At our March GaGa Sisterhood meeting, I asked everyone to introduce themselves by answering the question: How are you different as a grandma than your mother was?
While every generation has some similarities with the generation that preceded it, today’s grandmothers have some significant differences from our mothers’ generation when it comes to grandparenting styles.
Most of our mothers were part of the Silent Generation who were born between 1925 and 1942. Also known as the Postwar Generation, they were characterized by author William Manchester as “withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent.” (His description sounds harsh compared to the women I know in my mother’s generation.)
The Silent Generation gave birth to the generation known as the Baby Boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964. As a group, Boomers are the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to that time, and among the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Boomers are also part of the “therapy generation” and share more intimately and openly than their parents’ generation who practiced a code of silence when it came to communicating between the generations.
Some of our members’ answers to the question reflect these different generational styles. We’re more physical with our grandchildren than our mothers were—both in the way we play with them and the way we express and display our affection for them. We tend to be more permissive and avoid saying “no” whenever possible.
More grandmas today are working and traveling and juggling extracurricular activities than our mothers did, which sometimes makes it more challenging to spend time with our grandchildren.
Several members said that their mothers didn’t live long enough to become grandmas. Today’s grandmas have a greater intimacy and informality with our grandchildren than our mothers. With increased intimacy comes increased expectations, the challenge of learning how and when to say no, and navigating the ongoing dance of how much to be part of each others lives.
The most significant difference between our mothers and our generation is the different ways we have to stay in touch with our long-distance grandchildren. Technology has allowed us to stay connected using Skype and Smart Phones so that we can build the bonds between visits. At the same time, this new technology has presented a new challenge our mothers didn’t have—learning how to use it.
Although we may be different in some ways, at the core we all feel a deep love for our grandchildren that transcends the generations.
How are you different as a grandma than your mother was?