I’ve heard people talk about how wonderful it is to be a grandparent. And I know that is true – but even after years of working with new mothers, I found my relationship with my daughter the ‘new mother to be’ – well, fraught. I think she’s a great mom, and has been from the beginning. But I could tell she didn’t always believe that, and it was hard to find ways to help her see herself as the competent being she is!

bs_grandparentsIf you’re having a baby, and especially if it’s the first grandchild, you may find it helpful to know that most grandparents-to-be know a few things to be true:

  • No one is a perfect parent. We all struggle to be our best and do our best
  • Babies won’t cry forever.
  • It’s hard to keep up with the house and the laundry and the meals when you have a new baby – but it’s also really hard to accept help.
  • Everybody does better when they get some sleep.
  • Babies are only babies for a very short time.

If you’re at a place in your pregnant-birthing-postpartum life where you can have a discussion, here are some conversation starters. (Hmmm – kind of like having a few questions about current events tucked into your brain when you’re going to a social do where you won’t know anyone!)

  • Labor is…(this one can get a lot of interesting answers – you may have one of those moms who had a totally natural childbirth, or a mom who asked to get knocked out!)
  • Pacifiers are…(the devil’s tool? Better than a thumbsucker? Really really cute and a necessary part of being a baby?)
  • Breastfeeding is….(what we do in this family? Gross? Harder than you’d think?)
  • When a baby cries, you should…..(Oh man, this is a big one. There’s been a lot of research on brain growth since you were born you know – but YOU turned out alright….)
  • A new baby in the family….(Means lots of trips to Carter’s? Means you will never finish your schooling? Was not what your parents were planning right now? See what I mean – fraught!)
  • And I’m not even going to get started with babies sleep….!

When you’re in the middle of some of these conversations, ask your mom what HER mom gave her for advice. It will help her to get some perspective on what your relationship may be like in the coming months.

No matter what, and no matter how well your answers jive on all these conversation starters and questions, there are some practical things that Grandparents-in-Waiting can do now to help out later.

  • Freeze meal-size casseroles ahead of time
  • Purchase gift cards or gift certificates (Groceries? Gas? Pizza? Cleaning lady?)
  • Plan a way to be helpful with siblings – maybe take them out for a meal or for a day on their own with Grandma or Grandpa
  • Help with organizing or de-cluttering. (I always felt guilty about my housekeeping skills and couldn’t ask my mom to help because I was so ashamed. I realize now, looking back, that our house truly wasn’t that bad – no one ever got sick from my house or my cooking. Mom would’ve been fun to do “a project” with and it would’ve been a big help.)

Last but not least, it would be wonderful if grandparents could remember this little piece of wisdom.

“Grandparenting does not give us the right to speak without thinking, but it does give us the right to think without speaking.” (paraphrased from Lois Wyse, author of Funny, You Don’t Look like a Grandmother, Morrow, 20000)

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