Now Reading
5 Ways To Be A Good Grandma In The Age Of The New Grandma

5 Ways To Be A Good Grandma In The Age Of The New Grandma

We live in the age of the new Grandma — you know the type, the one who would rather get her nails done or upload embarrassing facebook selfies than invite her Grandkids over and cook them a meal. This could have evolved from the new ‘young mommy’ look that has become more popular in Mothers. For example, many more mothers are getting plastic surgery done, particularly ‘mommy makeovers’. So ultimately, Mothers and Grandmothers are starting to look and act younger. This article is for all our girls who’ve collectively complained about the millennium Grandparents. Plenty of you are lucky enough to have that amazing Mother in Law who shuttles little Tommy to and from basketball three times a week and makes gorgeous Sunday dinners and lays them out on her lovely antique table you don’t know how lucky you are… or maybe you do. This one is for the rest of us – grown children – who’ve been left relatively abandoned by our parents and in laws once the babies come.

Don’t get us wrong – there’s something fantastic about the new Grandparents. They are empowered to not stay in unhealthy lifelong relationships, they stay in the work force longer out of will over necessity, they take far better care of their bodies than our Grandparents used to. We are all for these sorts of progressive, feminist Grandparents… the kinds that work or run non profits with passionate zeal. But what about the rest of the Grandmothers of the world? The ones who don’t work, and claim to adore their Grandkids but offer no actual help. Paula Cole’s “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” sometimes becomes our mantra when talking to girlfriends. Where have all the good Grandmas gone? Our Grandmother’s weren’t perfect, but compared this this generation of Grandmas, they were unbelievable triple tasking love machines!

Have they all disappeared? The classic Grandma existed for a reason – the nurturing, home-making, wild-dervish in the kitchen stereotype was how new parents (without massive trust funds) used to survive having kids, whilst not living in a compound or village. Because it does take a village, with overbooked schedules and working parents. Or even if one parent stays home, those of us who attachment parent or breastfeed know how that vortex of exhaustion can sweep you in for years. The happiest of new parents have support, and that’s the truth of it.

Gone are the days of open door parenting, where neighbors step in to babysit in a pinch if you’ve got to pick up you elder one from school and the other one is napping. In this extremely alienating time of parenting, it’s all on you. And if you don’t have nannies or a good, supportive family – you are left spent and without much ability to exist outside the home. Our generations parents (from the working class to the wealthy) mostly managed to own their homes. The cost of living in the 50’s and 60’s were dramatically different from today. We have extreme stressors on us, Gen X, Y, and millennial alike.

Generally speaking, they had kids in their twenties and by their mid thirties were dealing with the emotional crisis of middle age – not diaper duty. Our generation had a later start. We wobbled through our twenties, into the egg freezing era. Many of us didn’t start having our kids til our thirties, even forties. Is this their fault? No. Maybe. Ask our collective shrinks. The point is – by the time our parents were our age, they generally were set up. Most of our friends are still renting apartments or homes, and many are still struggling (on all ends of the financial specter) – but even those who are flush with cash cannot buy the comfort of a good Grandma or Grandpa to fill in when an emergency comes up, or for the cushion of a Mommy-like sub. Although, relying on grandparents can sometimes put a strain on them if they are not in the best of health. They may even require the help of caregivers themselves.

So what are all the Grandma’s up to? Well, for one, they are living longer. 70 is no longer ancient, and she may well be on her way to her third husband or boob job. She figures you’ve got it all under control, and if you don’t, sucks for you. She was a child of the 70s and never learned how to traditionally nurture in the ways we needed. She just isn’t interested, or as we heard one Grandma in the park say “this isn’t for me anymore.” And yet, that Grandma posts non stop instagrams of said kids, and claims they are her life. Well, show it Granny, ‘cuz us 2014 Mamas need a gosh darn hand, and your tiny bits of crumbs aren’t cutting it.

An even more disturbing trend: emotionally dependent Grandparents who are still relying on their parents to do their own Grandparenting for them! Case in point; a friends Mom who makes HER Mom (in her 90s) host and cook for all family events. These are the Grandma’s who downsize into cozy studio apartments so they can travel the world and expect you to fend for yourself on Thanksgiving — and then weep to friends that the family structure isn’t aligned. Um.. that’s because you never cared enough to make it so.

And while it’s nice that the new Grandma goes to the gym and care about her health, the vanity is over the top. Coming over, with botoxed-within-an-inch-of-your-life face to slather on lipstick while you bitch about your thighs seems absurd to us Mamas in sweatpants and messy buns. As Valerie Cherish would say “I don’t need to see that!” There’s something really disgusting about extreme vanity over a certain age. If we know by our 30s that looks are not the most important thing in the world, we’d expect you to have realized that by 60. We are dealing with a 24 hour a day triage situation and haven’t slept in years. The last thing we are thinking about is eyelash extensions. You’d think, as a Mother, you may have remembered what that felt like, and want to lend a hand. After all, weren’t you the one to tell us how fast it all goes by? A begrudgingly involved Grandparent is worse than a non existent one. A friend of ours told us, “Sure she offers to babysit, but she calls 30 times to see when we are coming back when we’ve been gone an hour.” In cases like that, you’re better off with a babysitter, or just not going.

Something feels very wrong about all of this – humans are pack animals. Female animals kill for their young. Sisterhood stems from the maiden, the mother, and the crone. We are the triple goddess – we don’t exist without each other, so why the abandonment once the cycle begins to roll?

I got the idea to write this piece after reading this (extremely god focused, so don’t even look, atheist friends) version about how to to be a good Grandma. So while claiming a good Grandma “is joyful in serving her family and is a gracious hostess” is completely the antithesis of anything we learned in our riot grrrrl days, when we meet friends who say their Mom comes over and offers to mop or has a Dad who invites the family over to the beach house for the entire summer – we know we’ve gotten a raw deal.

A simple google search on “bad grandparents” turns up thousands of articles, a play date with our girlfriends turns up endless complaints about awful in-laws and estranged parents.. so what ruins the camaraderie? The other (and larger) half of our friends who’ve got incredible parents and in-laws, the types who shlep in from half way around the country to build little Jessie a tree house or babysit twice a week with joyful insistence. The ones who are always there when you need them. The ones who don’t shit talk you when you’re giving birth to their Grandchild (yep, we’ve heard that story) or make up fake excuses why they aren’t available to help out after you’ve asked three times. We won’t even go into the dramatically awful Grandmas – the ones who run off with lunatic second husbands never/ barely-ever to be seen from again or the ones who don’t bother to send Birthday cards or ever bond with your kids. What about the ones who go out of their way to be awful to you when you’re pregnant, or tell your Husband not to have more kids (um, isn’t that your choice, not hers?)

What about the Mom of a friend of ours with all sons who said to her “You’re so lucky to be having sons, daughters always want their Moms and that’s a real pain.”

So here you are Grandmas — five ways us parents could use your help.

1. Have a home. Yep, a real home that is kid friendly (with toys and all) like OUR Grandparents used to have. You don’t have to have a mansion to have a little box of toys and an open door policy for visits. You don’t have to be Betty Crocker to make cookies or a lentil loaf. And if you don’t live close by — visit often. Once a week for an hour doesn’t cut if your daughter or son has kids under 5. A friend of ours recently said “You know why me and all my cousins were so close? Because our Grandparents home was the meeting spot for all the family. It was the diorama of all our life’s events. They kept that house come hell or high water to make sure there was always a big enough spot for all of us to gather and grow real relationships. The truth is – if the family is broken – it rests on the matriarch. She is the person who can create peace, over everyone else. If a family is splayed, it generally all lies in the faults of the parents and their original screw ups. It’s rarely the kids, and nearly always the wounds created by the parents.” This one is particularly hard because, as dysfunctional as your family may or may not have always been, we always presume our parents will get it together for something as life-altering as becoming Grandparents. It’s particularly pitiful when they don’t. This is their last go-round with new life, you’d think they’d want to enjoy every moment.

See Also

2. Make meals. As the dutch proverb says “When the stomach is full, the heart is glad.” Old school is best in some ways, and food is the heart of the family. A gathering without good food never lasts long. Kids are always hungry, and so are tired new parents. But well made meals make people linger for hours, keeping the family together and the relationships growing. Don’t expect us to cook for you – we are staying up all night fending off monsters and boob pirates. Have some compassion for the sleepless and make a darn delicious meal once in a blue moon. And if you don’t cook, at least be a champion at ordering a lovely array of take out wherein exhausted parents aren’t obliged to do your dishes. We gave you Grandkids, we deserve a nice meal here and there.

3. Go out of your way to not be an a-hole to your son/ daughter-in-law. In other words, go above and beyond to grow that relationship from the start – but especially once she has kids. If you lose that, you lose the truest connection to your own child. Mother in laws should be doula-like, a zen Mom-like simile, a helping hand. NOT a girlfriend. We have plenty of those and we don’t need any more. We need tactile help with YOUR Grandchildren once in a while. Be careful to stick to this one, as once you breech trust with a kid-in-law, they may never like you or want you around again. Remember, you aren’t their blood. So if you let them down when they need you most – you’ll look more like a villain than a reconstitute Mother. We’d say about half our girlfriends can’t stand their Mother-in-laws. Some overt (“she’s a monster”) some more subtle (“she’s pretty useless, but I’m fine with the yearly visit.”)

4. Do what we can’t do. Are we nursing a newborn? Take our other one out for yoga or a ice cream. Better yet, get them into something you love early. Love knitting? Art? Dance? Whatever.. take a Mommy n’ me class with your Grandbaby. They are your flesh and blood – if you don’t do for them, who you gonna do for? Don’t text us 56 times asking if Wednesday is good to prove how awesome you are to show up for an hour complaining non stop about your aching back as you trot around in heels. Don’t do us any favors based on showing off (“I spent ALL day with my Grandkids.”) It doesn’t help us for you come sit in our apartment and talk about yourself for an hour and ask us for lunch. Tell us to go take a shower or eat a muffin and make a lego castle with your Grandbabies. Be our village.

5. Practice what you preach. Don’t go on and on about what an awesome Mom you were to us. We know the truth. Make up for it now, or forever hold your peace. What kind of a legacy are you looking to leave?

Finally: What about if they/ she never changes? Unfortunately we’ve seen the trend of cutting off Grandparents entirely growing steadily. We have countless friends who don’t talk to their parents or in-laws (or both) when the toxic gets too heavy. There are certain scenarios’ that are out of your hands – addictions of all sorts, extreme narcissism, mental issues, dangerous behaviors – these situations beg a stepping out for the safety of your kids and your own sanity. This is extra hard for a new Mom, because all you want to do is have everyone together for the sake of your kid/s. The saddest thing we’ve seen amongst our Mommy friends is the constant attempts at reconciling gone bad. It takes so much effort and emotional drain – way more than any of us have left over or on reserve. When it’s more crying than joy, it’s time to cut ties. Although change is always possible, there are certain types of Grandmas who will absolutely never change.

Okay Gals n Guys — now is your time to vent about how unhelpful (or gloat about how amazing) your Parents or In-Laws have been since you had kids. We want to hear what pisses you off and what made you dance in the rains of gratefulness. Let us know in the comments. We promise not to forward it to your in-laws. ;)

Scroll To Top