Sometimes you can be the best darn mom and things still go awry. That happened to a friend of mine with her oldest son, who has chosen to live his adult life in an extremely dysfunctional way. Sadly, the woman he fathered a child with has made similar choices for her own life. And thus my friend, after multiple attempts to help her son, finds herself raising her granddaughter full time.
It’s not easy. She thoroughly loves this sweet little girl, and she certainly doesn’t resent packing lunches and being back in the school pick-up line or helping with homework after many years of those tasks being behind her. Her struggle is that her son is still in their lives (as is occasionally the child’s mom), and she’s torn 24/7 over their behavior while trying to help her now nine-year-old granddaughter be as healthy as possible given her parents are very unhealthy.
I’ve talked to her many times about the tug-of-war in her heart while trying to parent her granddaughter well.
Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned from her for those of you in a similar situation:
1. Take care of yourself.
There’s a reason we have kids when we’re young—we have the energy for it! When you’re older, kids will wear you out in half the time (or less). Make sure you allot time in your day for privacy and rest, even if it’s just 15 minutes here or there. Take advantage of school hours to nurture your own needs, whether it’s coffee with friends, tea and a good book, a hobby, or just tackling your household chores in peace and quiet.
2. Children’s activities are way more expensive now than they were 10 to 20 years ago.
Look for free extra-curricular programs at the school or a local recreation center so they can express their talent or athleticism without pressuring your finances. Some dance studios and sports leagues offer “compassion pricing.” If you can’t find one, try explaining your situation and asking for a discount or scholarship.
3. Don’t be afraid to discipline.
This is a really hard task when your grandchild feels rejected by her parents. Maintain a balance of love and discipline so the child’s anger, hurt, and frustration don’t negatively impact the rest of the household. This is especially true if you still have minor children of your own at home.
4. Don’t try to fix or explain away your grown child’s behavior.
Listen a lot, and express compassion toward your grandchild. It’s hard to help this little person feel lovable and valuable when their heart feels betrayed, but it’s critical. Get help from a professional counselor if you struggle with the best way to do this.
5. Be prepared for the letdowns.
There may be times when the child’s parent promises something and doesn’t follow through. Plan ahead how you will respond so you aren’t dragged onto the child’s emotional roller coaster.
6. Be aware.
The attention you give your grandchild may cause resentment in your own minor children. Be intentional about allotting time to both, just as you did when all your children were young.
7. Make time for your marriage.
Actually, this really should go first on the list, just as it should have when you were a young mom. Don’t feel guilty about hiring babysitters for regular date nights and an occasional weekend away. Give your husband a few minutes of your time when he first comes home from work, and your ear when he needs to talk. Be conscious of not pushing him aside because your grandchild might feel rejected. This is a perfect opportunity to teach them about how much your marriage benefits them, and that you loving your husband well does not translate into rejection of them.
8. Ask for help!
Don’t think that just because you’re older than the other moms at school that you don’t fit in. Join carpool groups. Build relationships with other moms when you’re in the classroom or at a soccer game. Trade play dates. You need their help … and they need your been-there-done-that wisdom!
9. Handle your negative emotions in a healthy way.
If you do feel resentment that your life is not as it should be (normal!), find someone healthy—a professional counselor or church leader—to share that with so it doesn’t come out in negative ways toward your grandchild. A regular outlet for protecting and nurturing your own mental health will serve you well as you parent and maintain your marriage, and especially as your grandchild moves into the crazy preteen and teen years.
Remember you are human, with imperfections and limitations, so you will make mistakes. Don’t let your mistakes or challenges define you or shape your life. You are doing a lot of good too, and you’re doing a wonderful thing for your grandchild. Give yourself some grace and take this one day at a time.
You’ll also like When Life Gives You a New Normal, Anatomy of a Strong Woman, When Dreams Die… Grieving What Should Have Been and 5 Tips When Your Life Takes a Left Turn
Not raising your grandkids but want more on quality time with them? How to Start Your Own ”Granny Camp” and 10 Tips for How to Enjoy a Fun Visit With Your Grandkids