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Impact of Social Media on grandparent expectations and experience.

(62 Posts)
Loulelady Fri 01-Feb-19 14:15:01

I’ve always been greatful that I was a teenager before social media, and that my daughters’ teenage years just preceded the prevalence of smartphones (although DD was on MySpace- if anyone remembers that!)

However I’ve been musing on some of the threads on here and on Mumsnet about conflict between generations over grandparent involvement with very small grandchildren and I wonder if SM and the media are playing a part? What do grandparents on here think?

When I gave birth, it was very unusual for mums or particularly MILs to be in the delivery room. I don’t know anyone who had anyone but their partner. I also own a lot of cartoon collections of the Thelwell era and maternity wards are a surprisingly common theme. In those days even dads weren’t in the delivery room but cartoons often feature dads in the waiting room or looking through the nursery window for the first time. None include female figures, there was no expectation of mums waiting it it out or MILs being there to support their sons.
I first became aware of family camping out on American TV shows about 15 years ago, where the delivery room sometimes included both sets of parents and the odd sibling.
Now there seems to a lot of angst about how to tell mum or MIL they are not wanted in the delivery room. Of course if the patient wants support from her mum or MIL it’s lovely that hospitals now enable this, but where does the expectation come from? I do wonder whether seeing friends’ posts from the delivery room of “Precious first granny cuddles with baby Alfie” makes other women feel embarrassed or rejected that their own children don’t want them there.
I adored my mother and liked my MIL, but my mum would have been a nightmare as she’s a panic-monger and hyper-sensitive, so if I wasn’t grateful enough for her attempts to help she’d have been in tears etc. MIL would have been better but I still wouldn’t have wanted her there while I was endlessly shitting on a bedpan and mooing like a cow.
Likewise expectations of grandparenting with tiny babies. In the 60’s and 70’s, my mum spent 8 days after a straightforward delivery in a nursing home with strict visiting hours and restrictions. Like most women of her class and generation she bottle fed and we were taken to a nursery at night so she got sleep. She left rested and healed. Her mum came to stay for a couple of weeks as there was no parental leave then and dad would have been hopeless anyway, and she cleaned and cooked and let mum rest and look after us.
With mine, it was a much shorter stay in a busy, noisy postnatal ward with regular nightfeeding from the start. Thankfully after DH went back to work after a week’s parental leave, mum came for a week and did as her mum had done, yes of course she had cuddles, but she basically took over all the housework stuff and let me recover and establish breastfeeding and care for my baby. I was lucky she wasn’t working and offered to do this. It was lovely to have her and she was brilliant, but I was still glad when it went back to being just the three of us, it was time.
Now, new mothers who arrive home hours a few hours after complex births, or after a night in now hellish post natal wards, who might, like me, have spent 36 hours in labour with only a couple of snatched dozes, - are shutting family out from the baby if they don’t want visitors to their home straight away.
Neither my brother and I nor my girls stayed with grandparents until older, I think we were around 4, and my daughter started to sleep over a couple of times a year at around 2.5 I think. There was no pressure from grandparents who saw them regularly at our house or theirs or for Sunday lunch out.
Again, if other parents are keen for couple time and want babysitters early then great, - if there are willing grandparents, but there now seems to be a thing about grandparents having “alone time” and “bonding” with tiny babies. I understand that with young children, being alone together means you can be uninhibited and silly and fun in a way that is more difficult if others are around, but I don’t think alone time with someone else’s tiny baby is something anyone should expect. Babies need to be close to and bonded with their primary caregiver, the rest comes later. My mum had and has a very, very special and close relationship with my DDs that didn’t suffer from not whisking them off to her house as a babies.
Again I wonder if all the photos on SM of baby Alfie snug as a bug in a Moses basket at grandma’s house creates the impression that everyone else is having their baby grandchildren over and if you don’t you are somehow lacking. What SM doesn’t tell you is that it might be 3.00 pm and the baby’s mum and dad might be 2 cms out of shot in the same room! People are great at curating their Social Media posts.
Similarly thanks to Facebook, everybody can see when other people have seen the baby as they will post photos, so people get the hump because they haven’t “been allowed” to see the baby since Thursday, and they [parents’ best friends] aren’t even family. Plus the bloody granny wars with people tallying how often the other grandma has seen the baby.
Years ago there was none of this as nobody knew!
So I think that SM contributes by
a) creating a false
impression that everyone else
is virtually glued to their grandchild from birth
b) inviting comparison and then raising feelings of insecurity and rejection if you don’t find yourself in the bosom of the new family from the off.

What do others think? Is SM contributing to the problem or is it just a mirror to changing times and expectations?

27mommy Fri 01-Feb-19 16:10:28

I think it does play a role yes. When I was little I would go to my grandparents house occasionally for a sleepover, but honestly it was rare and was when my parents needed someone to watch me (like when my mom was having my sister). This was late 80s early 90s but I remember my mom saying when we were born the hospital only allowed 1 person in the delivery room with the mom and that was usually the baby's dad. She was also in the hospital for about 4-5 days with us to recover from an uncomplicated birth. With my children it has been a much different experience. There really is not cap at our hospital for who is in the delivery room, they say two support persons, but they don't really follow that. I was also discharged exactly 24 hours after each of my children were born. Literally down to the minute, my youngest was born at 3:42am on one day and I was officially discharged and walking out of the hospital at 3:45am the next day. There is also a lot of pressure on us young moms to "share" our newborn babies or we are seen as "spoiling" or being "selfish. When my daughter was 4 days old, we had about 20 family members at my house. My baby kept getting passed around until finally I was in tears in my basement bathroom because I was just exhausted and I missed my baby, but didn't have the courage to upset my in-laws and ask for her back.

agnurse Fri 01-Feb-19 17:00:18

I agree. Many times I've heard "MIL says she sees (or I see, if it's the grandparent writing) all her friends' photos with their grandchildren or photos of the other grandparents with the grandchildren and she's/I'm upset that she doesn't/I don't get to see them as much." We also hear stories about GPs getting upset because they learned about a pregnancy or birth via social media rather than getting a phone call, or someone getting mad because another person posted about the pregnancy or birth before the parents did.

Really, it's not a competition. Growing up, we saw my mum's parents every month or two and Dad's parents 2 or 3 times a year. This is because Mum's parents lived 2 hours' drive away and Dad's parents lived 6 hours' drive away - and that was assuming the weather was good! (We didn't visit Dad's parents for Christmas when I was little because one time it took us 12 HOURS to get home due to snow. My parents decided they weren't comfortable taking 6 small children that far if the weather was poor. We visited for Easter instead.) I NEVER heard my GPs complain. Now, we see my parents every few months and Hubby's parents every couple of years as we are in Canada and they're in the UK. "Fair" isn't part of the equation.

NotTooOld Fri 01-Feb-19 17:09:59

It's all about 'family' these days. Commendable, obviously, but it can go over the top. And don't believe all those cosy posts on the internet, my guess is most of them are contrived. As for crowds of 'family' in the delivery room, no, no, no. Get Daddy in there if he wants, but no-one else, for goodness sake. And I certainly would not have wanted to be there when my daughter gave birth. I was far happier waiting for a phone call at home.

paddyann Fri 01-Feb-19 17:42:49

Different days ,I was born in Glasgow and we lived with granny until I was 2 then when we moved to a house of our own granny moved with us.She stayed with us until I was 18 when she died in her mid eighties.
I was born in hospital but my sisters who were born at home had the whole family ,mums brothers and sisters and granny all congregated in the living room or round the kitchen table while she was in labour in her bedroom.Maybe thats where the family being around comes from.It was normal in Glasgow for families to all be presentalthough in another room for a birth.Of course they were all there in the days weeks and months after too.Aunties to walk us in prams ,take us to the park,bring us daily treats .My mother was the only one who had children so the aunties knitted and sewed for us and provided all our underwear and socks and school coats .I know we were lucky .When I had mine we didn't tell anyone when I went into labour as we'd had difficult 1st and 2nd pregnancy but everyone descended on us as soon as we got home and we loved having them ..apart from my sister who always kicked the pram wheels to waken the baby so she could pick her up

Loulelady Fri 01-Feb-19 19:33:06

That’s interesting Paddyann, and a very different perspective. I suppose though, before hospital birth became normal, families who lived together like that might not really have had an alternative.
My husband was born in 1962 , one of 5 within 7 years and into a very poor family, his mum must have been very glad of her week long stays at the maternity hospital, they didn’t even have an inside tap at home, let alone central heating or hot water.

GabriellaG54 Sat 02-Feb-19 09:15:24

I agree with every word of your OP. My and my mum's parenting mirrors your experience.
Social media, for all it's attempts to help us live, not only our lives on the world stage but dip in and critique everyone elses lives with sometimes catastrophic results, can be the root cause of young suicides, bullying and low self-esteem.

Aepgirl Sat 02-Feb-19 09:16:20

Far too much to read!

Purplepoppies Sat 02-Feb-19 09:19:41

I was at the birth of both my grandchildren. Because my daughter wanted me there, not because I insisted. She was only 16 the first time. It was extremely emotional for me, watching my baby in pain. But I would have stayed away if she hadn't wanted me there.
The second birth was traumatic, my daughter almost died. I was left holding dgd whilst dd was rushed into surgery. I'm so grateful I was there for her.
But it isn't right that mothers or MILs EXPECT to be at the birth if the expectant mother doesn't want them there! Ridiculous, especially if there is then a falling out over it. Pregnant ladies don't need extra pressure.

DawnS Sat 02-Feb-19 09:27:15

I love my family dearly but there is another element to our heavy involvement. Baby's Mum is far from well. I am not a crowing Granny and in fact never put photos on Social Media .

Harris27 Sat 02-Feb-19 09:34:24

Don't do social media for one of the above reasons I don't care what people have bought what photos they are showing standing beside new three piece or new kitchen heard it all at work and it's so false maybe I just like living in my world not perfect not overly gushy just our normal life I love my grandchildren but don't have them staying over maybe that's because I've never been asked? Yes at one time I thought I was the odd one out but hey I love them and see them regularly and have good relationship with dil's so I think. My husband has remarked before about social media saying " how do you know these things are true?" I've seen bits from the girls at work and from other members of my family and think no it's not for me.

PECS Sat 02-Feb-19 09:37:40

My mother delivered her 3 babies with only midwives present, in nursing homes(1950s) . I delivered my first DD without DH bcos the medics sent him out as it was a forceps / venteuse delivery. 2 yrs later he was with me for 2nd DD. (1970s ) I was in hospital 10 days and 2 days respectively. I was with DD2 when she had DGD1 & her partner & sister had been with her during labour too. She had her 2nd baby in hospital with he partner supporting. She was in 24 hours and 6 hours post delivery. DD1 had both her babies at home with just her DH and a midwife. I popped in daily but briefly for both DDs for the first week or so to see if they needed anything. DD2 does not have a functioning MiL. DD1 MiL also popped in in similar fashion to offer any help required. (2005- 2012)
My mum & MiL worked out a rota to be with me for a fortnight after DD1. They cooked, washed ironed. What stars they were!

GabriellaG54 Sat 02-Feb-19 09:40:28

Me too Harris27

4allweknow Sat 02-Feb-19 09:55:24

Was in hospital for 10 days first time 2 weeks second time. Only DH there. But second time he had to leave room for actual birth as extra Drs and staff and equipment brought in and all the space in room needed. Problematic twin birth. Would never have thought of asking anyone other than DH to be present. Even in some less developed cultures the mother goes off with "the midwife" to give birth. Yes SM has turned the birth,arrival, and care of a baby into a community event. All of the photos, and comments are out there for the baby to see in years to come. I shudder!

NotSpaghetti Sat 02-Feb-19 09:55:46

Loulelady, I was determined to NOT pass my newborns about and firmly told most people "not just now" when asked if they could hold them - other than the baby's father and siblings it was not a gift given to many.
In retrospect, I could have shared these little bundles of joy more - but I was always very conscious that they were their own people and should be respected. My job was to protect them - even from well-wishers.
Re social media and grandmothers- my mother would have been super disappointed as her expectations would definitely have been raised and as it was, she already knew this was something I wanted to do without her.
Re others at the birth, I wouldn't have wanted my mother or mother in law but I had my second and subsequent babies at home so close female friends of mine were there for the children in case we needed to move to the hospital. The midwives, the baby's siblings and their father were there - or at least in the house, so I suppose as my family grew, so did the support circle.
We took almost no photos, and none of the labour or birth, but those amazing and miraculous days are engraved in our hearts nevertheless.

PECS Sat 02-Feb-19 10:05:03

Thinking more about Social Media...of my range of friends I can only think of one who have posted from hospital on a DGC arrival. It included new parents, their siblings, and 4 grandparents! Mostly friends post a while after a new arrival. Allowing the new parents time to decide what / how/ if they want their child's pic. out there!

SueDoku Sat 02-Feb-19 10:25:05

Brilliant post. I agree with every word. When my first DGC was born, DIL had her Mum & sister with her, as well as DS. When DD had her children, I would - of course - been with her if she'd asked, but I never felt any kind of upset that it was just her and her DP. That's as it should be (in my eyes) and I helped by staying for a week each time and - like OP - doing cleaning and cooking so that the new parents could bond with their baby. My Mum did that for me, and it was hugely appreciated, so I just followed on... DD appreciated it, I was able to see the baby, I went home after a week - we were all happy smile
We were also welcomed by DS & DIL as soon as DGS had arrived - we stayed overnight (3 hour drive) and offered to find a hotel, but were told not to be silly... smile DIL is from a different culture - and her Mum moved in with them for 6 months, from when she was 7 months pregnant until DGS was 4 months old... shock DS, DIL and her Mum were all fine with that, so it was none of our business...
Whatever suits the parents goes - but I must admit that I would have been hurt to meet the 'just our little family' attitude that seems to occur at times when we WERE their family. On the other hand, I'm just as appalled by GPs who arrive expecting to be 'hosted' by someone who's just given birth..! If you're going to visit, go to help - in any way required - not sit around holding the baby (unless asked to).

Shirls52000 Sat 02-Feb-19 10:27:16

When I had my family in the 80s I would have loved my mum to be around however that was not to be. My husband ( now ex) worked long hours and I pretty much brought up my three children in my own with no help at all, as well as working nights as a midwife and working as receptionist for my husband. When I look back now I m amazed I didn t lose the plot. My mum died 25 years ago and missed out on a lot of her grandchildren’s childhood and they sadly don t remember her. She didn t drive and lived 2 hours away and was reliant on my dad to transport her and he wasn t interested. When I needed her/ them they weren’t there. My dad is now 87 and doesn’t understand why his grandchildren, who are now 29, 32 and 34 seem not to be that interested. My daughter who is 32 is constantly trying to keep contact with him and he keeps putting her off which she finds very hurtful. The point I m getting to is that I don t want this to happen with my grandchildren. I want to be an active part of their lives.
My daughter asked me to be present as a birthing partner with her husband and I agreed. She had a “precipitate delivery” and I was the first person she called when she went into labour (after her husband of course) We got her to hospital very quickly and she delivered 10 minutes after we reached the hospital car park. I seriously thought I may have to deliver my grandson in the car park. Thankfully we made the delivery room as he was blue and floppy and was in SCBU for 5 days. I am so thankful that I was there to help my daughter and son in law when they needed me. It’s not for everyone but my daughter and myself are now closer than we have ever been and both her and my SIL know I am there if they need me but I leave it to them to ask. My grandson is now fit, healthy and 10 weeks old and thriving well. I see him 3 or 4 times a week and I m hoping that I continue to be an active part of his life growing up because life is too short and families are all important xx

ReadyMeals Sat 02-Feb-19 10:35:13

When I had my kids, the idea of dads being in the room at the birth was only just becoming acceptable, and was definitely not an expectation. If the dad didn't fancy the idea no one thought it was his duty. With my first one, my OH came with me but kept bothering me with drinks of water while I was mid contraction. With my second one I didn't want him there but he walked in right at the end anyway - while I was lying there all sweaty, legs akimbo, waiting for the placenta to come out. Having an audience is a mixed blessing but I gather it's essential nowadays as they don't have enough staff to keep an eye on you so you need someone to fetch the nurse if you start dying or something.

Annaram1 Sat 02-Feb-19 10:39:53

I had my children in 1964 and 1967. Nobody was allowed to be present except medical and nursing staff. When my daughter was born in 1964 I thought it funny that there were 9 different nurses in a semicircle at the bottom of my bed, all wearing surgical masks, and all I could see of their faces was a patch pf variously coloured skin and eyes in the gap in the masks...

adaunas Sat 02-Feb-19 10:40:42

I wouldn’t have wanted my mum or my MIL at the birth. They sent my husband away, and then asked if I minded if some student doctors came in to watch the birth. I said no way! My mum came to stay for a week to help out after the birth and I was really grateful. My MIL was working so couldn’t help out that way.

Luckylegs Sat 02-Feb-19 10:53:03

When I had my first, my husband was on nights as a fireman so my parents took me in and my mum, bless her, kept saying “ooh, does it hurt, and I wish I could take the pain for you”, all things that didn’t help as I squirmed in the bed. Yes, we had to be neatly in bed! Anyway, the staff told my h that they would ring him when the birth was imminent, put me in the delivery room on my own and took my glasses away so I couldn’t see where the button was and promptly went off for their tea several floors below! It was visiting time and I was bellowing help, help as I was being sick as well but only visitors could hear me. Anyway, eventually they came back, and were surprised that I’d advanced so much so it was too late to call h so I was on my own, half blind and crying! Very traumatic. The second birth I did have my h with me but I had to literally fight him trying to force me to have the gas and air mask on most of the time! So, two births, not a lovely experience either time. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted my mum or MIL there! I sort of envy girls now who can walk about or be on their knees or anything as I was uncomfortable on my back but there you stayed.

sarahellenwhitney Sat 02-Feb-19 10:56:17

In my daygringringrinthe mere thought of any other than hospital medical staff present at the birth was not the 'done thing'. I was, so I later learned, born at home with only the 'local' midwife and my mil present .Dad to be I was later to learn decided to pass on that so had taken himself off to watch a cricket match.

jenpax Sat 02-Feb-19 11:09:57

Shirls52000 Your story made me very anxious! I live 3 to 4 hours away from my youngest DD,and due to my health problems following cancer and sepsis I can’t travel to see her and my 3 DGS! Obviously it’s hard for her to see me too!
I dread my grandsons growing up not having seen much of me and ending up not really being bothered about seeing me when they grow up because of it as happened with your poor mum! I really Hope I get better soon and well enough to make that journey!

BlueBelle Sat 02-Feb-19 11:15:09

There was no question of having anyone with you at giving birth time when I had my three, my first I wasn’t even in the same country as my family My ex was not around and they weren’t let in anyway I would have liked a husband to hold my hand but I wouldn’t want anyone else there oh no no no and as for women that go on Tv and have it all filmed I would die before that happened I think