Why do I always have to be the second granny?
novelIst, grandmother of four and ex-Blue Peter presenter, Janet ellis, 61, answers your questions . . .
QI’M THE mother of two grown sons, both happily married with two children. When my daughters-in-law had their babies I knew, and accepted, it would be their mothers they’d turn to for help and support in the early days. I was happy to take a back seat. But now, as my grandchildren are growing up, I’m finding I am still very much the granny in the background.
In both cases my daughters-inlaw are in control of the family diaries and while they seem to see their own mums almost every weekend, I am left feeling sidelined.
Friends tell me that this is the lot of the paternal granny, who will always play second fiddle to her daughter-in-law’s mother. It seems so unfair and, as much as I love my family, it’s making me resentful.
AYou’ve been an excellent mother-in-law. You’re demonstrably generous and loving in the way you’ve allowed these two families to develop independently, without crowding them or being needy. Your delight in your sons’ successful partnerships does you credit.
As you say, in most cases daughters turn first to their mothers when handed their newborns — but that doesn’t mean you should continue to step aside as your grandchildren grow older.
I expect you were in control of the family diary, too. Most women tend to keep track of everyone’s doings — and not necessarily because we’re better at it (although the jury’s out)!
If you feel left out of arrangements, it’s undoubtedly more out of habit than a strategy designed to exclude you. Although the other grandmothers seem to have a bigger presence, it’s highly likely neither of them would mind you issuing a few Sunday lunch invitations. From the way you describe the situation, there’s no rivalry. Your daughter- in- law’s mothers have established close enough relationships with the children to allow room for you. They may even be pleased to share the grandparenting. I presume you’re in touch with both your sons’ families often enough to know what they’re up to (even if that involves hearing about what they did with the other grandmothers). The way forward is not to make demands (which doesn’t sound your style), but suggestions. As well as enquiring which weekend they’d like to see you, have you considered taking your grandchildren out or having them to stay? As they get older, you could consider doing things with them individually. You could even offer to babysit. You might not have seen as much of your grandchildren as you’d have liked when they were very little, but that will have no effect on how they see you from now. Your track record in child-rearing is terrific, and your concern not to tread on toes admirable. Don’t settle for second fiddle when you’re well qualified to conduct the band.
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