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Being a grandma compared to being a mother

(96 Posts)
40sgranny Fri 28-Jul-23 13:53:49

I’m in my early 40s and my youngest child is still a toddler. I also gave 2 beautiful grandchildren who I adore and feel so blessed to have. I love seeing them, chatting on FaceTime and when they’re older will really look forward to developing that relationship, taking them on day trips and perhaps having them overnight. However although I’ve loved being a mother and caring for my own little children, I don’t have the exact same maternal urge/feelings with the grandchildren. I do love them very much and of course would care for them if needed and do very much feel a strong bond, it is very different though. E.g. I’m quite happy just to know they are ok and happy when I see them, I don’t really want to babysit, change nappies etc but have never minded doing this day to day care of my own children.
Maybe it’s because I’ve got my own very little one still but do any other grandparents feel like this?

Katyj Sat 29-Jul-23 06:20:17

I was first made a gran 21 years ago when I was 45 I loved him very much, but didn’t feel ready to become a gran, we still had a 17 year old at home, and my dad was ill and disabled at that time too
Now at 66 we have two small DGC this feels more natural but more tiring.
My own mum used to say she loved her two DGC more than me, and now at 92 much prefers to see them rather than me. I can’t identify with that at all.

Sara1954 Sat 29-Jul-23 06:56:07

My mother never tired of telling everyone she meets that her life would have been so much happier if she’d had my eldest daughter instead of me.

Katyj Sat 29-Jul-23 07:20:52

Oh Sara that’s awful, so sorry. I just don’t get it. I think mum preferred boys, she said they were more colourful 🙄

Sara1954 Sat 29-Jul-23 07:36:00

Thankyou Katyj, but I’m long past being bothered.
We don’t speak anymore, but she continues to have a close relationship with the perfect granddaughter.
Sometimes I feel a bit sorry for my daughter, can’t always be easy being the chosen one.
Like your mum, some parents probably have a preference for girls or boys, but I’ve never thought of boys as more colourful.

MayBee70 Sat 29-Jul-23 07:57:38


I know how you feel. I loved being a mum but it was all encompassing.
I remember an old lady in the street stopping to chat when I was pushing #4 in the pram.
Try to enjoy this time when they are young she said. I didn't have time ofcourse and they had grown up and left home before I knew it.
I love my 7 DGC and am immensely proud of them but the relationship is totally different.
They have parents, thankfully.

Same thing happened to me. I was on holiday and my first child was in her pushchair. I was looking at some archeological site and and elderly lady next to me said to cherish the time I had with her because it’s so short. I never forgot her words and find it incomprehensible that I’m now her. From someone who wasn’t baby minded ( I didn’t think I could have children) my world became my children. I’m not particularly close to my grandchildren and don’t seem to naturally know how to be with them the way I did with their parents. As a worrier, though, what does affect me is if the grandchildren aren’t well because, not only do I worry about them but it upsets me that their mum or dad is worried, too.

yggdrasil Sat 29-Jul-23 08:04:04

I wonder what my capable organising daughter would think of this. She became a grandmother this year, which makes me a great-granny and totally irrelevant any more

40sgranny Sat 29-Jul-23 08:18:40


I was first made a gran 21 years ago when I was 45 I loved him very much, but didn’t feel ready to become a gran, we still had a 17 year old at home, and my dad was ill and disabled at that time too
Now at 66 we have two small DGC this feels more natural but more tiring.
My own mum used to say she loved her two DGC more than me, and now at 92 much prefers to see them rather than me. I can’t identify with that at all.

Yes it’s probably party that issue of primarily identifying with that life stage. My focus is very much on my children, I’m here cuddling my poorly toddler who has just woken up, we’re waiting on exam results for the teenager and none of my contemporaries are grandmas. I have older colleagues at work who are very involved grandmas but they don’t have children still at home.

I really didn’t mind the news or idea that I was going to become a grandma though, it felt incredibly special. I wasn’t one of these people who hated the idea of being called grandma, actually feel incredibly privileged to have reached that life stage. I didn’t imagine though that it would be so steeped with such expectation, I remember the relationship with my grandparents (and my children’s grandparents) being one of enjoying and looking forward to spending time with them but didn’t seem to be steeped in the expectations on grandmas today. You saw them when you saw them, nowadays almost feel the expectation is similar to that on a father without residency. Conflicts with grandparents because the children don’t feel they are ‘doing enough’
To be honest I would have had much more trepidation about the impending news if I had known.

I don’t quite understand why parents would say they much prefer their grandchildren over their children.
I can see how the relationship as adults may be closer with their grandchild if the personalities better match but just as you wouldn’t tell one of your children another is a favourite I don’t see why it’s acceptable to say it in relation to a grandchild.

It’s hard to describe but the love I had as mother for each is my children when they were born was like no other, it would of been traumatic to have been separated from them, I wasn’t bothered by their dribbles, changing nappies etc, was hyper sensitive to their cries etc, I absolutely hate the idea of any other child dribbling on me 🤣 I love my grandchildren, they are lovely and can’t wait to take them to the theatre, cinema etc when they are old enough to appreciate such things, I loved spoiling them at Christmas but my feelings as a grandma are completely different.

Blondiescot Sat 29-Jul-23 08:29:36


I think the problem is, that no matter how much we think we are going to resist getting too involved with our grandchildren, circumstances have other ideas. The cost of childcare, my youngest daughter leaving her partner and returning home with three children, none of it is as I expected, but that’s the thing isn’t it? You always have to be there for them all, and it never seems to end.
I’m not complaining, just saying that with my rose coloured glasses on, I saw my role very differently.

I know exactly what you mean. I was never much of a 'baby' person. I'd never even held a baby before I had my own and still don't coo over babies. When my son had his son, I was of course delighted, but certainly didn't foresee that I would end up becoming his primary caregiver for a couple of years. Son and GS ended up coming to live with us for those couple of years, and although he is now in a new relationship, because of his job, which involves shift work (his new partner is in the same job too), we have to care for our GS quite a lot of the time. He is a very hyperactive child too - literally (and yes, I do mean literally) never sit still, so looking after him is exhausting. I love him to bits, but this is not how I envisioned being a granny would be. Husband and I haven't had a holiday since pre-covid, partly because of the childcare situation. It just seems never-ending.

Sara1954 Sat 29-Jul-23 08:47:00

I was only saying to my husband a few days ago , that for someone who never really gave any thought to having children till it happened, I’ve spent more or less the last fifty years looking after them.

40sgranny Sat 29-Jul-23 09:05:54

@maybe70 that has been the lovely thing about having babies 20+ years after the first set, the chance to experience it all again but know to treasure and enjoy it. With the first ones much as I desperately wanted to just enjoy cuddling my baby, spend time with my toddlers but beyond meeting their needs and ensuring they were happy then it felt a self indulgence and that I should really be getting on with the important things like building my career and meeting other people’s needs and expectations. You don’t realise how quickly they change and their childhood goes either, they are not babies or little children who want cuddles and are full of joy at a day out or their hobbies for very long. To be able to do this all again and truly appreciate all that has been wonderful. Cuddling my newborns all day felt like a justified priority this time, I now work part time as much as the opportunities in my career are alluring and people will congratulate me for achieving in my career etc I know for certain how precious these times with my children are. I know that time is more precious than expensive things for them or ourselves so don’t feel that pressure to be earning lots either. I have the self awareness too that I sometimes need a break as well and so will draw on support when needed. Just to not be stressed about many of the challenges of parenthood, behaviour quirks etc like was first time.

I have had to learn to keep my mouth shut though as think end up being the most annoying parent among my contemporary mothers who are going through this for the first time. For example you want to say stop stressing about milestones, that your slightly shy child is unlikely to be autistic. To stop stressing over doing a big birthday party for your 1 or 2 year old or being able to afford to afford the hundred things your child doesn’t actually need. However have learned is usually better to keep quiet unless advice specifically asked. Yes you know they are totally stressed working all the hours they can to afford the huge birthday party etc and that their child will be overwhelmed and miserable throughout the huge party and burst into tears when the cake is bought out and you see the same in multiple aspects of parenting over and over but better to just give them the tea and sympathy after

Calendargirl Sat 29-Jul-23 09:52:35

I’m not particularly close to my grandchildren, and don’t seem to naturally know how to be with them the way I did with their parents

This is true, partly the age gap, partly because as I said previously ‘as a GP, you are one step removed’, or dare I say it, should be.

In our ever changing world, things have changed so much since my own children were born, mid 70’s, and I am just not up to date with how so many things are now for my teenage GC.

It’s their parents they turn to for advice, support, information, and that’s how it should be, with us GP’s on the sideline, but ready to chip in if necessary.

Helicopter parents can turn into helicopter grandparents if not careful.

Sara1954 Sat 29-Jul-23 10:20:33

I have to say, without my thirteen year old granddaughter living with us for several years, I would never have heard of TikTok, watched Love Island or I’m a Celebrity.
I would never been up with teenage fashion by spending hours traipsing around Hollister and Urban Outfitters.
Obviously these are things I could happily have done without, but there is a plus side.
Who can sort out the Wi-Fi and navigate the millions tv channels available? Who encouraged me to use ApplePay? Who can work the SatNav? Who can sort out problems with my phone and laptop?
I’m constantly amazed at how all these things come so naturally to her, my husband thinks she’s a genius, I just think she’s a normal teenager.

maryrose54 Sat 29-Jul-23 11:58:17

I suffered with bouts of depression and anxiety when my children were young, so didn't enjoy that time very much. Feel I wasn't a very good mum. With my two young GC I am enjoying seeing then grow and develop and am quite involved as I help with child care. I feel that I am a better granny to them than I was a mum to my children. Now my children are grown up I have a very good relationship with them, and they say thst they didn't feel unloved as children.

Franbern Sat 29-Jul-23 13:04:19

I have written on threads before stating that, as much as I do care about my g.children, never a patch on the love I have for my children.

I was a full time Mother. My own five, plus one permanent foster child, as well as other fosterings who came and went. Hard times some of it, Hubbie seriously ill and disabled - but being a Mother has been- for me - the most worthwhile thing I have ever done.

I can empathise with the person on here who said that each time a daughter gave birth, it was just their welfare I was interested in, baby very much second!!!

All my g.children have been very much planned and desired babies. Because they make my children happy, they make me happy!!! Sort of extending the circle of love to involve them.

One g.child I had a lot to do with for the first fifteen yeas, Mum, lived nearby and single parent. So, yes I do have a little mkore feelings for her than maybe the others, but still nothing like the feelings I have for her Mum.

I have never really understood people who say that having grandchildren has been the most wonderful aspect of their lives. If none of my children had wanted to have their own children, (as with my son and his wife), I would have been more than happy.

Perhaps I have used all my emotions up (and continue to do so), with my total love (even when not always reciprocated), for my children (most of whom are now old enough to be participants here), that I have a much softer love for the grand children.

KaazaK Sat 29-Jul-23 13:20:50

I adore my grandchildren and actually enjoy them more than my own children. I can see perfectly why when you’ve got a toddler of your own being a grandparent isn’t quite the same. I had a big gap between my children being babies and my grandchildren being born so by that time I was more than ready to have that baby time again.

Sara1954 Sat 29-Jul-23 13:28:27

I have big gaps between my children, and hence, big gaps between my grandchildren, so from when I had my oldest daughter, till now, there have always been children.
I think, there may be a break now, as youngest daughter has decided on no more, and oldest granddaughter isn’t interested.
Our son doesn’t have children, and is not very interested in his sisters children, it takes all sorts.

Dinahmo Sat 29-Jul-23 13:36:07

I watched my father with his first grandchild and it was obvious that he regarded her in a different light to his own children. I, the eldest of 4 was born when he was 21. 3 more followed by the time he was 28 or 29.

My niece was born when he was 52 and he had all the time in the world for her. I remember visiting at her teatime and he was sitting in an armchair, having just fed her, with her on his shoulder, burping here whilst he read the Telegraph. He absolutely adored her.

This is in no way intended to denigrate his feelings for us but he had more time in his middle age than he had in his youth. Sadly he died from cancer aged 55 so he only had a short time with her.

40sgranny Sat 29-Jul-23 13:38:03

Reading through all the lovely replies has been really insightful and reassuring. It does it’s normal to not have the same feelings as a mother but beautiful to read of the wonderful relationships people have developed with their grandchildren. Rather than due to the strong biological need to mother their babies most mothers experience, these seem to have come about more through circumstance, in the best case scenario with grandmas that wanted that 2nd opportunity at parenting and AC who appreciated that support at the time.
I think I have to appreciate how unusual my experience as a young grandma is when the expectations of many AC (including my own) are based on grandmas who are not already maxed out plus keen for a 2nd chance of parenting. Also to not be at the same life stage as your contemporaries so no one to share the experience of grandparenthood with.
It also makes more sense now when I have heard friends complaining that their parents/MILS took care of other grandchildren but are not offering an equal service to them. Can see now that these GP were probably quite keen with the first couple of GC but is difficult to sustain that level of enthusiasm when more come along. It’s quite different to being a mother with lots of her own children who is actually making a choice to have another child and usually gets a new biological shot of maternal devotion for each child.
I really never imagined being a grandma would be such a minefield

Dinahmo Sat 29-Jul-23 13:40:51

I think that grandparents are meant to give children space and time that they may not get from their parents and their busy lives, and also for treats. I spent quite a lot of time with my GPs until I was in my early 20s, often just me and them. My GM introduced me to a variety of activities which I still enjoy today - ballet, museums and stately homes, as well as teaching me how to make cakes. She also cooked a mean rack of lamb which I never do. I baulk at the price!

40sgranny Sat 29-Jul-23 14:17:37


I think that grandparents are meant to give children space and time that they may not get from their parents and their busy lives, and also for treats. I spent quite a lot of time with my GPs until I was in my early 20s, often just me and them. My GM introduced me to a variety of activities which I still enjoy today - ballet, museums and stately homes, as well as teaching me how to make cakes. She also cooked a mean rack of lamb which I never do. I baulk at the price!

Yes that was kind of my idea of what being a grandparent would be, cooking Sunday lunches for them and my AC to enjoy, going to the theatre, museum, theme parks, stories and ice cream treats as I had done with my own GP.
Just fun times and treats but they meant a lot , we didn’t see our GP lots but thought our GP were lovely. However with my own AC and many of my friends they seem to expect so much more. It seems more about the expense and burden of parenting being taken off them than something for the GC/GP for example proving day care so they can save in childcare and be left with enough money to maintain their lifestyle or having a baby/toddler for a weekend so they can have a kid free weekend. The fact that it’s seen as an obligation too, do feel an obligation to help any family member out if they need it but almost feels like have been cast as understudy in a role I didn’t apply for

Norah Sat 29-Jul-23 15:02:33

I had two babies in my late 30s early 40s - also 4 first GC. No, I do not feel the same towards our GC as our own children. I'm not inclined to babysit GC on a schedule - I have my own tasks.

Sara1954 Sat 29-Jul-23 16:37:27

I think the difference is that we were looked after a lot by my grandparents, but we weren’t entertained. My cousin and I would play outside, we were allowed to play in a spare bedroom, if gran needed to go shopping, I was dragged along. I went with her visiting friends, to her town’s women guild meetings, and if I was naughty, I was told off.
In other words, I fitted into her life, and apart from the odd packet of smarties, I was no expense.
With me, when I’m looking after the children, that’s all I do, and the day it tailor made to meet their needs.
I love spoiling them, I enjoy taking them out and treating them, but my role is very different from my grandparents.

NanKate Sat 29-Jul-23 17:19:47

I have one son who is 49.

His first few years with me were very bumpy, due to my ongoing post natal depression. My husband was wonderful and supported me and my DS.

When I became a grandmother to two grandsons I was suddenly enveloped in total love for them and I thought ‘so this is how it was meant to be’. Why didn’t I have these feelings all those years ago ?

My 3 boys are my life now, plus DH of course.

NotSpaghetti Sat 29-Jul-23 17:36:25

I had five children over 13 years. All were "extended" breast feeders and we took them everywhere we went- no babysitters. They very occasionally had an overnight or 2 with grandparents - but only once they were big enough to put on a train - and we would drive the 4 hrs the next day to visit too.
My husband and I home-educated so spent thousands of "extra" hours with them when others had children at school.
I do not regret it. Not even the 13 plus years of no sleep.

I really feel I have done with parenting children now though. I would still die for my children (if it came to it) but hope they would be the ones thinking like that about our grandchildren!

I love my grandchildren mainly because my children love them. They give us all joy and I feel very blessed.

We do look after them in emergency situations, of course. We regularly have them pop in for an afternoon or for dinner or whatever and occasionally we take them out for fun days and treats - or simply because they want to do something or other... but we don't do any day-to-day or regular care.
I'm afraid we just said no.

I wonder if those of us who had slightly bigger families are more inclined to say "no" having "childrened ourselves out" a bit more?
Who can say...

Katyj Sat 29-Jul-23 17:55:43

Yes NotSpaghetti I think your probably right. My DH is one of five the last one being born with a big gap. When the DGC came along my mil wasn’t interested much at all ,she enjoyed us visiting but didn’t want to look after them. I found it strange at the time but now I’m older I can understand her.