By Dr. Angela Bowen | New grandparents beware: When a baby is born, new parents often need and welcome help from the grandparents. But does your idea of “help” align with theirs? |
One expectant grandmother told me how her mother had traveled thousands of miles to help after her first baby was born. She’d hoped her mother would do laundry and make meals as well as spend time with the baby. Instead, the grandmother had sat holding the baby for hours between breast feeds while the mother recovered from giving birth, struggled to find her way as a new parent, and maintained the household. Now that the mother is about to become a grandmother herself, she is committed to helping in the ways she wished she had been.
One of the most successful grandmothers I know (in that she is a welcome and active part of her grandfamily’s life) quietly helps her daughters-in-law with housework. This behind-the-scenes grandparenting might not be glamorous or immediately recognized, but it makes a huge difference for the new family.
Your relationship with your child and his or her partner will determine how comfortable both you and they are with you doing chores in their home. They might feel you’re intruding; you might feel in the way. To feel more comfortable, you might want to start helping before the baby is born. That way, you can learn how the parents do things, where things go, and so on. Be honest, “I want to help now so I am better able to help later.”
While holding your newborn grandbaby is one of life’s most precious experiences, it isn’t necessarily helpful to the new mother for you to just sit and hold the baby while she exhausts herself cooking and cleaning. Let the mother have that pleasure with her newborn, and reserve your cuddle time for when the mother is showering, sleeping, or doing chores only she can do.
Adapted from Today’s Grandmother: Your Guide to the First Two Years, by Angela Bowen.
Angela Bowen, RN / PhD, is a registered nurse. With 40 years experience working with expectant and new mothers, Angela felt ready to become a grandmother but discovered that she, too, had much to learn.