Grandmothers of a Son’s Children … Often a Difficult Role

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT


One of the list serves that we receive regularly, www.smartmarriages.com, had recent comments by a woman who is very sad because she felt left out in the cold in regard to her son’s children. She said that she felt less like a grandmother and more like a step-grandmother. She said that she was embarrassed to admit this until she started talking with friends in her own age group and found that this is a very common problem.

 Interestingly, this was supported by talking with women who had both daughters and sons. All agreed that they were much closer to their daughter’s children than their son’s children. As the women continued talking about this situation, they also all agreed that they felt closer to their mother’s mother than to their father’s mother. 

Each of the women talked about ways that they tried to stay connected to the grandchildren … cards, gifts, visits, phone calls … and, while many had decent relationships with their daughters-in-law, they all acknowledged that they felt that the message was clear that their own mothers (the daughter’s-in-law), would be given preferential connection, even when they were not close to their own mothers before the children were born. They also decided that it would only make things worse if they tried to talk with their children about it .. Better to just find ways to stay connected with the family. 

Most of the women also agreed that they had not realized this pattern until several years after the grandchild’s birth, when the differences became clear. Try as they might, these women could not think of any way to change the pattern but did acknowledge that it helped to talk about it, know that others shared the same experience and learn to laugh about it. This helped them to be less angry at their sons and daughters-in-law … as well as the OTHER grandmother. 
  


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