When grandparents want to help
Here's the moment when sons and daughters are becoming parents and parents are turning into grandparents, living brand new emotions and a new sense of expectation.
New expectations which arise in both parents and grandparents.
The main topic of this renewed relation is help and support. How do grandparents want to help? And how do parents need to be helped?
It would be good if, from both side, there was the availability of an empathic and honest communication.
Most grandparents want to be helpful, maybe also because they remember that taking care of a newborn can be quiet hard. At the same time we should ask ourselves if what is helpful to grandparents is helpful to parents too (let's make a not too extreme example: grandma says: “I'll come to your house everyday to cook and tide up”. Some mothers might be more than happy with such an offer, while others, in need of calmness and privacy, could be quiet upset).
That's why I keep stressing out the importance of communication, empathy, and, why not, the chance to take a step back.
A step back allows everyone to observe other points of view, understand them, without judging them, assuming that every member of the relation is acting according to their own best intentions.
Taking a step back becomes vital when grandmothers and daughters/daughters in law have to face how times have changed. All the advices given to our mothers when they became mothers have changed. Most of the time drastically changed. 80's and 90's mothers have barely breastfed, and when they have, they did it every three hours, weighing the baby before and after feeding as if this practice was fundamental. Weaning happened quiet early and according to a very strict agenda. About cosleeping, it was considered dangerous or at least wrong, because preventing the baby independence. And I'm just focusing on postpartum. But if we looked at pregnancy and birth we would find the same huge differences. Nowadays, guidelines suggest to adopt breastfeeding by request, they underline the importance of contact for mother and baby, and there are multiple approaches to food which are more inclusive and respectful.
How does a grandmother feel when she finds out, that, even if she wants so much to be helpful, everything she knew and everything she relied on as a parent, is now wrong? How does her experience as a mother change in her memory and heart, now that she knows that she could have acted in a completely different way?
Can she be helpful? Is her help wanted? Is it needed?
Once again, the key is communication, active mutual listening and accepting everyone's resources and boundaries.
Grandparents have the great opportunity to discover their new role on completely renewed assumptions! Were they told completely different guidelines? Probably. So were they completely mistaken? Or are their sons and daughters completely mistaken? That's not the point! We're not after who's right or wrong! What's important is being part of a new relation, in relation with those children who are now learning to be parents. What's important is the chance to find out who this grandchild is. And you won't find this out thanks to any guideline.
What's important is to take one step back and enjoy the opportunity of being free from any demonstration of being capable and prepared. You just have to be there and live the moment.
Grandparents can be there and ask: “how can we help you?” and welcome the answer which comes right after.
Parents can welcome their parents and their own knowledge, being aware that they might have different opinions on how a child is to be risen. But that's not necessarily an obstacle. Also in this case, it's an opportunity to ask: “could you help us, even if we might desire things to be done in a different way from yours?” and I don't mean that as parents, we are not listening any more to our own parents experience or advice, assuming that it's necessarily wrong. Nor that grandparents are only good as taxi and laundry service.
Once again empathy and communication.
It's not a matter of judging, but of recognising everyone's role. Now, sons and daughters are parents and they're responsible for their own children. And that's right.
It's a chance to totally live a new life experience for both sides.