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Is there a pecking order when it comes to being a gran? Do maternal grans 'matter' more? And are paternal grans always pushed to the side? Being a paternal grandparent can be a little tricky, but with the right advice and outlook, you'll soon forget that there was ever an issue to begin with.
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'Paternal' comes from a French word meaning 'of the father', so a child's paternal grandparents are the parents of their father. If you're a new grandmother you'll be busy helping your son navigate fatherhood and learning how to manage the challenges it can bring. Even if you've been a paternal grandmother for years, you can still come up against sensitive situations with family members. To help with any struggles that come from being a paternal grandmother, we've collated some tips courtesy of gransnetters who’ve been there, done that and got the certified paternal gran t-shirt.
Both grandmothers can play an important role in their grandchild's life, whether that's supporting the new parents or sharing in the joys of first steps. Both grandmothers can easily have a rewarding and close relationship with the new grandchild.
However, a grandmother hierarchy could well be present between you and your grandchild's maternal grandmother, but this will often be driven by a multitude of different factors that you won't be able to control or necessarily change. From availability to location to your relationship with your daughter-in-law, there are a variety of things to contend with as a paternal gran which can, at first, seem a little overwhelming. No, you may not be able to move closer to live near your grandchildren, but that doesn't mean that you won't be able to see them. Visit them and look after them when you can and, most importantly, go with the flow.
"I think it depends on all sorts of things - personalities, proximity to your grandchildren, time available to spend helping or visiting, and how many other grandparents and step-grandparents are involved. I just join in when I'm asked and do what I can. I love them all and they know it, and so far it works."
"I do think it’s only natural that daughters tend to be closer to their own mothers, and sometimes there can be female rivalry, even if unacknowledged, between the partner and the mother of a son".
Having a grandchild is a gift in itself, so try to curb any feelings of jealousy if the 'other' grandmother is more hands-on than you are. It's only natural for there to be a stronger bond between the maternal grandmother and the child's mother, but that doesn't mean that you are not equally as valued as a grandparent. Try to involve yourself as much as possible, don't let any negative feelings affect your relationship with your grandchild's mother or maternal grandmother, and remember to focus solely on your grandchild. They are, after all, the most important person to consider at this exciting time in your life.
"I always welcomed all the help I could get with raising children. If my son's mother-in-law gets to see more of the new baby than I do, I will simply feel grateful for the young couple that they're getting all the help they need and take my turn when it comes. No rivalry and I shan't be keeping score."
"Try not to see this as a competitive event. It will only spoil the joy of being a grandma. Just fit in where needed, let it happen naturally and see each occasion that you are involved in as a joy and a blessing, not a right."
Getting on with the maternal grandmother is an important aspect of being a paternal gran. Not only will this help to ease any tension between the two of you (if, in fact, there is any), but it will also allow you to accommodate one another fully rather than fighting for the title of 'best gran'. If you agree that you both have an important part in your grandchild's life, then you can each take on the role to the best of your abilities.
This is even more applicable when there are step-grandparents in the equation. Perhaps take the time to sit down and discuss your roles. This will allow you the freedom to be the kind of grandparent that you've always wanted to be.
"My daughter lives less than ten minutes away from her mother-in-law by car. I am three hours away, but I am so pleased that she has a wonderful mother-in-law. She has looked after my daughter when she was ill. I send her chocolates at Christmas because I am so thankful that she makes my daughter's life easier."
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Your connection with your grandchild is special, regardless of the other people in their life. Build up a close relationship and let them know that you love them and will always be there for them, even if you feel you can't be a 'full time' grandmother because of distance. This could also involve having special activities that you do together or scheduling in specific days of the week (or month) that you'll visit or look after them.
"I think sometimes it's natural to feel a little pushed out or left out, but, as long as your grandchildren are loved and cared for, does it really matter?"
It's important to remember that the parents will have specific ways of doing things when it comes to raising their children, even if you may disagree with their practices. Don't swoop in where your opinions are not invited and try not to criticise other family members, even during those times when it does become harder to hold your tongue. This may also be the case when it comes to the 'other' grandparents.
If there is something on your mind, take the time to assess what is bothering you. Don't immediately speak out as this could lead to upset. Should you really need to address the situation with the parents or maternal grandparents, approach with caution and remain calm and rational.
"The difficult bit is recognising when to bite your tongue and wait, and when to speak out. It is so in all areas of life. Cast-iron rules need sympathetic interpretation to suit circumstances and individuals."
Being an incredible paternal grandparent ultimately depends on you...and you alone. Carve out your own role as a grandmother and get involved in any way that you can, even if you're a long-distance gran. Stay interested and stay available.
"My wonderful daughters-in-law, one of whom lives just round the corner from her mother, have included us in everything (we live three hours away) and their children are a huge part of our lives. But we have also made every effort to travel to see them, have them to stay and so on, so it has been a two-way effort and has truly paid off. Don't worry, love expands to embrace all the babies and all the grandparents if you work to nurture it."