If you're reading this, congratulations! Whether you're on your first or 31st, grandbabies are your reward for all those sleepless nights and mysterious sticky stains that have shown up in your house since your first day as parents.
I imagine you may have a whole host of feelings. Excited, nervous, wanting to be involved but not in the way, unsure, elated maybe?
Rest assured, regardless of your feelings, your kid (and his or her significant other) loves you. Even if they don't say it. Even if they don't act like it. They do, trust me.
But this post isn't about feelings, it's about being helpful. So here are a few things you can do to ensure that your time with the new parents and the new baby are well-spent.
- Don't expect the new parents to know exactly what they want.
As you may recall, having a new baby can throw you off. If you've never done it, it's hard to know exactly what you'll need or want when the time comes. The point here is to be very flexible. Offer to be whatever is needed and put your own desires aside. Then listen.
- Don't take your requested role personally.
If you are wanted in the room to cut the cord when the baby comes out, or to make sure there are clean sheets on the bed when they get home, or to be excited when you answer the phone to hear the baby's cry from 3,000 miles away, the point is, you are wanted. This new little family has needs and they have chosen to involve you because they trust you. If you are in the room during labor and are asked to leave, feel peaceful that they trust you with the truth. If your role changes, do not be offended. It's not because of something you did wrong. Try not to let your own expectations of what help looks like get in the way of what is truly needed.
- Leave baby with mom whenever possible.
I can't stress this one enough. Mom knows how to do laundry, clean, cook, pay bills, and answer the door and phone. What she doesn't know, yet, is how to take care of a new baby while doing all of these things. Though baby is so stinkin' cute and you just want to smell and touch and snuggle, these first weeks are very important for the parents to bond, feed, diaper, and recover. The best help usually comes in the form of being mom and dad's stunt double. Do for them what they would be doing if they didn't have a new baby. It's not glamorous, but it is what they probably need. When you leave they'll have to do it all, and giving them a running start with parenthood will help them out immensely.
- Take the helm and try not to rock the boat.
Worried you're folding laundry the wrong way? Not sure if the plates go on the first or second shelf? If you weren't there, the laundry would be dirty and the plates would be in the sink. Try not to stress about the little details or ask about every little thing. Don't confuse this piece of advice with the idea that you should reorganize the household in the way you see to be most efficient. All I mean here is that you're probably doing a great service just by keeping things tidy, so don't worry if you don't do it exactly the same way. (A side note here: If you are grandparenting from a distance, do what you can to ease the burden of new parenthood. You could send takeout, a cleaning service, or just make a phone call now and then to reassure your kids that they are doing a great job)
- Let them parent.
You may see your kid do something that you would do differently. Unless it directly effects the baby's safety, or unless your advice is sought, it's best to just let them figure it out. They're new at this and they know it, so they'll probably get to asking about things sooner or later. It can be extremely disruptive to a new parent's confidence to feel that they are doing it all wrong.
For a more detailed explanation of how you can help, check out this blog.
Remember, grandparenting is not that much different than parenting. You still take care of your baby. And your baby will take care of hers.
P.s. If you are doing all these things and find yourself bored out of your mind, here is a list of helpful tasks:
bring mom a large drink of water, check the fridge for expired food, put fresh food into the fridge, pick up medications from the pharmacy, write a letter to your son or daughter (or both) explaining how proud you are, write a letter to your new grandbaby to put into his or her baby book, take pictures of things, find a newspaper for the day baby was born and clip out interesting headlines and articles, help coordinate support from friends; the community; and/or church by letting them know when and what they can bring or do (especially after you are gone), screen phone calls and visitors if the new parents need to rest, write down your memories from birth and the early days of baby's life, bring in the mail, check for bills or other things that may be urgent, throw out ads and junk mail, weed the garden, mow the lawn, ask mom how she is feeling and then listen, ask dad how he is feeling and then listen, validate your kids, encourage, hug.