This post first appeared on Boomer Cafe, a website for baby boomers with youthful spirits and active lifestyles.
When I was growing up in San Francisco during the 50s, I always knew I wanted to be a mom. But the thought of being a grandma never once crossed my mind. Grandmas were old people and I couldn’t imagine myself that old.
Well, now I’m “that old” and guess what: becoming a grandma was the best thing that ever happened to me. Being a grandma is a huge part of my identity.
What’s more, when I’m not spending time with my three granddaughters, I love being with other grandmas. They’re creative, energetic, and love to laugh. I even started a national social network for grandmas called the GaGa Sisterhood.
Here’s how it happened. In 2003, my daughter invited me to personally witness the birth of my first grandchild. It was the most miraculous moment of my life and I went completely “gaga!” When I came back down to earth, I realized I was not the first grandma to feel this way. Every grandma I talked to was just as crazy about her grandchild as I was about mine.
I spent the next two weeks helping my daughter and the new baby. That’s when something even more important occurred to me: being a grandma is complicated, more complicated than being a parent because more people are involved (like our kids) and we’re not the ones in charge any more.
I used to joke to my grandma friends that when I visited my daughter and her family, I felt like an anthropologist observing a native tribe and learning its customs. I watched and admired how well my little granddaughter thrived, and I learned as my daughter explained all the theories behind her parenting choices.
That made me want to know what other grandmas were experiencing, so seven months after my first granddaughter was born, I invited all the grandmas I knew to begin a conversation about what it means to be a modern grandma.
Fifteen grandmas sat in a circle in my living room and we told stories about what our grandchildren call us and how we got those names, the great lengths we go to see them, how we juggle all our roles to make time for them, and most importantly, how we get along with their sometimes-prickly parents.
But these sessions are for more than just the fun of it. Grandmas have lots of wisdom and life experiences but we still face new challenges. When we become grandmas, we need support and reassurance from other grandmas.
That afternoon in my living room, a new community was formed— the GaGa Sisterhood, a national social network where grandmas bond, brag, and benefit. Over the past 13 years, grandmas from around the country have joined the GaGa Sisterhood. In our Silicon Valley chapter, we meet every other month to hear speakers who enlighten and inspire us to continue growing along with our children and grandchildren.
I never dreamed that my life as a grandma would be so rewarding or that I would have so many opportunities to connect with grandmas all over the world. As the author and columnist Lois Wyse once said: “If I’d known how much fun grandchildren were, I would have had them first.”