I took a moment to interview Denise Cavanough, grandmother to 10, ranging in ages from 13 down to 9 months old, to find out some of her wisdom on the subject of being a grandmother.
How many children, and how many grandchildren do you have?
I have 3 children, and my husband has 3 children, so we have 6 children (3 boys and 3 girls) and we have 10 beauty-full grandchildren.
How have you observed the way you see parenting change since you had children?
I feel since I had children a lot has changed with parenting. When I had my children I was very young and when I left the hospital after having my first baby I felt very nervous about bringing this little baby home. I remember saying to my mum, 'How will I know if he is cold, or if he is hungry?' My mothers reply was, 'if your hot, he will be hot and if your cold, he will be cold.' These simple words allowed me to realise that I knew how to look after my baby. I just had to connect to me first and the answer was inside me. I was never anxious again, I had this confidence inside me that allowed me to make loving choices where my children were concerned. Always keeping them warm, fed and safe to the best of my ability.
Today I feel that there are so many books, rules out there that young mums are trying to follow. New books coming out all the time with new ideas on how to bring up children. This feels to me that it is stretching the mums in an never ending cycle and also where they are trying to control the behaviour of there children. I feel this is adding to the anxiousness of children.
What do your grandchildren reflect to you?
What my grandchildren reflect to me is so amazing, beyond words. If I told you, you wouldn't believe me. They are all so different and so amazing. Just because they are younger and children, does not diminish the reflection they have the power to bring.
One of my grandchildren once said to me, 'Why are you and Poppy fighting? We were gardening and we have different ideas of what we wanted to do. There were no words spoken but he could feel the energy between us. As I went to say that 'we were not fighting', I instantly knew what he meant. He could feel the angst and tension between us even without words .
This is just one reflection that I have had, I could write a book on all the beauty-full things that they have taught me.
Another time was when my 2 eldest grandchildren had disappeared into my room for a while playing, when I went in to see what they were doing they had opened every soap wrapper that I had been given as gifts over the last few years. I love soaps and so I had received a lot in gifts. But I wouldn't use them I would just keep them. When I went in and saw what they had done, I couldn't react or be upset about it because I reaslised, it was like a gift to me, more special then the soap. They let me see what I was doing by not using the soaps. These 2 beauty-full faces looking up at me thinking that maybe they were going to get in trouble and all I could say was, 'thank you, now nanny will have to use them'.
There are ideas, beliefs or even pictures of what being a grandmother should be or look like – how do you feel in relation to this?
Since my first grandchild was born 13 years ago my ideas about being a grandmother have changed enormously. I never spoilt my children and would never spoil any of my grandchildren but I can feel how I used to exhaust myself when they came to stay. It was in the trying to do too much, now I look after them when they visit by looking after me first.
When you go from calling yourself a woman, to a mother and then a grandmother, where do you end up if there are expectations of you to play a certain role?
I don't think I truly felt like a woman until after I was a mother and a grandmother. I was young when I married and still probably only felt like a young girl at the time. It is only in recent years that I have started to feel like I'm a women first and not a wife, mother or a grandmother. This has been a slow changing in me as I have learnt to love myself first as a woman, while being a wife, mother and now a grandmother.
I can feel that with loving me I can offer a more loving reflection to my grandchildren then I had been before. I don't need to buy them stuff I just need to be me when I'm with them and that is all they want from me.
What are some of the ideals and beliefs around being a grandmother? Do you feel that these ideas can inhibit your ability to self-nurture?
When my grandchildren were younger and they would come and stay, I would do everything for them, I would loose any sense of me and make it all about the children. I feel that in treating myself this way there was no self-nurturing, I would just go to bed each night at the same time as the children because I was absolutely exhausted.
I had to realise that these behaviours were just a continuation from when I had my own children – always looking after them and leaving myself until last, never really looking after me. That is what I thought 'a loving mother' did, and so I just continued with the same behaviour never realising the harm I was doing to myself.
Once I became aware of how I was feeling and the exhaustion I felt, it made me stop and ask myself what was I doing and why would I treat myself that way and what was I showing my grandchildren?
I feel that these hidden ideals and beliefs can stop us from truly nurturing ourself in a loving way.
Deeply Nurturing Blog
The Deeply Nurturing Blog serves as an online magazine, full of articles, interviews and stories relating to pre-conception, pregnancy, birth, caring for babies, transitions, raising children, relationships and women's health. By and about everyday women who are inspiring by their simple everyday choices in taking responsibility for their health and wellbeing.