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Has the 'Nana' novelty worn off?

(20 Posts)
Treadmillmom Fri 13-May-11 19:39:59

I'm a mother not a grandmother but I would really value your opinion.
I have 3 children aged 7, 5 and 2.
When I got together with my husband his mother was so excited about future grandchildren and never stopped asking when they'd appear.
We married after 5 years and the first grandchild arrived 2 years later. My mother-in-law idolised her first grandchild and had him many a weekend.
When grandchild no. 2 was born she was hands on at the home delivery and stayed a week, I felt so lucky to have such an attentative mother-in-law, the babysitting slowed a little but she still visited often and was always enthused to see them.
Baby no. 3 arrived 2.5yrs ago and to say mother-in-law is postively cool is an understatement.
She's very young only 56 and I'm utterly dismayed at her lack of interest in spending time with her grandchildren.
My own mother is 81 now but I recall her with my brothers 3 children when she was in her late 50s, she'd have them single handedly at weekends and holidays, cook for them, dress them, take them down the field to kick around a ball etc, she didn't even drive.
My mother-in-law drives but won't drive alone or in the dark!
Back in January my mother-in-law reluctantly agreed to stay at our house and look after the kids for 2 nights. To make her life easier we stocked up the cupboards and fridge and cooked 4 main meals and it was her choice what she heated and served.
We were summoned back the morning after the first night as 2nd child had a headache and temperature. We suggested Calpol and by the time we returned home he was fine.
She was off home. My poor husband and I had only 3 hours sleep.
Anyway mother-in-law moaned about everything...
The kids never stopped eating.
The landing was creaky.
The house was too hot.
She couldn't sleep (not because of the kids, they're all good sleepers).
Her legs hurt from going up and down the stairs (her own home is a 3 floor town house).
Anyway, this weekend it is my husbands and my birthdays, she asked us what gift we'd like, 'Babysitting' was the joint response. She didn't even acknowlegde the request.
So, has the novelty of being a nana worn off now the cutsey babies have grown into school children?

babyjack Fri 13-May-11 21:19:40

I only have one DGS he is three now and I still can't get enough of him.
I am 50 and taking him out is fine and pretty easy .

Has your mil just changed in her activities with you or has she stopped doing other things. If people are depressed then it is difficult to find enjoyment in anything.

maybe she doesn't feel able to cope with three all at once.

Why not ask her?

mollie Fri 13-May-11 22:25:58

Treadmillmom...I'm sorry that your MIL appears to have cooled and is reluctant to be a hands-on grandma to your three children. I can't answer for her personally - perhaps you or your husband could have a quiet, gentle word with her and ask her about this? There could be lots of reasons for her reluctance - perhaps she isn't feeling quite so fit and able to cope with three young, active children now? 56 isn't very old but frankly, it isn't very young either and she may be having her own physical problems relating to her age ... have you thought of that? Being a grandmother isn't just about babysitting - it's about having a relationship with another generation, sharing fun times and passing on some wisdom...please take some time to look at the situation from you MIL's point of view for a while and not simply as her not being helpful to you and your husband... have you thought that perhaps your parenting style is very different from hers which makes it difficult for her when she is left in charge? Perhaps she's used to a routine and you are a more relaxed parent? Don't guess - ask her...

pinkprincess Fri 13-May-11 22:28:30

I have looked after all my five grandchildren since they were babies.I still look after the two youngest who are 10 and 8.They and their parents (DS and his wife) live with us.Son's 14 year old daughter from his first marriage is also staying here just now.She is causing the usual teenage problems with her behaviour and moods.
In my opinion grandparenting never stops.They dont stay lovely little babies for ever.
That is just me, other people may think differantly.

oorwullie Fri 13-May-11 22:50:35

It's a difficult one. We are in our 60s, have physical problems and have four GC. I like to think I am the doting granda but find I don't have the stamina to match my reputation. My wife is more practical. She likes limits and consequently seems to have more endurance.

We look after 2 every day after school/nursery school. I do the school run x2 every day for two GC and we have all 4 one day each week. We love every minute of the kids but sometimes they are tiring. One GC sits with me, indoors on wet days, and inevitably I fall asleep. It's a family joke but it in a way it highlights the problems grandparents face.

As I often say, the natural state is that children belong to the young.

upsydaisy Fri 13-May-11 23:07:38

It may well be that the novelty is wearing off, not so much the novelty of having grandchildren but the responsibility of taking care of them if you're not around. Your MIL has done her bit, she brought up your husband. Maybe she just wants the fun bit of children now, seeing them, playing with them, etc but prefers to do all that if you're around too so that she doesn't have to take responsibility. When you get to your 50's you've had a lifetime of responsibility and its nice to hand it over to someone else.

Perhaps she doesn't like staying in your house, she might even have been worried about leaving her own house empty for two nights and there are loads of people, especially women who don't like driving in the dark. Don't think too harshly of her, they sound like excuses for not staying over at your house, you need to gently find out what the problem is.

Swedenana Sat 14-May-11 07:37:19

It could be that the novelty factor isn't as appealling any more, or it could be, as others have suggested, that she simply doesn't feel
up to it any longer. I'm only 50 but I find that when I have my grandson (who will soon be 11) over to stay for holidays, it's exhausting. I love my grandchildren to bits and spending time with them is the most precious thing in the world but it does take it's toll. As my grandaughter is only 2, I've not had her over to spend holidays with me yet at the same time as my grandson. I can appreciate how tiring it would be to have 3 young children to take care of at the same time. Your MIL is probably going through all the fun of the menopause too, perhaps that's having an effect on her - not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Possibly that's something that she wouldn't discuss with you but it's worth being aware of.

HildaW Sat 14-May-11 10:24:41

I saw this question last night, but no one else had commented and I knew that my knee-jerk reaction was going to be along the lines of....3 grandchildren, their own home!! a tall order especially if its not an everyday occurance. The poor poor woman!!! you are a DIL to be very scared of!
But as I calmed down I managed to be a bit more sensible.You love, love your grandchildren, but having responsibility for them is quite a different thing. For example, when your own child fell over and split a lip, you hardly had time to register it in amongst the domestic chaos...but if a grandchild does you are suddenly coping with a distressed child, blood all over the floor and the deep deep guilt of causing them pain and wondering what on earth the son or daughter in law will think or perhaps even say to you. Children can be challenging at the best of times and if they feel that Grandma might feel a bit out of her comfort THEIR house no doubt trying to get them to bed, keep them safe and happy was a very tall order. Also, the jolly old menopause (which no matter how well read you are about it always catches you out) creates much more than a few hot flushes. Apart from physical changes it can really go to town on your self confidence (fear of driving) increase anxiety (worry about loved ones even when there is nothing to worry about). It is also often a long slow process. Starting anytime in your mid - late forties or if your lucky mid fifties and slowly going on for best part of a decade. I dont want to sound a mad old bat because most of the time you just get on with life...but somedays if your a bit low it can be quite a challenge.

I think all I want to say is that don't see Grandma's reluctance as a lack of love. Perhaps she might like to have one at a time or be included in outings with you all. I'm sure she loves the children just knows her limitations.

shelaghv Sat 14-May-11 14:56:51

dont know whats wrong with ur mil i have looked after my grandchildren since they were born as there mothers had to work im 53 i love having them they keep me young on top of which they there mothers and fathers and my other two children and there partners all usually turn up at my house on sunday for dinner i love to cook for them and always bake a different cake each week my husband says if i stop cooking they will stop coming hes joking he loves to see them and plays football with them they are 11 12 2 and 1

Treadmillmom Sun 15-May-11 19:35:30

Thank you so much for your replies, you know they are all very insightfull and gave me much to think about.
Those of you who mentioned the menopause are bang on accurate I think.
She had treatment for cancer 11 years ago and it prematurely kick started her menopause and I know she's still having the flushes now.
However, we genuinely do not ask for babysitting much, we do the school run ourselves. On the days I work the youngest goes to a childminder and the older ones the after school club.
We rarely go out as a couple as we have no family on our doorstep so we only ask her when its a wedding/reception, birthday party or works do which as you know are not monthly or even bi annual events.
Last week I had flu and had zero support, I was sick of my life by Friday.
I always think that sure 3 kids is exhausting, I know I'm frontline but she doesn't work and could always spend an entire week in her dressing gown to recover if she so choose to.

Tipuna Sun 15-May-11 20:00:41

Having had 4 children under in under 3 yrs some 40 + years ago and overseas at that, with NO grandparents or help I found I was very nervous when my two little ones (GC) were tiny.

Maybe your MIL is menopausal and as it is a very psychologically debilitating time for some women, the old confidence just disappears. Perhaps the poor lady is likely to be too embarrased to say anything. Maybe her cancer scare is also bothering her.

So, as others have suggested - why not ask her? Communciation is a wonderful thing.

As for me, I just wish I had the chance to see mine more often. They live 100 miles away and the State Pension just does not stretch much.

Give her some slack eh?

mollie Sun 15-May-11 20:40:19

Sorry that you feel you don't call on your MIL much and that you aren't supported as much as you feel you deserve...the fact is that these are YOUR children and YOU had them and there is no requirement for anyone else to take a hand in look after them or to give you and your husband a break...I only ever visited my grandmothers, they were never hands on and I think that was the norm for the generations until very recent times...

Grandparents THESE DAYS recognise that most parents work and that the cost of living is high and will do what they can to help out. But it's a gift and shouldn't be expected!

upsydaisy Sun 15-May-11 23:28:41

Just to change the subject a little bit, this menopause business is starting to worry me, I haven't had a period since November and now its May but I have not had any hot flushes or any symptoms really, I was expecting this time of life to be really bad as I suffered from very bad PMT from the age of 18 up to periods stopping. Is this the calm before the storm or what? Comparing my PMT with the way Treadmillmom's MIL is behaving I can totally identify with, no confidence, can't be bothered, worrying about things, feeling even a bit paranoid, but I'm getting none of this now. Not complaining or anything but left wondering are things going to suddenly go down hill?

Treadmillmom Mon 16-May-11 11:37:25

Oh mollie, I totally agree with everything you say and I genuinely don't EXPECT her to drop at my beckoning.
However I just find it frustrating that she's gone from craving grandchildren, eating the babies alive if she could've to now they're school age she visits very rarely let alone the babysitting!
Obviuosly she formed tight bonds with them when they were smaller and they're always asking for and asking when they sleepover etc, etc.

maggieb Mon 16-May-11 11:59:26

I'm sorry to read about your experience with your mother-in-law. I'm a 66 year old 'Nana' to 5 grandchildren, & am always very happy to look after them when asked. They are ageed 16, 14, 10, 6 & 1. I really don't understand why grandparents wouldn't want to be involved in the care of their grandchildren. They are, after all, their flesh & blood! Our children don't need us as much, & this way, we stay involved in their lives too.

Lin Sun 05-Jun-11 18:46:39

May be the novelty has worn off but sounds more like she is getting very set in her ways and can't cope with anything out of her normal activities. As the children are older it is definitely more of a responsibility but maybe there is something else going on with her that you don't know about.

Try asking her if there are any problems you can help her with and see if she will open up.

Best of luck!

baggythecrust! Mon 06-Jun-11 10:10:30

May I also add invisible chronic health problems to the comments already made. I have two diagnosed and a possible third being investigated. These use up at least half of my energy. No-one 'on the outside' would suspect anything as I look fit and healthy for my age. I only have one wonderful GS so far and he lives too far away for me to be very much hands on however much I would like to be. But in any case I would have to be careful how much I took on if I lived nearer. Perhaps I could manage with one child; I very much doubt if I could manage with three, especially as I still have a primary school-aged daughter of my own. So, I agree with the others who have suggested it: ask the MIL if it's all a bit much. It could be she is simply too tired — not everybody is superwoman — and does not want to let the children down, or their parents, by not being able to cope.

baggythecrust! Mon 06-Jun-11 10:16:15

PS I've never had a mother or mother-in-law at hand to do babysitting as I've never lived near either of them. When my eldest kids were young I joined a babysitting circle and coped that way on the occasions when DH and I wanted to go out together. We also just accepted that while we had children at home we would have to go out separately or take the whole family. That's not a hardship; it's just facing reality.

baggythecrust! Mon 06-Jun-11 10:20:18

upsydaisy, don't worry about the menopause. It doesn't affect everyone badly. I've hardly even noticed it except that I could stop having to be prepared for periods.

nannyw Mon 06-Jun-11 17:48:03

Hi Treadmillmom.. I know exactly how ypou feel. My MIL and mum hardly ever offered to babysit any of my 6 children despite asking so in the end my husband and I gave up asking and we always paid babysitters so that we could go out My children did miss out quite a lot but as we had 6 children there were no lack of friends calling, parties to go to, sleep overs and most of all there was always time for family time.
Now I am a nan I am always looking after my grandchildren and I thoroughly enjoy it. I have them stay over for a sleep over as my grandaughter say's. I also have them while my son and daughter in law work, which also includes the school run. At times it can be hetic and I have been worn out but its all worth it to see them smile and laugh. Mind you with having 6 children myself I dont know if i will be saying the same when they all decide to have children !!! he he he