When Jolie Freeman, of Jacksonville, Florida, gave birth to her first child, she made her mother wait two weeks before visiting. "I knew she'd come over and start bossing me around, and I wanted a chance to be a mom by myself," Freeman says. Sure enough, when her mother did come, she had opinions about everything from dressing the baby (she's cold!) to feeding (you should nurse longer on each side) to sleeping (she's in your bed? Isn't she going to roll off?).
From time immemorial, there's been a natural tension between the generations. "The grandmother is chomping at the bit to share her wisdom, but the new mother doesn't want a supervisor hovering around correcting her," says Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD, who's been counseling families for more than 25 years. "What the new mother wants is to be validated and appreciated for what she's doing."
On top of that, times have changed. What worked for Grandma 28 years ago can easily seem outdated or downright dangerous to today's moms. The result is disagreement over the best way to soothe a crying baby, put him to sleep, nourish him, bathe him, and provide stimulation and discipline. The conflicts are not debilitating, but they can often be uncomfortable. As if caring for a new baby or toddler weren't already challenging enough!
The good news is that grandmothers, on the whole, think we're doing a bang-up job at parenting. They're impressed with our "superwoman" juggling act, our commitment to carving out kid-time, and with the many ways we try to make life fun. And that's in spite of the fact that they think moms today have it harder than when their kids were young.
To help Mom and Grandma understand one another better, we polled grandparents -- more than 2,000 of them -- for their views, then had experts examine the hot-button issues over which the generations clash most, offering strategies for getting everyone on the same page.