Single Grandma Talks Straight From the Heart
A Feature Story from G-Ma, Grandma Extraordinaire
I’m a grandma…actually a “Mimi”
I’m single and have been for over 20 years
I have two daughters, two sons in law and five of the most amazing grandchildren any one could ever have…no really I do! three boys and two girls.
Two years ago…I moved 3,000 miles…leaving NYC for LA to be with this gang.
Leaving a job with tremendous responsibility, a daily routine and comfortable close friendships … it occurred to me it would be challenging of course, but I was on a mission…I’d waited so many years to bite the bullet…find the right time…and the time had come. I had to be the grandma involved in her grandkids everyday lives…not just a visiting one who’s fun and loves them but one who knows what makes them tick.
I was prepared for an adjustment period I guess…but this kind of preparation is somewhat of a joke…who can possibly anticipate what a change like this can mean or feel like?
So as is my way…I leapt…thinking I had a job on the other side but in fact didn’t, and having to totally reinvent my move and appear to be doing it effortlessly. Mothers with small children hardly need a mother presenting yet other challenges in their lives.
You keep smiling…you pretend that reinventing yourself was better in the end and you hope against hope that you don’t interfere. You came to be part of the family, and not a pain in the butt.
When people ask how you like your new home/ life, you smile and say..”it’s 85% heaven”…and it is. What you don’t say is that the other 15% is often impossibly difficult, scary and lonely. But you deal…the weathers gorgeous…you can’t complain…your apartment is a gem…you can’t complain…you see your kids and your incredible grandkids tons. That’s a dream. BUT you go home to that great apartment, in a new city and wonder. Never is your answer different…you’d do it again …. without a doubt. Maybe you’d plan better…you couldn’t plan worse. But in your scared yet joyous state you can’t help but understand deep down inside that the obstacles you faced as a single parent have now just grown exponentially. You’re on your own.
Now let’s face it…the majority of grandparents will be single grandparents sooner or later. Sad but true. For those of us who start off as single grandparents we can expect to have to deal with some significant challenges. Let me just qualify by saying that if you are a grandparent who is married…you are “grandparents” …OK…sadly one of you dies. The remaining grandparent a widow/or widower becomes a person…I’m sure you’ll agree…who has a legitimate claim to extra care, and concern. People, family and friends will ask how you are doing, sympathize with your loss and do their best to understand your shortcomings no matter how annoying.
I’m also sorry to say …that if you are a grandparent …already single…probably due to divorce…you’re on your own. A divorced grandparent (and let’s face it grandma’s seem to inhabit the largest significantly involved group) let’s call her “single”… is in my experience faced with challenges, unacknowledged, undiscussed (in this case I’m making up a word) and largely unwelcome by her kids. I don’t honestly think they recognize it, they are used to the ability of the single mother to forge ahead with as few waves as possible. The single grandparent should do the same…why not?
I never much thought about being a single mother…I was too busy getting from A to B and making sure that my kids’ dreams came as true as I could possibly make them.
We were close, we were busy, we had goals and challenges and as the mother I was the leader. I wore my super mother cape and made whatever it was happen. It was challenging but fun.
Now I guess I’m crawling (They say you can never skip a step in your development). I feel clearly and deeply that the difficulties that I probably ignored getting from A to B as a single mother have now come to haunt me as a single grandma. I still have my cape on but I feel on unequal ground with those who are “grandparents”. All of a sudden the rules seem to be different for single grandparents and I want to not just live with that…I want to give voice to that.
Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. I know how it feels to be invited to a dinner party and arrive alone and manage. I’ve done it for years…and now I know how it feels to go to a kid’s Birthday Party ….an invited welcomed guest …as a single grandma…and feel out of place…this is new territory.
When you’re young and you go to a party you have a zillion emotions all at the same time. Do I look cool? Did I sound stupid? And on and on…As a single grandma the questions are largely the same but with the addition of: Should I stay with the kids? Should I talk to the parents? Oh my god…so and so just pushed my grandchild…Do I say anything? If I step in, am I out of line…if not…oh boy … my grandchild is looking at me for support….I’m right there and certainly have my opinion ….bottom line…what are the rules? I’m a decision maker, and I feel completely like a fish out of water.
All right enough…you get the picture and…if you’ve had the energy to read this far you know what I’m talking about …if not exactly then at least in theory.
So what about the married grandma at that same party? Well…in my experience, she is focused on whether grandpa is happy…is it too loud? Does he have a drink? Want a piece of cake? Okay you say…not all grandmas cater to their spouses like they are two, but if your spouse isn’t happy you’re going home whether you cater to him or not and as for your kids, not grandkids…they really want “dad” to be enjoying himself…so make it happen everyone.
Now if single grandma shows signs of being unhappy at that very same party… she’s not smiling, she’s not talking to people, she’s not having fun…then she’s a drag….let’s face it…Why did we invite her? Who invited her anyway? We love her…but honestly can’t she even pretend to be having a good time!
Anyway…That’s what I think…How about you?
A New Yorker, turned Los Angeles lover and grandmother of five beautiful grand children living in LA… G Ma works as a luxury fashion industry consultant. Always an avid nature lover, project doer, and overall ‘child preferrer’ with a background in elementary education and educational media, G Ma finds grand parenting life’s greatest gift.