My friend, Judy, and I were talking about our grandchildren. She was feeling guilty because she didn’t think she was doing enough for them. With the downturn in the economy she can’t take them on the same trips she did last year. She didn’t buy them as many gifts last Christmas as she did the previous year. She even questioned whether she was doing enough when they came to visit for dinner. She wondered if her grandchildren had expectations of her that she wasn’t living up to.
Judy was laying a major guilt trip on herself. Expectations of what we grandmas think we should be doing produce so much guilt. Some of us are so hard on ourselves and compare ourselves to this imaginary standard of what we think we should be doing.
Dr. Lillian Carson, psychotherapist and author of The Essential Grandparent, discusses this issue with great empathy for the grandparent. Carson has adapted psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott’s concept of a good-enough parent to that of good-enough grandparent.
“The term good enough focuses on your overall effort rather than each individual act. It suggests that in order to grandparent well, you should not try to be a perfect grandparent. Perfection is not within the grasp of ordinary human beings. It’s possible to be a good-enough grandparent—a grandparent who grandparents well. When you are not able to be there and guilt sets in, remind yourself of the over-all picture and how you do contribute. Making plans for what you’ll do in the future is another antidote for guilt.”
I have my own thoughts on this issue. When my granddaughter greets me with: “What did you bring me,” I say: “Me!” Then I give her a big hug and say: “we can do whatever you want today. I’m here just for you.”
My daughter told me a long time ago: “Mom, you don’t need to bring toys for Juliet. You are her favorite toy!”
Try this visualization.
- Sit in a quiet place with no distractions.
- Take several slow deep breaths.
- Close your eyes and visualize your grandchild.
- Feel the love you have for her.
- Remember the joy you felt the day she was born.
- Imagine her sitting beside you with your arms around each other.
- Tell the child how much you truly love her and how your life has changed since her birth.
- Imagine the child saying: I love you, too.
- Take in the joy and love deeply into your heart.
- Allow those feelings to wash over you.
- Open your eyes and notice how you feel.
These are your true feelings as a grandmother and your grandchildren know this. These are the feelings we need to reinforce in ourselves, not our feelings of guilt and inadequacy.