The arrival of a baby can unify a family but it can also throw relationships asunder with the changes that comes with caring for a newborn. For Masters student and mother of one, Ariel Lim, learning the ropes to parenting proved to be an uphill battle when she became a parent herself a year ago.
“Since becoming a mum, I finally realised how much my parents have done for me and it has definitely taught me to relate to my parents and parents-in-law better,” she shares.
While the birth of her daughter gave her parents immense joy, it did not come without challenges, she says. “I am very thankful for my mum as she was an integral part of my confinement journey. But we are very different individuals so we argued quite a bit over how to look after my baby.”
Riding the new phase together
As Ariel navigates the trials of parenthood, her parents, Albert and Alison Lim, enter a new phase in their lives—grandparenthood. Finding the right balance between grandparenting and parenting their daughter who is a new mother, is often tricky and the pair is still learning and adjusting.
“When my daughter wanted to do things by the book like sleep training or getting her baby to sleep at a certain time, I tried to tell her that it doesn’t work like that, but Albert would remind me that Ariel needed to experience parenting for herself and learn to overcome the difficulties on her own,” relates Alison, who is also a committee member at Mums for Life.
Despite their best intentions, Alison concedes that their overwhelming love for their granddaughter can sometimes complicate matters. “We have to acknowledge that we tend to overdo our roles due to the affection we have for our granddaughter. We need to learn when to step aside and let the parents take the lead. Our job is to play a supporting role and not to directly parent our grandchildren.”
Keeping communication channels open
What helped to mend the mother-daughter relationship during the first few months with a newborn was the family’s willingness to communicate through their differences to avoid further misunderstandings.
This ability to know when to give her daughter space is what the new grandmother believes is most important. She relates: “There was one time I wanted to go over to her place but Ariel told me that I should ask her for permission. As parents, we also have to listen to our children, respect their views and give them space and privacy.”
Living within respectful boundaries
While respect and communication helps to create better and meaningful relationships, are they enough to maintain harmony?
Albert believes that there are more factors at play. “If we are going to live together in a multi-generational home, we must first discuss and set some ground rules to find out what is comfortable for everyone in order to operate in a common place,” shares the doting grandfather, who is also a Families for Life Council Member and board member at the Centre for Fathering.
He also emphasises that making a conscious effort to bond with the whole family at least once a week is important as this presents a good opportunity to raise and discuss family issues that could potentially prevent future arguments.
As to whether Ariel would consider moving back to live with her parents when she has more children, she admits that it is definitely something she will give serious thought to. “To be honest, moving out and living on my own and having a child, I have come to appreciate and understand my parents better. So if we were to live together again, it would definitely be at a better place.”
“If Ariel and her family were to move back with us, I would be very happy as I won’t have to offer ‘Grabgranny’ services anymore!” Alison jests in reply.
The content of this article was adapted from an interview from CNA938 Family Ties. For more parenting tips, check out #AskFFL on the Families for Life Facebook page.