When your friends become grandmothers

“I’m going to be a grandma!” my friend shouted over the phone from Texas. We hadn’t talked in almost a year, but now here she was telling me that her daughter was eight months pregnant with a little girl.

My friend went on and on about the baby, about baby clothes and baby furniture. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. She had no clue that while I’m happy for her, it felt like another rock piled on the mountain of gloom already crushing me. What did I have to report? Illness, car crash, dog limping, crazy new boss at work, and I felt like I was getting a cold. Babies? Two of my cousins keep posting pictures online of their adorable young ones that I have never met. I hear babies crying at the back of the church. I see parents with their children everywhere I go. But I don’t get to buy any baby clothes. I’d just like to hold a baby sometime.

This sounds way too sorry for myself. But here’s the thing. My friend and I grew up together, always best friends. Except for going to different colleges, our lives had a lot of parallels. We both married divorced men with three kids. We both lost our husbands a few years ago, mine to Alzheimer’s, hers to a heart attack. We both struggled with loneliness, aging, and dying relatives. The only difference was that she had a daughter.

When she finally took a breath, I mentioned that this was something I could never share with her. She responded, “But you’re a grandmother through Fred’s kids.”

Not really. Not the way I think about grandmothers and grandchildren, certainly not the way my grandmothers were to me. I talked about how I don’t see my stepchildren, have no connection beyond Facebook with them or their children since Fred died. I wish I did. All those years living in Oregon while they were still in California took a toll, plus they have their own grandmother and great-grandmother close by. I see the pictures on Facebook.

My friend admitted that she has lost track of two of her husband’s kids and the other one has no plans to have children, so she kind of understands.

Exactly. Sometimes I hear about stepmothers who are so close to their stepchildren and step-grandchildren that all the barriers dissolve and they feel like family. But it didn’t happen for me or my friend. Oh, we took on the titles, laughing at how odd it was to be “grandmothers” in our 30s, but only now with her biological daughter having a baby, does it feel like the real thing. I am so jealous.

I know a lot of you are still at the age where your friends are just becoming mothers, and I remember how hard that is. It doesn’t help when people keep asking when you’re going to have your baby. It’s still hard when you get older. I was just thinking how great it would be to have the phone ring and someone say, “Hi Mom, how are you?” Or, “Hey, Grandma, I’m coming to see you.” These are the kind of thoughts that will make you crazy.

Meanwhile, this morning I was sitting on the couch with my dog sleeping in my lap and I got to thinking that maybe God was wise to keep me from being a mom. My dog has fleas and another ear infection. I rarely groom her, and her collar’s all worn out. If I had human children, they’d probably be running around with crooked teeth, untied shoes and outgrown clothes because their mother was always so busy writing and playing music. And God knows what I’d put in their lunch bags: frozen meatballs and cold tortillas? On the other hand, my dog felt completely safe and loved in my lap. Maybe that’s what counts the most.

What do you think about all this? I welcome your comments.

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18 thoughts on “When your friends become grandmothers

  1. I am childless (by choice), so I understand some of what you address here.

    When I was young and in the hospital for long stretches of time, I was the recipient of tenderness and love from volunteer “grandmas.” They would read to me, talk with me, and just be a source of warmth and comfort.

    Fast forward 40 years and I’ve been the adult — offering tenderness and love to youngsters in need.

    The world is full of children — from babies to young adults — who feel lonely and afraid, and appreciate the undivided attention of a caring person. Reach out, for them and for yourself. 🙂

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  2. Hi Sue, this was quite poignant. I felt your inner struggle, yet I also know something in you is genuinely happy for your friend to experience the luxury of being a biological grandmother. And if your child had crooked teeth and all that, sooner or later you’d get that taken care of; we all know the main thing is that the child is loved, healthy and safe from harm.

    Your transparency is so empowering for those in our shoes.

    I e-mailed you not long ago on this very subject. In my 20’s I lost my friends as they announced one by one, and repeatedly, “I’m pregnant!” And now in my 50’s after waiting decades to spend quality girlfriend time with them, and now that their kids are grown and out of the house on their own, I’m thinking, yay, we can finally do a girlfriend getaway or whatever fun event they want to do, and poof: “I’m going to be a grandmother!” and so for the 2nd time, I’ve lost my friends yet again all these years later after waiting so long….. because I can’t and I shouldn’t compete with their grandkids for their attention.

    Like you, I’m genuinely happy for them, and want the best for them but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.

    I’m happy for your friend, but it struck me as clod-headed that she literally expected your 2 situations to be the same. This is truly a journey one has to experience firsthand to understand even the most basic concepts.

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    • Shiloh, thank you for your kind words. You’re right. Now we’re into the grandma club business. I am happy for my friend. She has gone through a whole lot of bad stuff, especially in the last few years and is finally having good things happen. I’m sure if we lived closer, she would share the grandmother journey with me, but here I am with my dog.

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  3. Omg. I would love to be eloquent in my reponse, but it won’t be. I love the honesty of this post; I love to read somebody else say what I am feeling; I am grateful to not feel like I am a bitter self centered b!+@# for what I am feeling/thinking simply by seeing someone understands it. I have been in a funk as my husband’s family is so child centered and trying to explain my experience to him falls on deaf ears. I have adult step children- let’s just call that situation complicated. It is so difficult for me sometimes…keep in my mouth shut when I disagree with choices made in raising the grandchildren…and it just leaves me feeling more like the odd ball… My best childhood friend’s wife had a baby. He was always a support in this childless “thing” He is now that parent that is all about the baby… Too many baby things going on too close to me with no one around that understands. Omg… Thank you for is post!!

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  4. Some of us who were responsible while waiting for ‘Mr. Right’ to show up are now dealing with the gloating females who flaunt their children and grandchildren (many who were conceived – deliberately -out of wedlock in order to trap their idiot boyfriends to the altar). As someone who came from an abusive alcoholic family, I wanted to marry and have children the right way and with a sober fellow. Unfortunately, I had to act as watchdog for my family, protecting them from a drunk while everyone else had a relatively normal adolescence and found their husbands/boyfriends while they were young. As I got a later start it seems like I missed the good guy boat. Bugs me to no end how society treats even the most selfish of mothers with more respect and admiration than I have ever received. Guess there’s no reward for the sacrifices of those of us who cared more about their potential children than we did about ourselves…..

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  5. “Bugs me to no end how society treats even the most selfish of mothers with more respect and admiration than I have ever received. Guess there’s no reward for the sacrifices of those of us who cared more about their potential children than we did about ourselves…..”

    @Shannon..This sums it up really well and I’ve noticed the same. My mother had me because her marriage was bad, she was lonely and she wanted a child to fill that void. She only had me, because as she admitted later in life, she didn’t want to have to touch my father again to create another. I didn’t want to have children unless I had a real family to bring them info. In my mind this meant a husband who wanted them and would be a good father who I had a healthy relationship with, as well as siblings. I didn’t want to bring a child into the same situation I was raised in, always feeling less than because I didn’t have the family that many of my friends had. Sure people have kids by surprise in lots of circumstances, or things happen beyond their control. I know not everyone can have two parents who love each other, but I didn’t want to intentionally and knowingly bring a baby into a bad situation.

    As it turned out, I never found the family that I wanted my children to be born into. I never found a husband that wanted them and ended up marrying one that didn’t. I really beat myself about that and went back and forth about that decision but then I got to the age (nearly 40) that at best there was time for a last minute under the wire only baby, but I’d have to raise him or her alone and it didn’t seem right to do on purpose with limited support and financial resources. I felt like the best thing I could do for my potential children was to not bring them into the world in the first place, but you’re right. There is certainly no reward for doing that.

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  6. My soon to be ex said, “You skipped parenthood and went straight to Grandpa”. God that hurt ! But I suffered in silence. I married late and never had my own kids. But I can no longer handle the resentment
    within in me. Therefore, I’m in the process of leaving my wife for a beautiful 20 year old Colombian girl and start my OWN family. Many of you will say that I’m robbing the cradle. Don’t go there with me ! You will lose and made to look very foolish. But dammit it’s my turn to be happy ! I have tried to love my step grandsons as my own. I simply cannot do it. That’s seen as an evil in me, I’m sure. But these are my true feelings. Yes, to all you women who hate older men and younger women, I can keep up with her, in every way. I’ll be happy with my own little family, although very late in life or die trying. I’m trying to get through the anger and resentment that has been pent up for years. I,\’m not doing very well with it. Counseling is out as I think most of them are charlatans. I can tell you that being a stepfather has been the emptiest most
    unfulfilling experience of my life. If I’m wrong. so be it.

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  7. Okay, I’m late to comment here.

    You can’t necessarily be a grandparent through your spouse’s kids. I’m not allowed to be grandmother – there’s an age gap between me and my husband, and my stepdaughter (only a few years younger than me) ‘jokingly’ said I was too young to be a grandmother when she had her daughter. (It’s been quite clear that DH’s first wife has influenced this.)

    Give him his due, DH suggested I could be an honorary aunt, but that suggestion was knocked back by his daughter.

    Cut to 14 yrs later, and we finally got a Christmas card that addressed me as ‘Aunt’. I’m afraid that – by then – I reckoned it was just too late. I’m pleasant with the family, I organise the birthday and Christmas presents, but that’s it.

    My husband has been an invalid for a few years, now, and my stepdaughter has been kind enough to say how glad she and her brother are that their dad has me, but there’s no real family feeling there.

    I once got a joint birthday card from them when my DH reminded them, and I do get a joint present of toiletries from them at Christmas now, so I suppose that’s some acknowledgement of being part of the family. I’ve been married to their father for 22 years, I always organise their cards and birthday presents. I reckon that if (in all that time) they can only manage one birthday card between them to me, then I know where I stand.

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    • mrspolygot-Sound to me like your husband’s ex poisoned your steps toward you. What did you ever do to her ? I venture to say nothing. Being a stepparent to me has been the emptiest, most lackluster experience
      I’ve ever had. My youngest stepson and his wife had two boys making my wife a bio grandmother.
      She’s over the Moon about them. Frankly, while I care for them, I’m kind of indifferent toward them. They
      aren’t mine. They aren’t MY flesh and blood and to me that means a lot. I’ve many people say that you
      can love someone else’s children like your own. HOGWASH ! Maybe some people can. I can’t. For years
      this was seen as an evil in me. But I don’t see it that way. Whenever we go see the boys, I don’t spend a lot of time with them. I’ve tried to be grandfatherly and I just can’t do it. I feel your pain and frustration. In fact I feel like an intruder and an outsider around them. My wife is hurt by this I’m sure. But she’s hurt my family
      in many ways. There’s a Spanish saying, “Segundo plata un la mesa”, It means the second plate on the
      table. That’s how I feel. My cousins say that I’m wrong. In their eyes I maybe. Frankly, I don’t care what
      they think. These are my feeling and they are valid. If it hurts some feelins, c’est la vie. At least I’m honest..

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      • It was the case that the ex did that, I’m afraid. (When the granddaughter was a toddler, she used to gravitate towards me. If her biological grandmother was there, she ‘accidentally’ hit me, I kid you not – she must have the clumsiest elbow on the planet…)

        The kids are actually close to my age (which is part of the problem) but they were also given incorrect info about the marriage break-up.

        They understand the situation now, but things will never be how they should have been.

        I’m sorry you’re in so much pain. I do know people who tell me that their step-grandchildren are just the same as their own, but they all have biological grandchildren as well.

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  8. I was wondering if other people felt my pain. I do have two adult children, one that has been married 5 years. Neither of my children wants to have children. I am heartbroken. For some silly reason I always thought I would be a grandmother. It’s hard to watch my younger sisters becoming grandparents. How not to be envious, eludes me. So, for the first time in 30 years my husband and I will be adopting a rescue dog. I guess we all have to be content with the cards dealt to us. Easier said than done…

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