There is more than one way to be a loving grandmother. In the past, grandparents were often expected to give unlimited amounts of time and energy to helping their children (especially their daughters) with the daily tasks of raising the children.
The stereotype of grandmothers endlessly babysitting, making cookies and offering to take the children while Mom and Dad go out on a date night still contains a certain amount of cultural truth. While this has never a universal norm, it was not an uncommon scenario. Even today there are a number of older women that choose to devote the majority of their time and energy to their children and grandchildren.
Today, many things are different. Many older women are dealing with complex life circumstances or health issues affecting them or their partner and these circumstances can require a lot of a person’s time and attention. Often women have worked very hard, whether as part of a marriage or as a single mother, to raise their children. While they feel good about that major accomplishment, many older women are not really interested in raising another generation. These days it is much more common for older people to remain active into their 60s, 70s and beyond. Many older adults have a full and rich life of their own to live and personal dreams they wish to fulfill before they die.
How you choose to define your role as a grandparent is neither right nor wrong. It is simply yours. Sometimes grandparents are reluctant to come out directly and let their adult children know what they want their role to be in the grandchildren’s lives. If you respond to your daughter’s requests by giving excuses, saying nothing, or avoiding the topic, your daughter may very well have no idea how you really see your role or what you feel you can take on vis a vis the grandkids.
While it is certainly a sensitive topic, your mutual expectations need to be discussed. Hopefully, you have a healthy enough relationship with your daughter to address this issue in a straightforward manner through open and honest communication. Ultimately, it is the parents’ responsibility to arrange for their children’s food, shelter and transportation needs. If you want to help out on a part-time basis or as a back-up for special occasions, let your daughter know.
While you cannot control your daughter’s feelings in reaction to your limit-setting, being upfront and clear with your limits and boundaries is ultimately the best thing for all parties involved. Going beyond your own desires and capitulating to pressure from your adult children can set everyone involved up for disappointment. In addition, there is also the potential for the relationships to be contaminated with guilt and resentment. This tension can even become noticeable to the children eventually.
Having authentic relationships with your daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren set up the conditions for healthy, fun and loving relationships uncontaminated by unnecessary guilt and resentment. An authentic loving relationship is one that can last a lifetime and endure the inevitable ups and downs that come as a part of life.