Earlier this week, my newest granddaughter arrived and surprised us all. Not only was she two weeks early, but my son and his wife hadn’t found out this baby’s gender, and all bets were on them having a boy. It was a disorienting moment when I got the news—I had a moment of wondering who was sending me a baby picture. But as soon as the truth of her being sunk in, I immediately fell in love. Then I started to worry a little.
We had made careful plans to make sure that this growing family had help. With a not-yet two-year-old and a not-yet four-year-old, a new baby means a lot of little mouths to feed and hands to keep busy. I went to visit a couple weeks ago and filled the freezer, and my daughter-in-law’s parents were planning to come a few days before her due date to help on the scene. I have a trip booked in a month, which was intended to correspond with her parents leaving. Now there is a week that they’ll be on their own before her parents can get there, and there will be a bigger gap before I arrive for my turn as extra adult.
I’ve got enough airline miles to make an extra trip or change my flight. But I can’t go earlier for an important reason: I have three other adult children. Since they are all on academic calendars this year, they are each planning a spring break visit home in the next month. I don’t ever want my children to think they come second to my grandchildren. I know my son and his wife will figure it out together, and no one will actually die of sleep deprivation.
Being a mother often demands putting the needs of one child over the needs of another. When you add grandchildren to the mix, sibling rivalry takes on a new dimension. My youngest still jokes that she was robbed of her full measure of attention when her nephew was born less than 24 hours after she graduated from high school. Before she had even woken up from Grad Night, the family’s focus had shifted to this new being. Another daughter spent the first year of her nephew’s life pointing out that her dog was smarter than the baby. (She wasn’t wrong—her dog is wicked smart—though she has conceded that the nephew eventually pulled ahead.)
If you are fortunate enough to be able to go where you are needed, how do you weigh where that should be if you are pulled in more than one direction? I have a mental flow chart that looks something like this:
Of course, there are multiple shades of need, and every situation has nuances that can’t be captured in a simple framework. But by asking these questions, I can figure out what other questions I should consider. Will it create lasting animosity if I don’t go? What are the risks or rewards of them going it alone? Am I helping them or me? Will my helping keep them from figuring out something important about themselves? Will I regret missing out on something special? An important part of the eventual decision is making sure that everyone knows why I am putting one of them ahead of another in that particular instance. I try to convey that it doesn’t mean I love them any less if I have to miss their awards ceremony or can’t help them move out of their apartment.
So I’m choosing to stay home this next month, knowing that my son and his family will have some pretty rocky days and nights ahead, but that they will come out alive and possibly stronger. Meanwhile, I get time alone with each of my daughters, something that is increasingly rare and therefore precious to me as a mother. Yes, I’m a grandmother—but I’m still a mother first.
PS: Want to see the sweetest picture of the newest baby gazing at her mama? Follow me on Instagram or Facebook: @morethangrand!