What Is the Job of Grandmothers?

by Donne Davis on January 7, 2014

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In the opening episode of  Downton Abbey season five, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) offers some advice in her usual forthright manner to the grieving new grandmother Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton): “It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere!”

As convincing as she sounded, I couldn’t help but chuckle and then cringe. That strategy is not a suitable mantra for today’s grandmas. In fact, it might result in grandma losing her privileges.

Interference is defined as intervening in an activity without invitation or necessity, in other words, offering unsolicited advice. The most common warning I can offer to both new and seasoned grandmas is: Do not give unsolicited advice. Do not interfere.

Why grandmas should not interfere

  • You’ll undermine the new parents’ confidence
  • You’ll irritate them.
  • You’ll erode trust.
  • They’re the parents—they get to call the shots.

What is the job of grandmas?

  • Be supportive and interested.
  • Be helpful but ask first.
  • Rave about the wonderful job the parents are doing.
  • Bring goodies for the parents.
  • Let the parents make their own mistakes; that’s how they learn.
  • If they share a concern with you, ask them if they want feedback.
  • If there’s a new baby, shower the older grandchild with attention.

So, thanks anyway for your advice M’lady, but I think I’ll pass on this one.

 

{ 8 comments }

Iva Dumas January 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I am a fairly new grandmother. I was so excited to hear that we were going to be grandparents and I thought . . . wow I could give lots of advice on this subject. I’m a child care provider for infants and toddlers and even wrote a book. When I read your article it made me stop and think. Wow, I need to step back to let them be in charge. Ask first before give unsolicited advice. I get it now. Thank you so much for your advice.

Iva Dumas January 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I am a fairly new grandmother. I was so excited to hear that we were going to be grandparents and I thought . . . wow I could give lots of advice on this subject. I’m a child care provider for infants and toddlers and even wrote a book. When I read your article it made me stop and think. Wow, I need to step back to let them be in charge. Ask first before give unsolicited advice. I get it now. Thank you so much for your advice.

Donne Davis January 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Iva, you’ve got the right attitude. It’s great you realize they’re in charge. You’re sensitive enough to step back and wait for the right time to share your valuable experience. I’m sure it will be appreciated when requested. Be patient – the opportunity will present itself and then just give it in small doses and watch for reactions.
Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Joan Stommen January 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I never learned with the first one when to keep mu mouth shut…..now with five, including twins….I offer ‘suggestions, advice, my two-cents all the time. I love Violet’s quote and my daughter and daughter-in-law just roll their eyes! These wonderful moms take me in stride, sometimes grateful and accepting, sometimes graciously explaining why their way/idea is better. On the rare occasion either of them call me “Joan”…..I know it’s time to back off! I say step in carefully, but don’t let it change who you are, grandmas!

Donne Davis January 9, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Joan, I love your outlook. I hope you realize how blessed you are to have such respectful relationships with your daughter and DIL. It sounds like there’s mutual respect and you all enjoy honest communication. I’m smiling about the way they get your attention by calling you “Joan!”

Joan Stommen January 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I never learned with the first one when to keep mu mouth shut…..now with five, including twins….I offer ‘suggestions, advice, my two-cents all the time. I love Violet’s quote and my daughter and daughter-in-law just roll their eyes! These wonderful moms take me in stride, sometimes grateful and accepting, sometimes graciously explaining why their way/idea is better. On the rare occasion either of them call me “Joan”…..I know it’s time to back off! I say step in carefully, but don’t let it change who you are, grandmas!

Diane January 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm

When I heard Lady Grantham say this line, I laughed. I secretly hoped my daughter, who loves Downton Abby too heard it and took it to heart, even though I know it’s a Grandmother’s ‘no no.’

Donne Davis January 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Apparently this little conversation between the 2 grannies has resonated with lots of people. Check out the photo and caption above!

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