Becoming a grandparent for the first, second or even the sixth time is always a time for joy and celebration. Unlike the bittersweet happiness which you experience when your children marry, welcoming a new grandchild into the family is usually an event filled with hope and jubilation.
If you live far away from your grandchildren, or are not playing an active role in helping to care for your grandchildren, then the addition of a new family is unlikely to have much impact on your daily life.
However, for most people, changes in one generation often have a ripple effect, and the arrival of a new grandchild is likely to create changes in your own relationships – with your spouse, your children and even with your other grandchildren. Sometimes, despite the exciting opportunities to grow and become stronger as a family, the arrival of a grandchild can introduce new areas of stress and contention within your own marriage and even in your relationships with your children.
Recognising the signs early and finding a way to address them can help you to navigate your way through this life change. Becoming grandparents can be a happy and fulfilling experience, not only for you and your extended family, but also for you and your spouse.
4 Signs To Watch Out For
Extended families are an accepted and natural social norm within Singapore. Most new parents rely on help from their own parents during the early years of care for their children. The experience can be immensely helpful for young couples struggling to juggle their careers and the demands that a newborn or a young child might have. It also enriches the lives of the grandparents by giving them a sense of continuity into the future, and from the sheer joy that having a second chance at parenting can bring.
Whilst this is positive for the extended family as a whole, you need to ensure that your new roles as grandparents don’t overtake and stress your own roles as spouses and life partners for each other. Here are some of the top warning signs to watch out for.
1. You Have No Time For Your Spouse
This is probably the first sign that you have not been able to balance your new role as a grandparent with your role as a spouse. Whilst a higher degree of involvement is natural in the first 3 months after a baby is born, your commitment and schedule should begin to balance itself out and you should be able to find time to spend with your spouse again. If however, after 3 months, you find that you are spending all your weekdays at your child’s home caring for your grandchild whilst your spouse spends time alone or is running separate errands for your children, and perhaps even weekends together are spent shopping for your grandchild or providing additional babysitting services, then you know that your life is no longer at equilibrium.
2. You Feel Tired And Unable To Cope
Most of us are becoming grandparents at a later and later age. Getting married later, having children later, and then having our children repeat this same cycle means that many of us may be in our late 60’s by the time we become grandparents. Compare this to the norm of a generation or 2 ago when most people became grandparents in their 50’s. You will need to assess your own energy levels and ability to help your children with your grandchildren. If you are physically unable to cope with the demands of being a more active grandparent, you will also physically have less time and energy for your relationship with your spouse.
Even though you may want to help more, if you find yourself tired and unable to cope, you will need to share your concerns with your children and find a solution that will help them as well as you.
3. Your Involvement Has Created Conflict Within The Family
Nothing hijacks a relationship more than conflict. Sometimes, being a grandparent is tricky. You need to remember to be fair and share the same amount of time and energy with all your grandchildren. If you appear to favour or spend more time with one set of grandchildren over another, even if you never intended it to be a comparison, it might be construed as one and lead to tension within the family.
Family conflicts will have a negative impact on your relationship with your spouse. Like it or not, they too will be drawn into it. Whether you agree or disagree with each other, dealing with a family conflict takes the focus away from your own relationship and creates a negative atmosphere which takes a tremendous amount of energy to reverse.
4. You No Longer Have Time For Your Own Interests
This might happen if you find that your commitments as a grandparent, spouse and maybe even to your career if you are still working, leave you no time to pursue any of your own interests. Not having time for yourself will take away an important avenue for you to re-charge yourself, feel inspired by life and optimistic about your capabilities and choices. Feeling good about yourself and positive about the people around you are important in your relationship not only with your spouse, but also with the people around you. Not investing in yourself will make it hard for you to invest in your marriage and by extension, in your family too.
Steps To Strengthen Your Marriage
None of these warning signs are unusual, and with some awareness and communication, most of them are easily addressed. You can start by taking a few simple steps to strengthen your marriage and make becoming a grandparent not only a fulfilling personal experience, but also a positive development for your own marriage.
Be Clear About How Much Help You Can Offer
Although you might be excited and genuinely wish to help, take stock of all your commitments and your ability to help. Be open and honest about what you can do to help. Your willingness to help even a little will be much appreciated so don’t feel that you need to take on more responsibility than you can manage.
Reduce The Potential For Conflict
Be fair and pay the same amount of attention to all your grandchildren. Be prepared to offer the same degree of support to all of your children. The same advice that you followed as a parent, still applies when you are a grandparent. Express your love to your children and grandchildren equally and avoid making comparisons. Give your children the space to make decisions as parents themselves. Understand and respect their parenting styles. It is likely that they will be similar to yours, but even if they aren’t, try to support and adapt to them.
Spend Time With Your Spouse
Don’t neglect your spouse. Doing things together for your children and grandchildren is not the same as spending time together. Make sure you have enough time to date each other and make a point to spend some part of each day together.
Make Time For Yourself
Keep doing all the things which you enjoy. Continue to meet your friends for a jog around the park, participate in your painting classes, and take time to rest and indulge in your own hobbies. Doing so will act as a source of inspiration and will give you space to be yourself when being part of a busy extended family becomes overwhelming.
Becoming a grandparent is a significant milestone in life.
Grandparents who are actively involved in caring for their grandchildren bring tremendous positive benefits to the parents, grandparents and children within the family.
Remember not to overstretch yourself and to continue to make time for your spouse, yourself and your marriage. Being a grandparent is just one aspect of your life, so continue to nurture the other relationships in your life.