A Working Grandmother


When I think back to when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I don’t ever remember my grandparents working. For one thing, they seemed really old, but I suppose from a child’s perspective, anyone over 25 fell into that category. I also had no real appreciation that my grandparents could have any kind of life outside of being our Gramma and Grampa. After all, they were always home whenever we dropped by.

When I became a first-time grandmother four years ago, I was sorely disappointed to find myself still in the workforce. In fact, I was still in a full-time job. Granted, I hadn’t started my career until after my own children were both in school, but it still bothered me that I couldn’t be the type of grandparent I wanted to be. Unfortunately, in my case, working is an economic reality, and if I am honest with myself, I like my job, but there are times when I wish I didn’t have to work.

My grandson’s other grandmother is a stay-at-home mom, so she is the main caregiver when my daughter-in-law goes to work. At first, I struggled with that; I had to cope with the inevitable feelings of envy and resentment, but with time, came acceptance. After all, there’s no sense in railing against what I cannot change. Instead, I simply try to make the most of the time I do have with my grandson.

I am fortunate to have considerable flexibility with my job. I’m usually able to schedule days off whenever I want, so I often spend a few days a month with my grandson. I always look forward to those special days. In the beginning, I worried that at my age, I wouldn’t be up for an entire day of caring for a little one. And of course, I fretted over any bumps or falls on my watch. Athough I’m often exhausted at the end of a day, it’s a good kind of exhaustion. I wouldn’t trade our days together for anything, and I mean anything.

When we’re together, I try to make the most of our time; I comb local publications and event calendars for festivals, concerts, or any other special event I think he might enjoy. More often than not though, we simply spend our days at local playgrounds, parks, and beaches, even in inclement weather—after all, puddles are for splashing!

Several years ago, I opted to sell my car so now I travel everywhere by bus. Doing so has provided a “window on the world” of sorts for my little grandson. He always sees new and interesting faces, he practices his manners with the bus driver, he is proud of his budding independence handling public transport, and there’s the added bonus when it comes to the ride home after a busy day, it never fails to lull my little charge to sleep.

One of my favourite things to do with my grandson is have him for sleepovers on the weekends. This gives his parents a much-needed break and I am able to spend more than just a few hours with him. We have begun to establish routines at Nonna’s house so he knows what to expect, and I’m pleased to see how comfortable he is at my place. As he gets older, I plan to involve him more in the preparation of simple meals and baking, something I regret not teaching my own sons.

Although I am not a proponent of electronics with children, I do see the value in things like Skype and Facetime as they allow working grandparents or grandparents who live away from their grandchildren to keep in touch at the click of a button. I have a colleague whose parents live out of the country, so they Skype together almost every night at dinnertime. Originally, it was used as a way to keep their toddler at the dinner table, but it soon became a nightly ritual, and although it is a commitment, it has been invaluable in nurturing their relationship despite the thousands of miles between them.

Photobooks are another excellent way to strengthen relationships between grandparents and grandchildren when they are able to spend time together. Most children love books of any sort and are especially fascinated if a book is about them. My daughter-in-law lovingly creates family photobooks that prominently feature my grandson. Spending time going through these with him, pointing things out, reminiscing, and asking him questions is an excellent way to forge and reinforce our family ties.

Short of winning a lottery or having a long-lost, wealthy relative come out of the woodwork—not much chance of that, I’m afraid—I must face facts: I am a working grandmother. I do know my grandson appreciates the effort I make to spend ti me with him when he races to greet me and exuberantly wraps his little arms tightly around neck as only a young child can. There’s no better thank you than that.

Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci is a local author and a proud “nonna” to an adorable four-year-old grand-son. She enjoys sharing her experiences as a first-time grandparent.