Many grandmothers take care of their grandchildren and assume the role of mothers because their daughters need support. Perhaps they are alone and have to provide for their children, or maybe the young couple, the children, and the grandparents live in the same house, and roles and functions start to blur, affecting relationships and straining feelings.
María Consuelo Caicedo Toro
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In almost 100% of cases, children adore their grandmothers and long to spend long periods with them, listening to their stories, eating cakes made from old but delicious recipes, and snuggling together to watch a fun movie on a plush sofa under the warmth of a checkered blanket in cheerful tones. In everyone's imagination, upon hearing the word "grandmother," a beautiful and tender elderly woman comes to mind, with white hair, glasses, a plump figure, a perpetual kitchen apron, a permanent smile, a sweet voice, and arms always open. In both scenarios, life seems to flow comfortably, and everyone is as happy as in the endings of fairy tales, but in day-to-day reality, things are not always like that.
If mom and dad work, and the grandmother assumes the role of a mother in their absence, she will be the one to organize the children's lives, discipline them, and take care of their habits and activities. This routine can have its drawbacks, and it is common to fall into contradictions that affect the little ones because what the mom says is often different from what the grandmother thinks and does.
Before the grandmother takes on the care of the grandchildren, an open conversation should take place, clarifying that child-rearing will be guided by the parents' vision of what they believe is best for their children.
On the other hand, the child's mother must have a clear understanding of her primary role in the child's life and understand that the responsibility regarding food, hygiene, school, household chores, and health, among others, falls entirely on her shoulders, and the grandmother enters this dynamic as a collaborator who enforces the agreed-upon limits.
Mealtime, bathing, homework schedules, the child's food choices, and playtime should be decisions made by the mother and agreed upon with the grandmother so that everyone understands their role and fulfills it completely. In the family's daily movie, the grandmother does not have a leading role; she is a supporting actress, and her role is to provide support. Similarly, the grandmother mustn't be constantly burdened with the constant care of her grandchild. She needs time for herself, activities, meetings, outings, rest, and commitments in which her daughter and the youngest member of the household should not be involved.
Each in their place
If the roles of mother and grandmother are not clear to the children, uncomfortable situations can arise that could lead to conflicts at home. Therefore, we offer you these suggestions:
• The grandmother should not be overly permissive with her grandchild; ideally, she should adhere to the parents' recommendations for the child.
• Grandparents are collaborators when it comes to taking care of the child, but the responsibility for child-rearing falls entirely on the parents or the mother if the father is absent.
• Grandparents take care of their grandchildren only if they want to; they are not obligated to do so.
Caring for grandchildren entails benefits for the lives of grandparents:
• They feel useful, full of life and energy. They come up with activities and outings and take care of their health to witness their grandchildren's growth.
• They keep the family history alive and share anecdotes that children enjoy.
• They become "friends" with their grandchildren and establish bonds of mutual trust. Children often confide in them, sharing feelings and emotions they wouldn't normally share with their parents.
On the children's part:
• They learn to face various situations in life through the experiences shared by their grandparents.
• They inherit values and give importance to everyday family activities such as eating together, contributing to household chores, going for walks, and having conversations.
• They understand the importance and roles of each family member.