Whether or not you’re a grandparent isn’t something you get any kind of say over – it’s down to your kids, assuming you have them. And if you don’t have children, well there’s even less choice for you.
We spoke to two women about this – Patsy who has three children and now six grandchildren and is struggling to cope with demands and expectations. And Lottie, who would desperately love grandchildren but whose daughter really is dead set against having them.
Talking to both it’s clear that there’s a sense of powerlessness on both sides, and to get some real insight, we have asked relationship expert Carol Ann Rice to give Patsy and Lottie some guidance.
I come from a fairly large family already – I grew up with two brothers and one sister, so when I got married, it kind of felt normal to have lots of noise and stuff around me. So I had three daughters of my own – not quite the full four! – and we had a happy life. Money wasn’t always comfortable, and feeding three very hungry mouths (wow growing girls eat a lot!) cost a fortune but it was so worth it. I absolutely adore my kids.
Now both the other daughters have two, and one of them is pregnant again… and I just can’t cope
And I adore my grandchildren, but the problem with having three kids is that now I’ve got six grandchildren… and counting. In the early days, when the first couple came along, I was really involved, helped out loads, had the kids at mine to give my daughter a break and so on. But now both the other daughters have two each, and one of them is pregnant again – which is going to bring the total up to seven, and I just can’t cope.
I feel really bad, because the first daughter to get her kids in the bag, so to speak, has had way more help from me than the other two, and I know they bicker about it a bit. But the truth of the matter is that coping with two or three is MUCH EASIER than coping with five or six. Or seven!
I do my best to try and explain to them that this is absolutely not favouritism, but I am not as young as I was (I’m 62) and my knees and hips don’t always play the game – and my husband is in the same boat. We just can’t do what we used to be able to. I sort of feel in a way that because they are bickering I am frightened I’ll have to draw a line and just say no to everything, which I don’t want to do.
My daughters do understand my point of view, and I know none of them would be making us feel bad on purpose. It’s probably more in my head that anything else, but I really don’t know what to do. I almost want to say to them STOP BREEDING!! We can’t take any more!
It’s all about setting boundaries here. Saying that yes, you are happy to help, but on other days you have commitments.
You can love your grandchildren unconditionally and give them time, money and attention you may not have been able to do as a tired and broke parent. Day trips, zoo, theatre, panto, quietly making crafts, cakes or gardening can be delightful as you can block that time to invest in them, and can then hand them back.
But it’s important that your offspring see you have lives too and aren’t just there on tap for them. That you’re not ‘on demand’, payment-free lackeys and wrap around childcare solutions for them.
- Draw some boundaries around your time. Suggest a group meeting with all daughters and work out a rota where you say you are available on the days you choose, and work out a strict rotation.
- Try not to be swayed by requests to help because of work. It’s tempting to put in some extra support in this case, but if you decide that’s something you want to do, explain that this has to come out of the ‘rota quota’ and that it’s then down to your daughter to decide. Does she want childcare for that day at work, for example? Or would she rather save it for a Saturday night sleepover!?
- Working like this puts the power back in your hands, but it puts choice in the hands of your daughters. And you get to spend equal amounts of time with ALL your grandchildren and enjoy every crazy minute of it!
I find it really hard to talk about this without becoming really upset, and in turn that makes me feel selfish. But I am a single mum to an only child, a wonderful daughter and she just does not want to have any kids of her own.
I can’t see her changing her mind; she has an absolutely dizzying career and for that I am immensely proud of her. I couldn’t wish for better for her – she is happy and successful and has a lovely husband. They have an amazing life and I am lucky enough that they still include me in that too.
She has been really clear with me, there is no way she’s going to have kids. She just sees that as something that will get in the way of her life
I spend time with them – they occasionally take me abroad for little breaks in the sun, and my daughter makes a point of making time for me, we do stuff like go to Champneys. But she has been really clear with me, there is no way she’s going to have kids. She just sees that as something that will get in the way of her life.
I can kind of see what she means. Any parent will acknowledge that having kids totally changes your life. And she’s seen it happen to so many of her friends. I keep hoping she’ll change her mind but honestly, I can’t see it happening. I feel awful saying it because I’m lucky to have her – but I’m desperately sad about her choice. I feel bereft and a sense of loss for something I will never have.
It can be sad to realise you may not be a grandparent, but having children of your own is not a guarantee of this, or of future ‘investment’ in happiness.
Each of us, as someone’s child, has a life to live on our own terms. For some, circumstance or choice may dictate that having children is not part of that picture. And many things in life are not a given.
There are however many families and children who would love a hands-on and devoted ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ and lovely friend of the family who takes an interest in their children – and there are plenty of people out there whose kids don’t have grandparents. Many such relationships can be more rewarding and loving than familial ones if nurtured in a healthy way.
- If this is you, and you feel a sense of loss that you won’t have grandchildren, that’s completely acceptable – it is sad and completely reasonable to feel grief around this. But accepting that it’s not your choice and you can’t change it is important to develop acceptance. Spending all your time wishing it would happen when it isn’t going to is just going to keep needling at that pain.
- Can you volunteer at local or community events? Spend time with children being helpful? Could you perhaps be a reader or a helper at a school, for example? Operate a lollipop?! You’ll need to be DBS checked and adhere to their rules, but as a regular helper you could develop a rapport with some of the kids there – some of whom might not have a granny or grandad themselves.
- Offer a babysitting service for friends and family – spending time with little ones who are part of your close circle can be a rewarding experience, and you’re bound to find mums and dads who need a bit of help!
- In short, you might not have your own grandchildren, but there are likely to be kids out there that you can be important to, in some way.
Find relationship expert Carol Ann Rice here www.realcoachingco.com