Is My Mother an Absentee Grandmother? She’s literally MIA.

By Babe | Illustration by Ana Hard

After all the planning, decorating and registering during your pregnancy, you kinda figured your mom would parlay her maternal awesomeness into grand-maternal awesomeness and become the rockstar nana / mee-mah / grandma you expected her to be. But somehow, now that the baby’s here, she’s nowhere to be found and you’ve been left wondering, Is my mother a crappy grandmother?

She could be, or maybe she’s just not up to snuff on the expectations you’ve clearly set for her….in your head. They key here? Communication. And who better to help you navigate these tough convos than Jean Fitzpatrick, our resident psychotherapist and relationship expert who weighs in on the dynamics between new mother and new grandmother, and how maybe just a few simple conversations is all you need to set the relationship right.

“A new baby brings a change in all of your family relationships, and that means change to the ways you and your mom connect,” says Jean. “The more you two can talk calmly about your needs and wishes, the more you lay the groundwork for happy years of enjoying your little one together. If you’re disappointed with your mom’s approach to grandparenting, sit down (in person or on video) and get a dialogue going. Let her know how special her new role is to you and to your little one and ask how she’s finding it. 

If your mom sounds uncomfortable or out of practice with baby care, offer to share posts on how babies develop, learn, and play. If you have lots of paid childcare help, she may not realize how much you want her presence. Ask if she’d like to plan a schedule for regular time with the baby in person or on video. Tech support can be very helpful if she lives too far away for regular visits and is having trouble with Zoom or FaceTime. You’re probably sharing photos and videos of baby on a regular basis. Also share ideas on how to enjoy screen time with an infant or toddler, reading picture books and singing songs. 

Were you expecting her to babysit regularly? Find out what she’d be willing and able to do. If she finds childcare exhausting, brainstorm solutions (shorter periods, hiring a helper, etc.).  If she hasn’t retired yet or is a busy volunteer, work around her schedule. If she worries about money, offer to pay her. Some grandmothers get the impression that they do everything wrong because their daughter corrects the way they feed or dress the baby or put him to sleep. Baby care has changed since you were in your crib, but you don’t want to disempower your mom. Try to distinguish between essential needs and nice-to-haves so that you avoid a pattern of criticism.”