Surviving the Toddler Years the Second Time Around
While the “sandwich generation” bemoans caring for aging parents as they raise their own children, equal numbers of moms in their 30s and 40s have the benefit of baby boomer moms (and dads!) to take care of their children while they work.
If you’re a boomer named “Grandma” who feels more like “Mommy” lately due to childcare obligations, how do you handle it? Chances are, your approach to child-rearing is nothing like what you did when you were a young mom. Here are some tips to keep your sanity and sense-of-self as you raise toddlers for the second time.
1. Keep your energy up. – Running around with kids in your later years is not the same as it was in your 20s. Eat healthy, take vitamins, and try to work out three times a week, for about 20 minutes a day, separate from the kids. Non-stop cardio like walking, cycling, or even a yoga or Zumba classes will do more for your overall health and the sporadic actions of caring for an on-the-go toddler — and it will help you keep up with them better.
2. Teach the children how to behave when Grandma needs quiet time. If toddlers or preschoolers have been in any sort of school setting, they understand circle time. When you’re feeling a bit spent, gather a stack of books and your grandchildren and tell them, “It’s circle time, now.” Sing songs and read stories while you get rejuvenated. If a preschooler wants to “read” the story to younger siblings, let her. All you have to do is sit there and look interested. This can buy you 20 to 30 minutes of sitting still and recuperating and is a great way to get kids to wind down for a nap, too.
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3. Sleep when the baby sleeps. You’ll find this advice on every “mommy blog,” but new mothers often laugh at it. Who can sleep when there’s housework, showering, and cooking to be done? If you’re babysitting grandchildren, though, you presumably have some downtime without the kids, which means you also have the luxury of cuddling up with the youngest generation for a nap every so often. Do it. They won’t be this young and cuddly forever.
4. Offer advice to the new mom, but don’t be offended if she doesn’t take it. Some daughters and daughters-in-law are just waiting for someone to tell them exactly what to do. You can flat-out ask the mother of your grandchildren how she’d feel about some tips, or simply offer advice and hope for the best. Whatever happens, don’t be offended or take it personally if the mom doesn’t take your advice. Some mothers need to figure it out on their own; it’s no reflection on you or your parenting skills and knowledge.
5. Spoil your grandchildren… within reason. When your grandchildren are within your care, you have a certain degree of autonomy to make decisions about how to raise them. An extra cookie every now and then, or a few extra hugs will not spoil a child. However, if their mother makes specific requests or has certain rules that should be followed, it will make her life easier if you adhere to them when you’re babysitting.
6. Communicate often. If you feel you’re being taken advantage of, or if you’re just not up for the task, speak up. Mothers who rely on grandparents for childcare often have mixed feelings. On one hand, daycare costs are prohibitive and they want their children with someone they know and trust. On the other hand, they don’t want to take advantage and they worry that caring for little ones will be too much for an aging parent.
Caring for children is a difficult, constant task. If you’re not feeling up to it, or if you feel the arrangement is unfair, speak up.
There are always other options to explore, and your well-being has to be considered, along with the children’s. If you’re really enjoying the extra time with your grandkids, let your children know that, too. It may alleviate some of the guilt they feel about relying on you as a babysitter.
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