I was invited to speak at a meeting of a support group for grandparents who do not see their grandchildren (and who are desperately sad about it).
I began to ponder about the reasons this unfortunate thing occurs fairly often. How do relationships with sons, daughters and their partners break down to the extent where they do not permit their parents to see their grandchildren. The main story I was hearing was that all was well before a child was born, then suddenly the grandparents were pushed away by the new mother.
One of the reasons can be that the new mother needs to feel she can look after the baby in her own way and not feel her every move is being watched by a well-meaning but over enthusiastic grandmother. She may not feel able to stand up for herself when she is so vulnerable. The new mother may doubt her own ability to cope at first with such a tiny new being and is afraid of being undermined. She needs her partner to support her and stop their families becoming more involved than she is ready for at this early stage. A woman who is not very secure in herself will need to know her partner’s first loyalty is to herself. If her partner is unable to look after her and reassure her, she may well push the family away.
Another reason is in the case of divorce, sometimes the in laws are placed in the enemy camp by default and if they do not make a huge effort to stay in touch with the other parent, they may well lose the grandchildren even when they have done nothing to warrant this.
It is important for grandparents to consider that their expectations of what they want of a relationship with their grandchildren and indeed their children, may not be the same as the expectations and needs of their children and their partners. Grandparents should reflect on how they felt when they had their children and whether they got what they wanted (or did not want) from their parents and in-laws.
A few other things to think about if grandparents find themselves in this situation are:
- Does the new mother actually want our support?
- How differently things are done since my children were babies. Do the new parents want my advice?
- Can we see our grandchildren if we apologize for whatever misunderstandings that may have occurred.
- Could we take entire responsibility for the breakdown in relations whether or not we feel we are to blame?
- Can we examine our own behaviour honestly without looking at what the other parties have said or done?
What, after all is the use of being on a high horse at the cost of losing your grandchildren?