How do you get along with the “other” grandma? Many grandmas have confessed they feel competitive with the “other” grandma. It’s normal to feel a little rivalry for our grandchildren’s affection. Knowing it’s shared with another set of grandparents can sometimes feel threatening — especially, if the “other” grandma lives closer to the grandchildren, has more money to spend on them, and has more privileges because she’s the maternal grandma. Sometimes it can feel like a real tug-o-war with the other grandma. So how do you get into the right mindset that allows you to be the best grandma you can be without feeling like it’s a competition?
“Grandparents competing with other grandparents is a sign of insecurity,” says marriage and family therapist and grandmother Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem. “By the time adults are old enough to be grandparents, hopefully, they have learned to be their own personal best and know that competing with others is best left for games.”
We can read these words and understand their importance yet in the moment, our ego may get the best of us and we slip back into competition. One trick that helps is when you feel a wave of jealousy, focus on your grandchildren. For example, if the “other” grandma takes the grandchildren on a special vacation, imagine what a great time they’re having and the stories they’ll be able to tell you when they return. A solid loving relationship with grandchildren is built over time, not one experience.
It takes a lot of inner strength to achieve this mindset but when you do, congratulate yourself on being a self-confident person with a generous spirit. Remind yourself that your grandchildren love you for who you are and not what you give them. You’ll also serve as a good role model for your adult children and grandchildren by not making any comments about being better than the “other” grandma.
I asked a pair of grandmas who share the same four grandchildren to offer some tips on getting along with the other grandma.
Tips For Getting Along With The Other Grandma
Speak favorably about the other grandmother. Janet and Judy share babysitting duties for their four grandchildren.
“I’d be friends with Judy even if we didn’t share grandchildren,” Janet explained. “Judy is awesome. We have a mutual appreciation. I would never say anything disparaging about the ‘other’ grandma—it’s a cardinal sin. But then I don’t have the challenges that some grandmas have.”
It’s a state of mind and attitude is everything. “We both want what’s best for our children,” says Janet. “If I’m feeling jealous or hurt, I find ways to diffuse my feelings and try to reach out to her. In relationships that matter, it’s usually the most ‘conscious’ one who has to reach out.”
Remember how important it is to your children. “I go the extra mile to make our relationship solid,” Janet says. “If there’s an issue, we try to figure it out because our grandchildren are so important. We don’t want to make things hard on their parents.”
Appreciate the other grandma’s strengths. “We each have our specialties,” says Janet. “Music is important to me and I love to sing with my granddaughters. Judy cooks with the girls and they love to make soup together.” By developing friendships and getting to know each other there’s less chance of competition.
Let go of your desire to be the most important grandparent. When you’re with the other grandma, don’t dominate the conversation or look for ways to show how much you are loved. Rise above your inner gremlin and look for something you have in common to build on that relationship. The other grandma may be feeling the same way as you are.
Be open to sharing the holidays. When it comes to holidays, let the parents make the plans. If you can’t learn to share without a struggle, the parents may decide not to include you. Then everyone loses. You don’t have to do holidays together and you shouldn’t feel you have to adopt each other.
Jealousy is a natural emotion – but it should not overpower other emotions. If you’re feeling strong jealousy, acknowledge it and try to move on. Talk to a trusted friend about your feelings or consider seeing a therapist if you’re having trouble letting go of negative feelings. Jealousy can make you feel worse about yourself. Remind yourself what a blessing it is to show our grandkids what love looks like from each of our grandparenting perspectives.
When jealousy rears its ugly head, ask yourself:
- Do I expect the grandkids and their parents to take sides?
- Do I want to deny my grandchildren the opportunity of having more love and fun?
Of course, you don’t. When grandparents compete with the “other” grandparents, nobody wins, including the grandchildren. Remind yourself that jealousy and competition not only destroy relationships but damage your own self-esteem. Take the high road for the sake of your children, grandchildren, and most importantly, yourself. Our grandchildren thrive when they have lots of grandparents who love them.