Survival Guide for the New Grandparent
The day you became a grandparent was no doubt one of the best days of your life. You get to relive what you loved most about being a parent.
But wait. It’s been two weeks and you haven’t been invited over since you saw the baby at the hospital? Or maybe you’ve been asked to stay at the house, only to wash dishes, cook and help with laundry. The first forty days – what? Something isn’t right.
Welcome to the reality of early grandparenthood. Your son/daughter and their new family are taking time to bond. Do you remember how your life shifted when your sweet bundle arrived? Your new "family" consisted of you, your partner and your baby. When friends invited you and “your family” to dinner, you didn’t bring your mom and dad, right?
The first few weeks are sensitive. I had no idea the toll labor would take on my body. I needed space to heal. I didn’t want to be around anyone except Mark, Wesley and my mother. And I certainly didn’t want to entertain or play hostess to anyone.
If you’re a new grandparent feeling left out, wanting to help, ask your son or daughter what three things they need the most assistance with. Your opportunity to bond with the baby will come.
Here are some suggestions to help you be a supportive presence (and likely get invited back):
- Offer to bring food (going out of your way to bring a favorite cuisine – or sushi since mommy hasn’t eaten raw fish in nine months is a bonus!)
- Help with chores.
- Be proactive. When something’s done, ask “what can I do next?”
- Be supportive in how your children choose to parent.
- Give space when you're over. Let the mom and dad do most of the baby-holding, unless offerred.
- BE LATE. Especially when you’ve offered to cook or bring a meal.
- Watch TV all day.
- Offer ongoing unsolicited advice, especially when it starts with “I’m going to offer you some unsolicited advice here…” Our minds are full and while well intentioned, your ongoing suggestions may be overwhelming.
- Criticize how the parents choose to parent: “In my day we did x…” We are a different generation with access to an abundance of instant information from credible sources. Please don't take it personally if we don't take your suggestions.
- Turn your favor into work for us. If you say you’re coming over to bring lunch, don’t change your mind and ask us to order lunch when you arrive. On that note, if you’re doing dishes, don’t ask where every single thing goes. We will forgive you for putting the grilling spatula in the baking spatula drawer, promise.
Every person is different and every baby is different. What worked for you and your babies was definitely great! But that doesn't mean it applies to anyone else.
A wise new grandmother once said that unless the baby is in harm’s way, she lets her son and daughter in law figure things out on their own, offering suggestions when asked. After all, what's so wrong with doing things our own way in our own family? Raising a child is a totally personal experience and it works best when the parents parent, in their own style.
If you’ve settled into your grandparenthood role and all is peaceful in the world, please share your tips! If you’re the new parents struggling with in laws or with your own parents, tell me about it and let’s help each other through it in the comments section below.