘business’ end too – and it was an incredible experience which means I feel very close to them both.  But (there is that word again) it was very hard for both Amy and I living in the same house and most importantly sharing the same kitchen while Amy learnt how to be a mother and I tried not to interfere.  Don’t get me wrong Amy found some of this just as difficult as I did.  It wasn’t by choice that an adult daughter with her own child had to move back home.  Most of Amy’s friends couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go out every weekend or go to every festival because surely she had live in babysitters didn’t she?  Well no she didn’t.  For lots of complicated reasons it is actually very hard for me to look after a baby/small child overnight which meant that we have only looked after Maya overnight on 3 occasions.  And this is where I think that I am a disappointment as a grandparent.  Not only do I not keep a special tin full of biscuits and chocolate bars or have a drawer full of felt and glitter glue but I have not offered to give up work so that Amy can go back to work – we have a mortgage too!  I don’t take Maya out alone very often but I do share her care and will always be available to read a story or watch CBeebies or make her a drink/sandwich/bowl of pasta and be a comfy lap for those times when she just wants a cuddle with her Nana.

So why is this an issue I want to discuss with all you lovely, just becoming parents, AOW women?  Well this is it – my generation is one of the first to be stuck in between ageing parents and grandchildren.  I know of many women who are simultaneously ferrying old parents between hospital appointments and grandchildren to and from school.  I know of many women who are offering to be free child minders for their grandchildren to help out with the increasing expense of child care.  I even know one woman in her late 60’s who is not only ‘expected’ to have her granddaughter for at least 2 nights a week but to also take her out on trips and on holidays and to pay for the privilege.  Then on the other hand there are grandparents like my sister who feels that she only became a parent in order to become a grandma and will forcibly remove her grandson from his mother’s arms in order to spend time with him – OK, slight exaggeration but you get my drift.  But being a grandparent seems to be a sometimes impossible balancing act.  How much to get involved?  How much are we able to get involved with all the other things in our lives?  Do we interfere or let the new parents find their own feet?  It seems to me that whichever way we seem to go we can be criticised by someone somewhere.

In addition to all that there is this important point – Remember the longer you leave having your family (statistics show that today’s predominately graduate women are leaving having their children up to 10 years later than my generation) the older your parents will be when they become grandparents and you too may become ‘stuck’ in the middle looking after them and your own grandchildren.  So think on…

So let me pose this question to all of you who are thinking about having a family, are pregnant or already have children.  How much do you ‘expect’ your parents to be involved with your children? And have you actually talked to them about how much they, and you, want them to be involved?

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Wise Women
45 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Carly
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I’m not pregnant and don’t plan to be for a few years yet but it gets talked about quite regularly with my Mum. The fact that my children will have my parents as grandparents is one of the reasons I want kids, they will be the best ever! BUT my parents are still only 50 & 54 and they have made it quite clear that although they will love spending time with their grandchildren they most definitely will have their own life and we can knickers if we think that we’d be dropping them at Grandmas at every available opportunity (I wouldn’t do this anyway.) So I think it is perfectly fine to be a fab Gran/Grandad with a life of your own. I want my parents to live their lives now that they are comfortable and still young enough to enjoy it & I wouldn’t dream of asking them to give up anything in order to look after my children.

    Great, thought provoking piece Julie.


  2. Vivienne
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    This is a timely post – I’m currently quite upset with my Mum because she hasn’t visited for a month, despite having been into work in the city which we stay 10 minutes from. And then feeling guilty because we lost my Grandad, her Dad, before Christmas so maybe my expectations are too high of her at the moment. Then swinging back to furious as she has seen her other grandchildren in this time on a weekly basis (they live closer) and I’ve had no offer of help since T was born 11 weeks ago. Not that I need it, but how does she know I’m as fine as I say when she hasn’t seen me?

    So yes. When I can talk about it without crying, I think we need a talk about expectations and finding a balance, because as we are at the moment is not a comfortable place to be.

    • Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Vivienne I really feel for you – this must be so hard when you’re already under a lot of emotional pressure with a new baby. I really hope you can get to talk this out soon and get the weight lifted.


      • Vivienne
        Posted January 29, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        Thanks Penny – I don’t doubt that she cares, and she adores Toby, but I expected to be having the opposite problem (not having a minute’s peace from her) to the one I’m faced with

        • Posted January 29, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

          I don’t really have any advice but just wanted to send a virtual smoosh to you! Xx

    • Esme's Mum
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Dear Vivienne, just give her time. I know that you are feeling under pressure with a new baby and that you just want your Mums support but it sounds like she is dealing with her own stuff too – working, dealing with losing your Grandad and probably another million things too. Please try not to judge us, we are people too.

      • Vivienne
        Posted January 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Julie. The sensible, adult part of me knows this, but the hormonal, stroppy daughter part of me is struggling with it. Thankfully I’m keeping a lid on her, and will just wait as patiently as I can.

        And thank you for the hugs and smooshes xxx

  3. Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    What a great post! I think it’s so often assumed that women will be eager grandparents, doing everything they can to spoil the grandchildren. It’s brilliant to be reminded that grandparents are still autonomous human beings, with thoughts, hopes, desires and commitments of their own.

    We’re still in the speculative talking about it stage of “family planning”, and I have made certain assumptions about the role it’s likely that the various grandparents will play: My husband’s mother is likely to be keen to help out, his father is likely to be incredibly helpful (he was a stay-at-home father for my husband and his brothers), while my father is unlikely to want to commit much time or support (he has a career and younger family of his own), and my mother isn’t in the picture. In honesty, I wasn’t planning on speaking to them directly about it if/when I get pregnant, as I thought I’d just let things develop. However, reading this makes me worried that they might end up providing us with more support than they’re comfortable with, or feel guilty about not doing so, so I’ll definitely be bringing it up!

    • Esme's Mum
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I always told my children that I wouldn’t be a ‘hands-on’ Nana but I don’t think they believed me! It really is worth just having a chat about it with all the sets of parents just to gauge how they feel and then you will have a better idea of what to expect when it happens. But remember that you don’t really know how you will feel as a Grandparent (or parent for that matter) until it actually happens.

  4. Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    This is just amazing- I’m so glad my (slightly) younger generation can get such a brilliant idea of what our parents expectations might be. It’s so useful to have a reference point. My mum has told us she will be taking my great-aunt’s approach. She won’t take any grandchildren full time, but will happily cover sick days or any special occasions.

    That being said, we’re now in the situation where I will be (hopefully) raising future children thousands of miles, and many time zones, from my parents. I know this is the case for a lot of people. This is a real challenge for me and mum.

    My siblings and I are all incredibly close to our gran, we spent most of our childhood at her house- usually with my mum too- and we all used to call her up at a moment’s notice and stay over night when we wanted tea and toast in bed, a luxury not allowed in our house. We would sit curled in beside her, watching her knit and listening to salacious stories about the rest of our relatives. It really upsets me to imagine my kids not having that. It upsets mum and dad too.

    We will all have to make it work the best we can. After all, that’s all anyone can expect of anyone else.

    • Esme's Mum
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Apparently there is this new fangled thing called ‘skype’? Which I know many Grandparents use. It’s a great way of keeping in touch without having to clean all the sticky finger marks off the furniture and cut the glitter glue out of the dog’s fur after the visit in person! Do you think that I could suggest this to my daughter who only lives 10 miles away???

  5. Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I agree that there are definitely assumptions made, and it’s something that (with a whopping eight grandparents-to-be) I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve seen both my step-sisters rely heavily on my own parents with their children, and noted how it’s affected their relationships. On the flipside, my husband and I are incredibly independent people and are both reluctant to ask for help from our families,even when in dire straits so I’m also conscious that I don’t want our families to feel shut out either. This is particularly true for his side, for whom it’s the first grandchild and who are all enormously excited. I realise I will have to become closer to my in-laws, and I’m desperate to do it right. It’s such a tricky balancing act and I suspect the key lies in honest communication and trying not to make assumptions or let resentments build.

    Thanks for this post Julie, I hope it raises awareness in anyone who might not have thought about it from the other side yet!


    • Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      oooh becoming closer to the in-laws is a massive issue that makes me grateful for the Atlantic Ocean… Thanks for bringing that up, definitely one that needs some thought. Ugh.

    • Katie
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Did I read this right, Penny, I’ve been out of the loop, are you having a baby? Eeek! xx

  6. Cheri
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Great post! I am currently pregnant, and my sister has two already. I know from my sisters experience with my parents that they wont be that involved, or make that much effort! It makes me feel sad that they dont want to be super involved, but I guess that is their perogative. Dont get me wrong they both love my niece and nephew, and will love mine too, and they do babysit occasionally, but only when asked, never offered, and sometimes it seems to be a hassle for them. Both my parents are relatively young, and are enjoying their lives post-children, without wanting the added burden of grandchildren I guess. My husbands mother on the other hand is older, and doesnt work. I’m not sure whether she will be that involved, but we have asked her to babysit one day a week when I got back to work, and she has agreed for the moment. Whether she changes her mind, or her health deteriorates and she cant remains to be seen!

  7. Posted January 29, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I’m one of six siblings (the youngest of whom is 17) and my Mum loves nothing more than a house full of children. She met my Dad at 18, had my older sister at 19 and is now 51 and can’t wait for grandchildren. When I was pregnant, she told me that she would more than happy to do the child care if I went back to work and they had already started planning for a nursery at their house (they were VERY excited!).

    During all of this though I was very conscious that I didn’t ever want it to turn into something she felt obliged to do if in reality it wasn’t how she thought it would be. I always envisioned me becoming a mother bringing us closer, I would hate for it to push us apart.

    It’s lovely to hear from your perspective Julie – I spent a lot of time with my Nanas when I was growing up and they are some of my most cherished memories. Nanas are awesome!

    • Esme's Mum
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your lovely comments!! I realised recently that there are distinct advantages to being a Nana. We had Maya overnight on Boxing Day and when she woke up the following morning she refused to eat the porridge because it wasn’t ‘just right’ as her Mummy makes so she had a chocolate biscuit and some pizza for breakfast which she eat while watching a DVD. After all it isn’t my job to make sure she eats brocolli and fruit is it? I’ve done that bit and my children have never had ricketts or scurvy! Maya loved it and it serves her Mummy right for leaving her with us on Boxing Day :o )

      • Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        My Nanas used to feed me large quantities of buns at every opportunity – I blame them for my cake habit!

  8. Posted January 29, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I suspect that the thing with becoming a grandparent is that it’s the same as becoming a parent, or getting married, or having a career. Everyone will be different. I didn’t expect my Mum to be a traditional Mother of the Bride, I knew she would be herself, just like I wasn’t a ‘traditional’ bride, I was myself too, and that’s what I wanted for us both. The same goes for my parents as grandparents, I believe they will handle it in their own way, sometimes well, sometimes messing up, much as I expect I will make mistakes becoming a mother. Every stage of life is a learning curve, I think people forget that grandparents don’t know everything but are also still finding their own way, finding their balance and living their lives as best they can, much like the rest us.

    I hope my parents never feel obliged to care for my children, and I trust that if we’re all honest and open about what we want and need and expect, we’ll figure it out eventually!

    Great post Julie, thank you for writing! Love posts like this, so different but so important. Life doesn’t get less complicated as you grow older, it’s so rare though to hear that discussed.

    K x

  9. Anon.
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    We aren’t pregnant and won’t be for some time but I know that my parents (my Dad in particular) can’t wait. My Dad has often commented (to myself and ALL of his friends who think its appropriate to discuss it with me) how “desperate” he is to be a Grandad and he’d be amazing.

    I think my Mum is less “desperate” than my Dad. Both my Mum and Dad are now 60 but Mum is definately a young 60 and will go on weekends away with “the girls from work” and run half marathons (in less than 1 hour 50….I know…60!). I think grandchildren might make her feel old and she’s not ready for that yet.

    They both live life to the full, take ridiculously long holidays (my Dad calls is SKI-ing – spending kids inheritance) and go out regularly with their friends and away for weekends probably once a month. They have said that when we do have children, they’d like to live with us 2 or 3 days a week. I don’t know if this would work, whether we’d argue too much about discipline etc or whether we’d have the space but I would definately prefer our children to be looked after for 2 days a week on a 1 to 1 basis by their grandparents than in a nursery with 30 other children. We aren’t in the financial position where I won’t have to work so we will need help with childcare. Because of the distance a bit of “light babysitting” wouldn’t work. I think the reason for the proposed involevement is that both my brother and I have been living away from home for 10 years or so and they’ve had their time alone whereas I get the feeling that Julie hasn’t.

    On the other hand, I doubt very much that my MIL would do the same. She’s younger than my parents by 5 or so years and isn’t the most maternal person in the world. I saw her with her step-grandchild over Christmas and there was no reading of stories, no activities or days out, no bedtime hugs. Its quite upsetting because I’m such an emotional person and our children will be used to “I love yous” and hugs, kisses and cuddles in the same way I was as a child. He’s really keen for his Mum to be involved (as in moving closer to his parents…over my freaking dead body) but as she never rings us, never visits or never asks about our lives in any way whatsoever, I can’t see that she would want to be involved in being a grandmother. I really hope that changes.

  10. KateQ
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I’m looking forward to making my parents grandparents in a few weeks time as I know they have been hoping and looking forward to it for a long time (although I don’t think they’d have wanted it to happen much sooner). I am too hoping it will bring me and my mum closer as I begin to understand some of the difficult decisions and emotions you must go through as a mother.

    We don’t live close enough for there to be any expectation of using them for childcare but I wouldn’t like to anyway. I was very close to my grandparents growing up but they didn’t ever look after me or my brother in that way, it was always treat days out and holidays. I wouldn’t want my parents to be put in a place where they’d have to parent my children (disciplining etc). But I understand that I’m lucky to be in the situation to not need to ask for help, my husbands step-sister is a single mum so does rely on his parents a bit more than we will need to whilst her son is young. I don’t think they begrudge it at all but I hope they can have a more relaxing grandparent experience with our children.

    Oh the in-laws…this panics me, My father in law is retired and lives about 20 minutes away and is going to be the most doting grandad, I have visions of him turning up unannounced all the time!

  11. Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Reading the comments it sends like someone really needs to write a post on in-laws and beginning a new family. I know as a child I saw nodistinction between parents and grandparents, cousins and aunties, they were all family. Then I realised they’re really two different families with completely different dynamics, but it took me a while. One of the difficult things I’ve found about approaching marriage is his family becoming mine, and his parents being as important to our children as my parents (hypothetically, definitely no kids atm) and me having responsibility for his parents potentially in the future.

    In terms of grandparents I think popular culture again has a lot to answer for, surely every grandparent will want to be caring for children, doting, being a typical nana etc… Like they lose their individual identities. Hopefully our generation can remember the people they are at the core.

    • Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      I think this is such a good point – when I was younger, I had no idea which of my Aunties/Uncles were related to me by blood or really how they were connected to me, I just knew they were my family.

      My husband’s sister has two young children who have call me ‘Auntie’, I met them both the day they were born and they were flower girl & page boy at our wedding. My Father in law likes to say ‘You’re not really their Auntie though are you?’. Chump!

      Apologies for my off topic rant!

    • Anon
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      I’ve been meaning to send Anna something on my relationship with my MIL for a while but everytime I write it, I get a bit teary and think how SAD it is to be in a situation like this. I certainly never envisaged my relationship with my MIL to be like it is. I blame the movies – they make it sound like she’ll be horrid but then you’ll talk about it and it’ll be all sunshine and roses – we talked about it over Christmas and it made it worse than ever.

      • Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        is this the same Anon as comment at 9.04? If so, you sound like you’re having a pretty crappy time at the present. I really hope things improve, and there’s someone you can talk to about it. Lots of hugs hon x

    • Posted January 29, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      I second this call!

      I come from a very small family, in terms of what “family” means to me: it’s my direct siblings and my father (and my paternal grandparents when they were alive). My husband, however, is from a very large but extremely close family, and his cousins, aunts, uncles etc are all incredibly close to him. This caused issues during our wedding planning, when I didn’t understand why an aunt and cousin suddenly appeared on the guest list of our “direct family only” ceremony.

      • Posted January 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        Wow – this could be me word for word! Even down to the aunty and cousin at a ceremony for only twenty. I had my head round it as I understood their family dynamic but it went down like a lead balloon with my family (who were admittedly under-represented at the ceremony – and rather overwhelmed by my husband’s bouncy and numerous relatives). You have my every sympathy Fiona! I do still feel a bit bad for my mum about it actually.


        • Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          It was really quite ok in the end, it just required me to learn that Liam’s definition of family differed from mine. My family’s not massively sentimental, so I don’t think they minded (noticed?) being under-represented. I really feel for your family though – it’s hard to be in that position, especially if your wedding day was something they were really looking forward to. x

  12. Jess F
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    What an interesting post- so thought-provoking. Thank you very much Julie for making me think about this from a different perspective. This is why I am loving AOW. I think the issues that are raised here are more a reflection of a healthier (as in living longer) and more-expectation-filled (as in I want a loving marriage, and perhaps children, and a house, and fabulous friends to share my life with, and a supportive and close extended family, and a career, and some exciting holidays during the year, and culture, and time for hobbies) society. However, it also reflects the changing dynamic of communities and families- people (for lots of reasons) sometimes live quite isolated lives far from their family as a support base but also sometimes forced back into their family home (not through ‘choice’ as Julie puts it, but through necessity- financial, health, changes in their marriage etc) and what this means as well. The role of a grandparent seems to be as fraught as that of a new mum or father in our changing times. Whenever something happens that changes your life and world, you sometimes forget that it can change the world of those around you too. I am guilty of this as a new mum- to remember that my parents are ‘new’ grandparents, that my siblings are ‘new’ aunts and uncles, that my friends are ‘new’ to pretty much everything to do with my baby- including how it changes our social calendar and outings! It can be such a minefield to navigate- some grandparents want to be very involved – my own mum genuinely offered to move in permanently ‘for a couple of months’ to help me get sorted when our son was born (! tactfully turned down, or she would still be here now I suspect…) to those grandparents who are very much ‘hands off’ (for lots of reasons, sometimes geographical) and therefore see their grandchildren briefly. However, I think most fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and therein lies the trouble. As Julie says, I think discussing openly and calmly your ideas and expectations with that of your parents and parents-in-law would be the best solution. Especially if they are going to be significantly involved in the care (and therefore upbringing) of your children. I agree with Katielase- life is a huge learning curve and you have to remember that everyone is just learning alongside you!

  13. Posted January 29, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve not had the conversation with my parents yet as we are not likely to have children for a wee while and my parents are already making it clear that they want there to be grandchildren and that they are keen to be grandparents and to have the conversation while children are not on the cards at the moment just makes me sad. So we just can’t.

    I do wonder about M’s Dad and step-Mum who live many, many miles away and how we will keep them involved as they may well be keen to be. I think we definitely will need to have that conversation with them, and with his Mum and step-Dad and my parents. Three conversations but at least now we are likely to have them – thanks for the post, it’s given me somethings to think about and talk about with M.

  14. Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    This is really interesting, Julie, because we have had a completley different experience (so far!) with the grandparents to be.

    We have spoken to my parents about what it will be like when we have children and we’re keen for them to play as much of an active role as they would like especially as both of my husban’ds parents have died, so they will be the only grandparents. Both of my parents are retired and are in their 50s and 60s. My mum has actually said I’ll need to put a road block up to stop her from coming around, so she is clearly looking forward to being a grandma. I’m lucky that we only live a 5 minute walk away from them, so they’ll be giving us as much support as we need in the early weeks, which really has taken away any anxiety I might have had about how I’ll cope keeping a little person alive. I know not all mums to be are in the same position for lots of different reasons, and that this kind of involvement might not be as welcome in all households but for us it’s ideal.

    They have already started to decorate and furnish the nursery at their house, totally putting us to shame, we haven’t done anything other than think about doing ours! There is a limit though. When my mum told me she would do for us what her mum did for her in the first couple of weeks after the birth with cooking, cleaning, looking after me etc I asked if she could start now…to which I got a blunt no. Worth a try though. I suppose my oven will have to wait until I get into nesting mode. I also work from home so they know there’s no risk of us asking/ expecting them to take on full time unpaid babysitting, and that the time they spend is on their terms so it wont stop them from doing all the things they currently enjoy doing.

  15. Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Really interesting post!

    As someone now 21 weeks pregnant with twins, who lives fairly far from family, I have a whole slew of mixed emotions about this. Partly because I feel like all of our parents (in-laws and my parents both) give us slightly mixed messages about how involved they want to be. Mainly my dad, who lives in California and still works a more-than full time intense job. He’s been putting lots of pressure on us for years to move closer to home (London-Bay Area not a hop skip or jump!) but at the same time doesn’t really seem to have a lot of room in his life to be able to help us with things like childcare etc. My step-mom is great and has offered at various points, but at the same time has been almost entirely disengaged from the pregnancy and I feel like I’m putting huge pressure on them to even come over for a visit to meet the babies in the summer… And this from my dad who has been saying ‘I can’t wait to be a grandpa!’ for years.

    On the one hand we want to move close to family because they seem to want us to and I think we’d love it. On the other hand, if they don’t really want to help with the kids (which I totally understand and respect for all the reasons you’ve outlined here) then I don’t really feel like they should put any pressure on us!

    Another ex-pat friend of mine said that we should quietly assess which parents are actually the most helpful in the first year or so, and then make our long-term decisions about where to try to live based on that… Feels a little manipulative but I can see the point!

  16. Katie
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m 20 days from my due date, and not discussed the role grandparents will play.

    My parents are 60 and 61, and will be first time grandparents. They both still work, so although I know they’ll love and adore our baby, I don’t expect too much, in terms of babysitting. Also, they have a much busier social life than me and my husband!

    My in-laws, are 60 and 65. My father-in-law still works fulltime, but mother-in-law does not work. They already have one grandchildren, who they look after two full days a week, and mother-in-law is always doing things for sister-in-law (she works fulltime), and helping out as much as possible. I’m sure they’d be able to help us, but I don’t think mother-in-law would want to be babysitting for two children. Also, myself and mother-in-law do not have the same relationship as she has with her daughter. Although we do get on, we obviously don’t have that closeness, and complete faith in each other.

    At the end of the day, it’s mine and Andy’s baby to care for and pay for, so I don’t have high expectations. All our baby really needs from grandparents is love, which they’ll have that in abundance.

    Thought provoking post.

  17. Liz
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Very timely -as ever!! My mum just this week has offered to look after Tessa two days a week when I go back to work in Oct/Nov. This was completely umprompted and unexpected as Mum lives an hour away so I had never considered it being option so hadn’t thought to have the conversation. However, it turns out that my mum, who is 58, has been doing a lot of thinking about what she wants to be doing with her life! She still works part time at the moment as she firmly believes that she wants to earn her own money rather than relying on my dad who is already retired, but she is now trying to work out the best balance for her of working, being around for my Nan and helping me and Tessa. As well as having time to do her own cooking, cleaning and hobbies!
    I had thought it was me who had to do all the juggling of roles, but it turns out that my Mum has even more of that. It sounds selfish but I had never really even considered this before, she has a lot of responsibilities which she is just trying her best to balance. It was really nice to be able to have that conversation with my Mum – I think becoming a mum myself has definitely changed our relationship for the better!

  18. Amanda M
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    What a great post! Frankly, pizza and a biscuit for breakfast and a menagerie of dogs, chickens and ducks (DUCKS!) makes you an amazing grandmother in my opinion !

    I don’t have children but I do notice my brother dumping his on my mum with the air of someone bestowing a great favour. She loves them but she’s on her own and finds it quite difficult to tend to their every need as well as there’s no-one else just to keep an eye whilst she has a shower or cooks the dinner. She’s also not very well off but it’s expected that she takes them out and buys them treats, specific food etc. So she always agonises in advance how she’ll cope.

    I had a wonderful relationship with my maternal grandmother though – I still miss her every day. My mother was very young when she had me and it was my grandmother who provided things like cookery, embroidery (!) and music lessons. Okay, by cookery lessons, I mean cake. And she had a box of recipes on picture cards and I chose which one we cooked – even if she knew I’d hate it. How amazing was that!

    • Esme's Mum
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      I am sorry to have to inform you that as of recently due to a savage fox attack we are now down to 3 ex-battery hens and one very lonely boy duck called Obama who now spends his days floating around on the pond quacking forlornly. It is a very sad affair.

      The dogs are in my bad books because they DID NOT MAKE A SOUND! while all around was being devestated but will bark like mad if the people next door shut their gate too loudly. So our little rural idyll is a little quieter than normal.

      I will ask Esme to post a picture on twitter of our new lady duck once we find a suitable partner for him.

  19. Posted January 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    This is such a thought provoking and excellently written post. I do love an insight from Esme’s mum :)

    We’re not pregnant, and not planning on being pregnant…perhaps ever. This doesn’t stop his mum saying she’ll have the (i.e. ours) grandkids for the summer holidays, whilst my parents told me they’d move closer to us if/when the time came. I don’t think I’d ever have children living 100miles away from my mum like I do now, she is so so great with children and treats any family or friend’s children as if they were her own grandchildren. I know both sets would be fabulous grandmas and I’d struggle to stop them doting on the children.

    What they don’t seem to understand is that we, at the moment, really don’t want children. I suppose it is all well and good talking about the grandparents not fitting into what we expect of them, but what if we don’t fit into what they expect of us? I know the answer, really, is communication but whenever they talk to us about grandkids, and we snort with derision and say ‘Yeah, that’s not something we want’, they just assume we are silly and haven’t thought about it, when really we actually have discussed it at length.

    Sorry – as you can tell my own comment has hit a nerve. I’m going to put the kettle on.
    L x

  20. Leni
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    This is a fab post, thanks Julie. I did not see my gradparents regularly growing up and now live a long old way from one and have a very strained relationship with the other. I hope that when I have kids my mum will be a much bigger part of their lives but in a pizza for breakfast rather than organised child minder kind of way.

  21. Crysta
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    This is such a wonderful post, and a good reminder that parents are people too!

    This is a topic I’ve talked about with both sets of potential future grandparents. Overtly with my mother, and in a round about way with Corey’s. What I got from that is his mother doesn’t like babies, and my mother would be there if I needed a break. Although the chances are my parents will be on the other side of the world…Neither would be childcare options, and I wouldn’t expect them to be! I get that they have lives of their own, and they’ve done their time bringing their own children up! At he same time, Id hate to have the same interference with my parenting that my parents had from my fathers parents.

  22. Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I found this post to be really thought-provoking even though I don’t have any children (nor am I planning any in the immediate future).

    My parents separated when my sister and I were very small and as a consequence my maternal grandparents were very involved in our upbringing (they looked after us after school so my mum could work full time). I love having those memories and I know my mum is eternally grateful for their support. However, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t always plain sailing and there were probably a few boundary issues (my grandma still is very much of the “let them eat as many sweets as they like” camp!)

    My younger sister has said before in passing that she’s “sure” our mum will help out when the time comes that she has children. Honestly, I think my mum would be delighted to, but my sister’s assumption still irks me a bit. I think, being the older child, I have much clearer memories of the sacrifices that our mum made to raise us as a single parent (she’s no longer single, but for our formative years, she was) and I’m very conscious that she’s now in a financial position where she can put herself first, and I’d like her to do that! While I would expect her to be a loving and doting grandma to any children I have, I’m very much of the belief that its my responsibility to care or provide care for them and I would never assume that my parents would take any kind of structured childcare role.

  23. Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Both sets of grandparents here are very excited, even though its not the first time for either of them. So I feel really thankful for that.
    My SIL has my MIL minding her two for two days a week and has done for a long time. We certainly wont get that level of help from MIL since they are in another city, and I also cant see my parents doing it when they both work full time.
    I know my parents will want to be involved. We mentioned early on that to help build independence and confidence with other people, we were hoping to send wee Peanut to its grandparents place for a day starting at a few months old, working up to weekends, and my parents think thats an awesome idea.
    So yeah, I think we are lucky in that everyone seems to be on a similar page – we’ll see the ILs a few times a year, and my parents a lot more often, but they have also both pointed out that they will be working to ensure they give us space. Talk about a balancing act – how much company and help is then too much for the new parents to deal with??

  24. Esme's Mum
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I think you’d better ask Amy and Esme ( who is due in May!!) if I’m a disappointment or not…

    • Esme's Mum
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      I will ALWAYS be there for my girls (oh and the son too!). I am their mother and not only is it what I want but it is how it should be. But if I am really honest with myself I think that there is a little bit of ‘my mother didn’t drop everything and help me look after my children so why should it be any different for me?’
      I had a very difficult relationship with my parents and have only really gotten to know my mother properly since my father died 3 years ago. I am 52 and my mother is now 94 (!). How sad it that? (but this is a blog for another occasion I think…) Their view was that I had made my bed by deciding to have children so I should be the one that looks after them. On the other hand my first husbands family were amazing and did take a much more active role to such an extent that Esme is very, very close to her aunt who is also her ungodlymother (we gave her the choice aged 5 who she wanted and she chose her favourite aunty.) But it isn’t the same as having your own parents being involved at all.
      Another added complication is that my daughter and grandaughter live close by but Esme lives three and a half hours away. How do I make sure that I give both daughters and grandchildren the same amount of myself??

      So as usual I am finding my own way in how to manage these new relationships and am certainly making it up as I go along. Mistakes will certainly be made but I hope that we will all muddle through without making so many that therapy is needed.

  25. Rach M
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    What a great, thought-provoking post! Brilliant. We’re getting married in October and planning on starting a family (hopefully!) not too long after that. Like Lucy, I’m in the situation where my mother and father-in-law have died, so my parents would be the only grandparents. Which is really something to get my head around! My Mum said years ago (in a very haughty voice) “I’ve reared my children, thank you very much’, but I suspect that was a dramatic moment intended to discourage teenage pregnancy. It was MANY years ago. I think now she’d be mad keen to be involved. Throughout my youth she kept regretting about how far she was from home (we were raised in London, her family was in Ireland, and my London grandparents – 10 mins up the road- wouldn’t look after us unless they were paid.) So she was very keen for me to learn from her to not underestimate the value of good-heartened, well-meant help nearby.

    Have to say that on one of my last visits to Costa’s with her before we left from Hong Kong she leaned in with capuccino whiskers and said:
    “Know what I’d love?”
    “A rocky road cupcake.”
    “A little grandbaby, that I could take to mass with me.”

    To be continued….

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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