By Dr. Marianne Furtado de Nazareth –
Becoming a grandmother is a wonderful and soul satisfying experience. One moment you’re just a mother. The next you are all wise and prehistoric! Well, when I look back to just three years ago when my sons became fathers, that’s exactly how I felt! Prehistoric! I had to suddenly become all wise on how to handle a baby, which I had totally and completely forgotten how to.
And I had to answer questions, with complete confidence, on this brand new pink little thing, which was my grand- daughter and which made my heart melt into a goeey mess. Imagine not thinking twice and just upping and quitting my job as adjunct lecturer in St. Joseph’s Post Graduate College of Media Studies and haring off to the freezing cold midwest in the US, to help with this precious new life. That is what becoming a grandmother does to one. You put your life on hold and that could be as long as a year, and then just pick up where you left off and go back to lecturing with a whole new heart beating inside of you.
And then the worry was what were they going to call me? For heaven’s sake Nanna and Grandma sounded not just prehistoric they sounded something I did not want to hear. I felt my knees feel weak and my eyes go dim and that was not in my book! And I was in my fifties, too young to be considered ancient — yet! So, G’nama it was and is. And they took to it like little ducks making me happy as soon as they learned to speak. Then ofcourse you have the precocious one who decides G’nama is too staid, so I am turned into G’namie and G’nams depending on her mood. But she can do no wrong in my indulgent eyes.
Today, I hear a lot of millennials who are married questioning the need or the sense in having children. Generations past, people didn’t think about things like that: babies just happened. And most of us were really young when we married.
Today, the growing tendency is to overthink everything, and the decision to have children is no exception. Here are some common concerns I’ve heard expressed:
- Having kids is too expensive. Well, yes it does cost a lot. But so do a lot of things that won’t outlast you, like the latest iPhone or a trip to Bali.
- Pregnancy will ruin my body. I wouldn’t say “ruin” exactly; more like remodel. You will never get your waist back like Aishwariya Rai or Karishma Kapoor.
- Kids really tie you down. So does anything you own that requires payments or getting a pet. The point is, things or even an affectionate pet won’t give you hugs and kisses, or make you a birthday card covered with so much glitter that if it catches sunlight and it thrills you on Face Time.
- Childbirth is painful. I don’t have any snappy comeback for that one, except everything worth having comes with some pain and sweat. From carrying the child to the actual birth pangs only a mother will know the pain she will go through and why her bond with the child becomes unbreakable.
- I’ll lose my freedom is a big issue with many young people. A carefree lifestyle of partying, clubbing and spur-of-the-moment vacations will most likely go by the wayside after you have kids, unless you plan on being a terrible parent. But nature has an answer for that I have noticed with my own sons. The older you get, and especially after you have kids, the less energy and interest you’ll have in partying, clubbing and taking spur-of-the-moment vacations. So, problem solved. Unless you are a parent who breaks your child into vacationing with you like my second son and his wife. The little one has traveled since she was born and so is a seasoned traveler doing 7-11 hours strapped in the car with comfort. Or just flying down to India for a cousin’s wedding with her Mum, without a flip in her heart beat.
While I’d never try to convince an unwilling person to have a child, since there are sadly already far too many unwanted children in the world, here are five reasons to make the lifelong investment of having children, if you’re mulling it over:
- It’s a chance for a do-over. Raising kids gives you a chance to relive your own childhood, and maybe even rewrite the script. Your parents never took you for cooking classes which upset you? You can make it a point to go to classes with your kids. Of course, you may find that your kids hate cooking, the same way your parents did. Or swimming, or piano, the list is endless.
- You’ll see that magic is real. Participating in the growth of a child is a truly magical experience, and I don’t use that description lightly. The phenomenon of watching tiny human beings, in a mere two years, transform from a state of complete helplessness into little people who can smile, laugh, walk, talk, and say no like they mean it. It’s magical and perplexing all in one.
- You’ll get members-only benefits. Having children grants you an automatic entry to the biggest and yet most exclusive club in the world: parenthood. There’s no secret handshake, but on some level parents automatically understand each other, and what we all must go through for the sake of our children. All moms, whether they’re world leaders or housekeepers, have something in common, as do all dads who’re doing their best to raise kids in a world, that often doesn’t support their efforts or affirm their sacrifices.
That’s three. Now, here’s the fourth and the best, which I’ve saved for last, because that’s a stage we should all aspire for to feel:
You won’t appreciate this reason until you’ve guided your kids through childhood and past the shoals of adolescence to the point where they’re ready to become parents themselves.
Being a grandparent allows you to experience the miracle of life all over again, without the full burden of parental responsibility. Grandchildren are a wonderful reward for all the years you spent parenting – the sleepless nights and apprehensive days, the worry and the joys that go hand-in-hand with raising a family.
I can say all this with firm conviction. And it’s worth noting that you can’t be a grandparent unless you’ve been a parent. That’s an absolute prerequisite.
Being grandparents sufficiently removes you from the responsibilities so that we can be just friends.
Many of us would reverse that order if we could – being a grandparent is way more fun than being a parent– but that’s impossible. And that’s just as well. I don’t think you can really appreciate grandchildren without having raised children first. It’s a layering of experience that can’t be duplicated or short-cut.
And I would like to think that a mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do.
So here’s my admittedly unsolicited advice. If you’re considering having kids and are in a position to do so, make two lists, pros and cons. Don’t be surprised if the cons outnumber the pros. Then rip up both your lists and have kids anyway.
Don’t overthink it. It’s the only way you’ll get a shot at becoming a grandparent. A grandchild fills a space that you never knew was empty in your heart.
Dr Marianne Furtado de Nazareth,
Former Asst. Editor, The Deccan Herald, &
Adjunct faculty St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore.