How Important is Grandparenting?
Grandparenting is a tricky journey which begins just as one sits back, relieved, thinking that with their children married, they have all the time in the world to pursue their heart’s desires and hobbies, which were ‘shelved’ for years! However, in our cultural context this Is seldom the case, because before one can gather their wits, the news of their daughter’s pregnancy Is announced, leaving doubts in the mind of young grandmothers as to their roleplay, capabilities etc.
The Mother-Daughter Bond
The mother-daughter relationship undergoes a profound change when daughters become mothers and mothers become grandmothers. Their bonds strengthen, as mothers admire their daughters’ handling of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood and daughters appreciate and understand sacrifices made by their mothers.
This is very prevalent in our culture, but sometimes there is friction between the mother and daughter, as the fine line between role-change is not clear and grandmothers’ well-meant advice may seem like interference.
The Transition of Roles
According to a study by psychotherapist Dorothy Firman, The mother, now a grandmother, needs to let go of her primary identification as mother and become a mother-graduate’ and the daughter, now a mother needs to let go of her primary identification as daughter, to become an ex-child.’
These conversations often do not happen in our culture, which help ease the transition between roles. Nevertheless, there is a very fine line between helping to care for a new born and interfering – this interference can become a source of conflict between mother-daughter in the immediate post delivery period, when uncertainty and hormonal levels create havoc.
The emotional and psychological support provided by a mother during her daughter’s childbirth process, Is invaluable but at the same time, the effects of such support on the grandmothers themselves, are unclear, with research underway.
Pregnancy And Childbirth Customs
Customs and support systems the world over, vary for pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum women, involving cultural factors and traditions that are specific to each country. Most times, the daughter delivers the first child in her maternal home, as it is a first experience, a learning process for the new mother at her own comfort level, among familiar surroundings.
In India, most communities celebrate the seventh month of pregnancy and the celebrations go by various names such as, godh bharaee, valakaapu, seemantham, doha! jeevan, baby shower, sat vaasa, etc.
This is a community event, celebrated with clothes and gifts for the mother as she moves to her parent’s home for the birth of the baby and generally forty days after, by which time, her body is supposed to have been rested and healed.
Why A Mother’s Support Is Essential
According to Grassly and Eschiti, a grandmother’s advice on matters of breastfeeding have been known to have a profound influence on the decisions a new mother makes about bringing up her child. Studies indicate that a grandmother’s support towards their daughters in the upbringing of their grandchildren Is pivotal. The Involvement of grandparents in providing care for the child is associated with a positive attachment with the infant.
Keeping Abreast Of Developments
Nowadays, the ease of access to the internet and an information overload, has completely changed societal norms, parenting, and grandparenting. But if grandparents stay tuned to this information influx and relate to it, they will not be enforcing an opinIon, but instead children may seek their opinion, leading to admiration and further bonding.
Philosophies like letting baby ‘cry-It-out’ have now been researched and found to be detrimental to babies’ developing brains. Strict feeding routines have also been shown to be harmful to the baby’s growth and the production of breast milk.
Basic Tips For Grandmothers
- Remember the grandchild is not your child
- Communicate with your daughter and do not presume what you say is understood
- Let go of all your preconceived notions and be flexible with ideas you grew up with, especially related to food and exercise after childbirth
- Accept that one size does not fit all
- Understand and appreciate that every family needs to find its own rhythm with an addition to the family
Freedom To Nurture
According to Firman, the birth of a child makes a unique reunion possible between adult-adult and mother-child interaction, allowing two women to play adult, child or parent in relationship to each other. If you think about It, this is what we all strive for – this freedom to nurture like an adult at times and like a child sometimes, always looking up to the support of a mother, when required and the admiration and adoration of a child!
With longer lit espans, progress in technology and medicine, it is crucial for grandmothers to maintain their sense of identity and not become dependent on their grandchildren for fulfilment. Just as with children, grandchildren too, grow up and lead their own separate lives, just as grandparents have to plan ahead and lead their own life.