In the opening episode of Downton Abbey season five, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) offers some advice in her usual forthright manner to the grieving new grandmother Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton): “It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere!”
As convincing as she sounded, I couldn’t help but chuckle and then cringe. That strategy is not a suitable mantra for today’s grandmas. In fact, it might result in grandma losing her privileges.
Interference is defined as intervening in an activity without invitation or necessity, in other words, offering unsolicited advice. The most common warning I can offer to both new and seasoned grandmas is: Do not give unsolicited advice. Do not interfere.
Why grandmas should not interfere
- You’ll undermine the new parents’ confidence
- You’ll irritate them.
- You’ll erode trust.
- They’re the parents—they get to call the shots.
What is the job of grandmas?
- Be supportive and interested.
- Be helpful but ask first.
- Rave about the wonderful job the parents are doing.
- Bring goodies for the parents.
- Let the parents make their own mistakes; that’s how they learn.
- If they share a concern with you, ask them if they want feedback.
- If there’s a new baby, shower the older grandchild with attention.
So, thanks anyway for your advice M’lady, but I think I’ll pass on this one.