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Grandmothering is easier than mothering

by Lynn Atkins | May 11, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

I decided to write a Mother's Day column. Of course, I decided too late to be on time for Mother's Day. But that's appropriate. The story of my life as a mother is full of being late. But that's another whole column.

Anyone who knows me will be wondering why I'm writing about being a mother at this time of my life. My children have long since grown up and moved out of the family home. Even the one "c'mon back" (my husband's term for a grown child returning to live in the parental basement) has recovered, moved out, married and changed careers. But I've had a unique privilege in recent years. I've been caring for a granddaughter.

I do consider it a privilege although I didn't realize that when I started. But returning to the world of diapers and dolls and first words and blowing kisses has been an amazing experience.

It started because of covid. I understand that a world-wide pandemic is a serious issue that caused an unprecedented amount of hardship and grief, yet it changed my life in a positive way. Back in 2020 when much of the world was still sheltering in place, my first grandchild was born. Her mother, our c'mon back kid, was in the middle of a career change that I knew was very important to her. She was struggling with the idea of putting her newborn into day care during a pandemic. I know she considered every option, including taking a leave of absence from her brand new job. My son-in-law was a hands-on dad from day one, but he was also working full time.

Since I was in a position where I could retire from full-time work, I knew that I could help them. I was already working from home, but I was still very conscious of the risk from covid and that tipped the scales a little more. Sheltering in place with a baby seemed pretty safe. So I made the leap.

I was lucky enough to be able to keep a part of the job I'd been doing for so long. I'm still a weekly reporter, but now that's part time. (I'd be lying if I said caring for a baby is intellectually stimulating. I'm happy to have something else to think about as well as an outlet for my creativity.)

So I got to be reacquainted with the one aspect of motherhood that makes the whole thing worthwhile. There's a lot not to like about caring for a baby. Take diapers, for instance. Or the way your world is restricted by feeding schedules and nap schedules. Take the amount of stuff mothers carry around in gigantic diaper bags only to realize that they don't have the one thing they really need. Take temper tantrums and hair pulling and the loss of wearing dangly ear rings. But it's all worth it because of the love of a new tiny human being.

It goes both ways. Having the chance to really love a baby and having a baby really love you, is intensified when you're caring for that tiny human being, when you really know her and love her anyway, in spite of the hair pulling and dirty diapers.

As grandmother it's much easier to focus on the baby since I'm not trying to cook dinner and clean house at the same time. I remember those days when I would let a toddler or two pull out every piece of Tupperware I owned and spread it all across the entire first floor just so I could have a few minutes to chop the vegetables that I was getting ready to feed them. I remember trying to vacuum while holding one child and letting another cling to my leg.

As a grandmother, our favorite game is napping. I like to lie on the couch and let the granddaughter bring me blankies, pillows and stuffed animals. Of course, I pay the price when she climbs on board and uses my stomach as a trampoline, but even that is fun. And the best thing about being a grandmother is at the end of the day, when I'm tired and often frustrated by toddler inconsistencies, I get to go home, get a good night's sleep and let her parents get up in the middle of the night when she she wakes up crying for no discernible reason.

So for Mother's Day, I want to thank my daughter who has turned out to be an incredible mother for giving me the chance to experience the best part of motherhood all over again. Both my daughter and my son-in-law are doing a wonderful job and I love being a small part of it.

Sorry to be late with this sentiment, but I was busy pulling Cheerios out of a toddlers hair.

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Lynn Atkins is a weekly reporter for The Weekly Vista, an occasional columnist and a sporadic blogger. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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