Preferential treatment and grandparenting – it sure is a touchy subject. Some grandmothers admit behind closed doors that they prefer their daughters’ children to their sons. Many take offence to the very suggestion. There’s many examples uttered amongst 30-somethings in my years of parenting but is it perception versus reality or is it true preferential treatment?
Let’s use an example… In an anonymous family I know, a daughter and a daughter in law each gave birth to their firstborns within weeks of each other. Grandmother and grandfather were in vigil at the hospital and for weeks after there to help at her daughter’s house in support of the first child. Approximately 6 weeks later when the daughter in law’s and son’s child was born, apparently the novelty of grandchildren had worn down, and they are said to have dropped into the hospital apparently twice, then went off on a camping trip for an extended period in a relatively unplanned manner. Word from the daughter in law and son was that they were pretty disappointed in the difference. They think their parents just didn’t even register to the completely different levels of attention they offered their new grandchildren, and children by default.
At family gatherings, it is said by some that their grandparents are drawn to the children of their daughters first, hugging and kissing, and making a stronger effort to connect with them. Is it sub-conscious, perceived or real?
Another mother I know complains that her mother-in-law babysits her sister-in-law’s children so she can go to work part-time but won’t babysit her own for any more than a twice or three times a year, usually for doctors appointment or childbirth.
In the Huffington Post, Psychologist Professor Peter Smith, of London’s Goldsmiths University, says that while grandparents generally say they are equally close to all grandchildren, research shows they are, in fact, closer to their daughters’ children than their sons’.
He spoke of two distinct reasons. “The first is that mothers tend to be closer to their daughters and the second is that of paternity.”
“Certainly they can be sure that their daughters’ children are theirs, but they can’t be quite so sure with their sons’ children. They may not be consciously aware that this is an issue but it factors in research studies.”
A study by Pampers in America in 2014 found that six in 10 women turn to their own mother for advice on getting baby to sleep. And when it does get perceived by a grandchild or child, it can cause outrageously hurt feelings.
A few comments we found that showed concern.
“My husband has a soon-to-be 5 year old daughter from his last marriage. We now have a 3 year old and 8 month old son. My husband’s mother is ALWAYS showing favoritism among the grandchildren (there’s 5 total). She will arrange to get his firstborn from her mother and will go do fun stuff with her, buy her stuff, etc. She always lets her stay the night and doesn’t include my 3 year old very often and this makes me sad for my son.”
“My parents have my nephew to stay almost every weekend even though they have 8 other grandkids. None besides him are encouraged to stay the night.”
“I have four girls. 8, 7, 4 and 3. My mother has ALWAYS favored my oldest. from day one of the birth of my second daughter. this has been known always. it bothered us for the first 3 years or so, then my mum made it less obvious, so we didn’t have as much of a problem. recently, though, it is becoming more obvious.”
Each of these stories make you see the parents’ side of how favouritism is felt, but is there another side from a grandparents’ perspective that is perhaps not being heard?
Do you think you show favouritism or could be perceived to do so? Or perhaps you have some tips to offer on how to be even handed as a grandparent?