Pandemic Grandparent

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If you asked me to rate my Pandemic Year, I’d give it about 6 out of 10 on the suck-o-meter. Over the year, I watched my career go down quicker than a toddler’s toy in the toilet. And I discovered new soul-sucking anxiety that sabotaged any get-up-and-go that might’ve rescued said career.

I didn’t take up any hobbies—unless you consider carb loading and emptying wine bottles a hobby—so I jealously watched as Facebook “friends” baked bread, learned knitting, and discovered gardening. I didn’t even clean out my closets.

My big accomplishment: becoming a grandmother.

I know it doesn’t take much effort on my end, but I’ll take all the compliments and congratulations I can get. My granddaughter is really darn cute and I feel my genes had something to do with that.

Obviously, becoming a new grandmother in a pandemic requires a few modifications from normal grandparenting.

When my granddaughter was born in September 2020, I had to forgo my hope of attending her birth as there was a limit to the number of people who could be there. My daughter and her husband chose a home birth, which is scary enough for a grandmother-to-be, but add to that my extreme anxiety, and, well, let’s say I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. My mother attended my first birth and literally had a panic attack, so, in hindsight, I probably was the most helpful as a distanced cheering squad.

The next few months, my visits with my granddaughter and daughter were through a window. Being a new mom is hard, but I can’t imagine how hard it would be through a pandemic. No family help, no friends, isolation and no baby showers. They did have an online baby group—with all mics on for the sing-alongs!

The new mama was tired. I hated that I couldn’t do the grandma thing where you bring over a casserole and hold the baby while mama has a shower. Not being able to help my daughter was what stung the most.

My daughter wanted to be a mom since age 10, is a trained doula, and is regarded as a “baby whisperer.” I look back at the anxious new mom I was—my first time holding a baby was my first born and maternity leave was three months—and I am blown away that birth and infants can be such a different experience than mine was almost 30 years ago.

One thing I’ve learned from becoming a grandparent during the pandemic is that my ideas about parenting a newborn are outdated. My daughter has this dialed in, and the best thing I can do is be open and willing to learn all about the new techniques.

Technology and social media became very important in our family connection. Without being able to visit in person, my daughter made a huge effort to connect daily. I’m grateful for all the Facetime visits, Instagram messages and regular video chats a bunch of times each day so we could virtually hang out. As my granddaughter gets older, I am able to interact and sing songs (she thinks I’m an awesome singer!).

So there’s a silver lining: If I was still grinding away at my career, I wouldn’t have had the time to connect virtually. The pandemic gave me perspective that my career isn’t as important as being a mom, a grandmother and a friend.

I always thought that by the time I reached this age, I’d be totally put together. Being a grandma in a pandemic forced me to understand that I’m still very much a work in progress.

I also need to figure out how much purple a grandmother should wear and how much is too much. It is a line I’ll probably cross several times in the near future.

And yes, I was recently able to hold my granddaughter without a mask. It took eight months and was the most magical day.

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