How to be the other woman in your grandchild's life

How much do you remember about your grandmother? I bet you remember lots of things, but do you remember the way she got on with your mother? It can be a very delicate relationship. It doesn’t matter if your grandchildren’s mother is your daughter-in-law or your daughter, there will be times when you tread on each other’s toes.

The mother/grandmother relationship can require some extra work and real diplomacy on both parts if it’s to work, and it has to work – for everyone’s sake. It could be argued that to be a good grandma, you have to be a good mother or good mother-in-law first.

A grandma’s role can be tricky and yet it’s one of the most important relationships in ensuring a healthy family dynamic. You have a wealth of information and experience to share, and yet parents have their own ideas, just as you had when you were their age. It’s keeping that delicate balance between being supportive and helpful and going too far by courting popularity with your grandchildren in a way that undermines your children, or allows the grandchildren to use you against their parents.

Speaking as a parents who’s children have had the benefit of two grandmas and one great grandma, I know that the best relationships come from knowing that each other want the dynamic to work and that you share a love of the grandchildren. If everyone understands that basic motivation then it’s a lot easier to be generous when tempers fray.

Warm, loving grandmas are the glue that holds a family together. As a parent you want a grandmother who makes her grandchildren follow all the rules….but also knows exactly how to bend the rules by sneaking small treats at just the right moment to save the day, or stop the tears. As a mum you always have to remember that the only woman who loves your kids as much as you do is probably their grandma.

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A good grandmother knows that she is important to the whole family, not just to her grandchildren. My mother and mother-in-law always respected my decisions and let me make my own mistakes, but if they were asked for advice they always gave it.

Both women were the first to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in with practical help. When the babies were new, they helped by making meals and cleaning. When we had flu they came and looked after the kids. They walked the dogs and went to the supermarket, all great help. But the most valuable contribution they made was to love their grandchildren.

Sometimes it’s nice for a mum to just accept that grandma is more popular than she is. If you put jealousy aside, and accept that your child wants the attention of another woman more than they want you, it can be really useful to exploit that popularity sometimes, and get children to do for grandma, what they won’t do for you.

There can be few greater pleasures as a parent than to see your perfectly contented child, head off completely absorbed in conversation with a woman who loves them as much as you do – leaving you to enjoy a few minutes peace.

Is it possible to be the perfect grandma – popular with your grandchildren and sticking to you children’s rules? How do you manage this sensitive relationship and stay on-side with everyone? Have you ever made a mistake and how did you rectify it?