Raising grandchildren: A grandmother’s perspective

There are numerous benefits when grandparents look after their grandchildren, notably having a bonding and emotional connection with the little ones.

Jun 02, 2023

Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly, parents are the pride of their children – Proverbs 17:6

They say it takes a village to raise a child and if you had asked me a decade ago, if I would consider giving up my career to become a fulltime grandmother halfway across the world, I would have said no.

My grandson was born in 2019 and my trips to the US became frequent to visit him, though I was still working. My daughter had asked me then, if I would consider coming over to help with William and I told her I would, if she had a second child.

COVID-19 hit right after his first birthday in February 2020. My daughter and William managed to come back for Christmas that year to visit my mother who was ill and attend my youngest daughter Karmen’s wedding, though they had to spend two weeks in quarantine.

With no end in sight to the COVID predicament, it hit me that I might not be able to see my grandson in the near future. The thought was truly depressing even though I spoke to him on facetime daily.

It certainly put things into perspective and when my daughter became pregnant in 2021 with her second child, I didn’t need much convincing to make that bold move to retire.

Many asked me if I was sure of my decision. “It’s not your responsibility to look after your grandchildren. You have spent all your life raising your children so you need to look out for yourself. You need to enjoy your retirement”, were some the comments I received.

It was not an easy decision to make as I have two daughters, and now a grandson back in Malaysia. Do I have any regrets playing full time Amachi over the past one and a half years?

I miss home of course, my mom and my siblings, family and friends but I wouldn’t trade my present “vocation” for anything.

There are numerous benefits when grandparents look after their grandchildren, notably having a bonding and emotional connection with the little ones. Watching them grow, teaching them, passing down family values and traditions are the little things that give me great pleasure in imparting to William and Feia.

I remember my children relating to me personal stories my Mom had shared with them, but never with her own children. It is a wealth of wisdom, knowledge, and life experiences which my children remember until today. I’m grateful I had Mom with me during my most difficult years to help me raise my children after their dad passed away.

I’m hoping and praying I can do the same for William, Feia and my youngest grandson Elijah in Malaysia.
Research has suggested that grandparents who actively engage with their grandchildren experience numerous health benefits.

I can attest to that, as my health improved significantly over the past one and a half years. My last medical checkup even surprised my doctors, who were initially worried that I had lost significant weight, but ultrasounds and scans showed I was in the pink of health, better than I have ever been in the past five years.

Waking up early, cooking their favourite meals and sending my grandson to pre-school and back has kept me on my toes, literally. Plus, I get to do stuff with them that I never had the time to do with their mother and her sisters as I was working full time then.

I’m now the go to person for my grandson whenever he fancies a chocolate chip cookie or a warm bowl noodles, and his favourite bak kut teh.

Catholicism does not have specific teachings or doctrines regarding grandparents looking after their grandchildren but emphasises the importance of family, the value of intergenerational relationships, and the responsibilities of parents and grandparents in raising and nurturing children. The Church promotes the concept of the domestic church, which recognises the home as a place where faith is lived and passed on to future generations.

It’s not uncommon for grandparents to be less strict with their grandchildren compared to when they were raising their own children and this is so true. My daughter often laments about how relaxed I am with raising William and Feia, compared to when I was raising my three girls.

Having gained valuable experience from raising my own children, my priorities and perspectives have changed on what is truly important.

My priority now is to foster a strong bond, create happy memories, and nurturing rather than focusing solely on discipline and rules. Also, I truly relish the opportunity to spoil my grandchildren and indulge them in ways I didn’t for my children when I was a single mother.

As their Amachi, I want to create a positive and enjoyable experience and also hopefully be seen as a source of fun, comfort, and support while at the same time playing a vital role in teaching values, providing guidance, and instilling important life lessons.

While my involvement in raising my grandchildren is helping my daughter’s family in many ways, often I have to take a step back and try not to overstep the boundaries as a grandmother.

I am thankful for my son-in-law Sidney, who has been extremely patient with me whenever we disagreed on certain matters related to the children.

I would be the first to agree that there are significant differences in beliefs, cultural values, and parenting styles due to the generational gap which sometimes doesn’t align with their parents.

I have to remind myself not to interfere with the parents’ authority and decision-making and stop trying to impose my parenting techniques. The last thing I would want is for my grandchildren to be confused with the different rules. Consistency in discipline and routines is more important.

I’m proud that my daughters are instilling in their children the values that they themselves grew up with and it makes it easier for me to take a step back and not interfere too much.

For now, I’m enjoying playing Amachi and though it is exhausting at times, I would never trade this for anything else in the world. It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

(Regina William is an ex-journalist turned head of communications, now full-time grandmother to three, crisscrossing the globe to play the role.)

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