Grandmothers these days…

Once upon a time grandmothers were old, wrinkly, apron clad bakers, knitting, crocheting and sewing their days away. Things have changed…or have they?

This post came about when I read a few excerpts of a newly released book about being a grandmother in the 21st century, a compilation of 24 Australian grandmothers. It got me thinking as I read and nodded along.

As I’m a relative new kid on the block, in regards to grandmothering, they obviously didn’t ask for my thoughts, and just maybe, I’m not famous enough to be invited!

So when chatting online with Denyse about these stories, we decided to do our own take on this grandmothering in the 21st century gig, and hence this short series for #lifethisweek with the prompt of Life Stories #1 came about. Part 2 will follow up with a further 10 questions looking more at our grandmothering experiences and will go live on 8 June 2020.

My grandchildren in a lightbox
My grandchildren in a lightbox

I wake every morning to this lightbox sitting on my dressing table, it’s one of the first things I see every day and I love it!

This is a short video about the book Grandmothers – Essays by 21st Century Grandmothers

I suspect many women today grapple with finding a new version of the contemporary grandmother, as they retain a traditional view of a caring woman with little autonomy or life beyond her family. Grandmothers today are likely to be healthy, relatively fit and up for a game of tennis or a ski trip (on the moderate slopes).

Gillian Triggs

Part 1 – The First Experience of Becoming a Grandmother

I look forward to seeing Alfie and Esther with the anticipation of a teenage girl with a crush, and I like who I am with them.

Jane Caro’s story

It’s those last few words that I can relate to the most – I like who I am with them.

I am a different ‘being’ to the mother I was to my daughters, who are now mothers themselves. Being a grandmother is completely different!

I just have to say before I get into my answers, that I absolutely LOVE everything about being a grandmother!

1. What do you remember about your grandmother(s)?

I was lucky to have both my grandmothers until I was in my mid 40s and have so many wonderful memories. I was the first grandchild born to both of them, so I always felt pretty special!

Both of them were called Nan – we had Nan in Murbah (Murwillumbah) and Nan in Sydney – that’s how we differentiated them! Sometimes we would refer to them as Nan Humphries and Nan Pittaway but generally it was by where they lived. Both grandfathers were called Pop too! I don’t know why or how they became Nan and Pop, isn’t it funny how you just accept some things as a child? I loved my grandparents and have such fabulous memories of them being a part of my childhood. They filled a very different role to my parents

Memories of my grandmother in Sydney (mum’s mum) include style, grace, beauty, nail polish, toffee sweets in the car, English accents, laughs, visits to the city and loads of love. She had moved with her family, husband and three children, from England to Australia in 1955 as a 10 pound Pom. My great aunt and uncle were already living in Sydney and Nan and Pop decided they wanted a better life for their children and Australia was it. I don’t think Nan was ever really taken with the move but she bore it stoically. Mum, at 16, hated the idea but was forced to move with her family. They later moved down the coast to be nearer to our family and we relished having them close by. I wish I had talked with Nan more about how the decision was made, her earliest memories of the move and how she adapted. Nan was only in her early 40s when I was born and I love this photo of her holding a 2 week old baby me. I did say style and grace didn’t I? Nan passed away suddenly one night and I believe I was the last one to speak to her as we’d been chatting on the phone earlier that night.

My maternal grandmother with me
My maternal grandmother with me

Nan in Murbah, (dad’s mum) was a softly spoken, gentle, unassuming woman who hated having her photo taken but loved being surrounded by family. She also taught us to look at Mt Warning every day to ‘see what it was doing’. Something we all still do when we visit Murwillumbah. Nan was in her late 40s when I was born and she had had my uncle a few years earlier. As my dad was in the Navy mum went and lived with Nan and Pop and I was born up there. Nan was always fun, hard working, caring but oh my she loved washing and drying our hair with herculean strength! My sister and I still have memories of how hard Nan rubbed our hair after a bath. During our youth, my younger sister, brother and I would often be put on a plane in Sydney by ourselves, and flown to Coolangatta Airport for school holidays with Nan and Pop. We loved it, the freedom, the recognition of people who seemed to know we were part of the Pittaway family just by looking at us, and the comfort of being with family. Nan had her own life stories and over the years we learnt some of these. She lived to be 93 and her 90th birthday was a real family celebration! We were married on Nan’s 68th birthday and I love having that connection with her. There were never many photos of Nan but I like this one that shows some of her cheeky spirit in her smile.

My paternal grandmother
My paternal grandmother

2. Did you make any choices/decisions about being a grandmother when you found out this was going to happen?

I’ve only been a grandmother since 2018 so I’m still getting used to this new gig! The only thing I decided was that I would be try to be positive and supportive for my daughters in their parenting choices and a fun influence for my grandchildren. I was just so excited to finally become a granny and I must admit I’m still just as excited!

“A woman, until she is a grandmother, does not often really know what to be a mother is.”

Helen Garner quoting Thackeray in her article on Grandmothers

3. What struck you initially about the news you were going to be a grandmother for the first time?

Absolute JOY!!

You have to understand that I am normally an excitable person and had been waiting (patiently!) for years to become a grandmother, so when I finally heard it was going to happen I was like a pig in mud, in a teary, happy way! I was also happy that my daughter was pregnant and well. I was 57 at the time, so a lot older than my grandmothers had been.

My sister, who is 15 months younger than me, had millions of grandchildren by the time I got to be a grandmother and had stopped telling me when she had another one due, in case it upset me!

I had consciously refrained from asking any of my daughters when they were going to start a family, as I didn’t want to place any pressure on them. They had enough to contend with in my opinion and if they wanted to talk to me about any issues, they knew they could do so. I think they talked amongst themselves though. I had become a mother at 22 years of age, I was married at 19, but they have all left it until their early 30s to become mothers, a case of very different times. But it works well.

I loved the idea of our family carrying on and a baby being a mix of all of us.

4. Was the news from your son or daughter?

We have three daughters and three sons-in-laws, so the news was delivered from each of the couples with well planned announcements!

5. How did you find out?

1st: We were told quite early on in the pregnancy, (about 9 weeks), as we were gathered as a family for my father’s funeral. My three girls were all together, one had come all the way from the UK, and our daughter and her husband told us all just before we went out for a family breakfast. We were staying in a quirky Airbnb and loving being together. She wasn’t sure how to tell us, so sat us all down and ended up just blurting it out.

I cried (with joy) and jumped up and down apparently, although I don’t remember that. Having just buried my dad the day before, it made me very emotional, as you can imagine. I was just so happy to have something so exciting to look forward to and I was more than ready! I then had to keep it a secret until they felt the time was right to announce it publicly – you don’t know how hard that was! They named the bump Spud that weekend and didn’t find out what they were having until she was born.

They later informed me that they had told my dad the happy news, days before he died, as they wanted him to know he was going to become a great grandfather again. How sweet! (2018)

Stylish Queenie in Murwillumbah
Queenie with the girls

2nd: My eldest daughter who lives in the UK, Facetimed us early one morning saying she had just taken a great photograph. As she’s a blogger and photographer I didn’t think anything of it until she started waving around an ultrasound photo and I twigged that she was showing us that she was expecting a baby!! So exciting and I think I screamed again! She was named Wombat and they didn’t find out what they were having until she was born.(2019)

3rd: My youngest daughter had told her sisters the news and setup a call with us when we were with the other sister, we were hard to pin down apparently! It was at about 9 weeks into the pregnancy when she told us as I was just about to set off to see daughter #1 in UK (and her new baby born early at 25 weeks). She asked us if we would come to visit them in March next year for a few weeks. I said, yes of course, without knowing that she was asking us to be there when her baby was due! She then told us her due date and we were so thrilled to know another little one was on the way. I cried again! They called him Gundoo (little child in Aboriginal) and found out they were having a girl which was later changed to a boy! (2020)

My three daughters have always had a great way of surprising me and these are perfect examples aren’t they?

6. Were there any conditions/limitations set by the parents-to-be for you, the new grandmother in the making?

Yes and fair enough too. I have learnt to ask before sharing any photos or information especially on social media. As my grandchildren are still young I’m sure there will be more conditions in the future. We live a long way away from each of them so we are more ‘fly in, fly out’ grandparents and have learnt to use technology to stay in touch, especially during this time of isolation. I’ve been dubbed a Globetrotting Granny for a reason.

grandma quote
Great quote!

7. Does the role work its way out for all?

Yes, it’s hard enough being a parent, so my aim is to help and support my daughters and their decisions in any way I can. They know they can ask me to do anything for them and if I can, I will do it. It’s fitted in beautifully, in the fact that we are both retired, and can travel at a moment’s notice if necessary. I worry for them but try to relieve their anxiety and concerns. I love the way things have worked out and the three girls are all close to each other (not geographically) but know they can call on their sisters, and me, for any advice and support.

8. Are there any hiccups?

No, except the tyranny of distance. Thank goodness for technology is all I can say!

9. Share the highlights of the birth and after of your first grandchild.

I remember clearly being informed that Sarah had gone to hospital earlier in the day and I was happy to wait at home, but then it was found that Emilia was in a breech position and an emergency C-section would be required. It was at that point that my patience ran out and I just had to go. I had a real urge!

Canberra was a 3 hour drive away for me, so I packed a bag and left late in the afternoon. I was excited and yet apprehensive at the same time. I had a message on my phone about 2 hours into the drive and pulled over to read the news of the safe arrival of Emilia and my daughter was doing well after the trauma of an unexpected surgical birth. I cried happy tears. Then I started driving again. I was pulled over in a random breath test shorlty afterwards and I’m sure the policeman didn’t believe that I hadn’t been drinking as I was bubbling away with excitement! I made it to the hospital without any further drama and was able to hold my new granddaughter within hours of her birth. It was the most amazing feeling!

I was required to stay around to help out, on and off, for the following six weeks and appreciated this special time, being a support, and getting to know my new granddaughter. It was an amazing introduction to being a grandmother. Once again, I thanked my lucky stars that I was retired and able to be there to help out.

I wrote a post when I became a grandmother for the first time, and after each subsequent grandchild, but my overarching feeling was one of love, for my daughter, her husband and for this new bundle of life that had joined our family. It’s fair to say I was over the moon with happiness.

Emilia, Dottie and Patrick join our family.

Granny Debs
Granny Debs with Emilia

10. Any lowlights?

I have been surprised with the amount of anxiety and worry that has consumed me with each of my daughters’ births. I had 3 traumatic births and thought nothing of it at the time, but when each of my daughters have had their own traumatic time giving birth and afterwards, I haven’t coped with it as well as I thought I would. I try to hide my concern but I feel it so much. I don’t think I expected it to be all sunshine and roses but I’ve been surprised at how I no longer take childbirth for granted as much as I did before.

I’ve tried to stay positive throughout it all and be a support for my girls.

I have thoroughly enjoyed answering these questions and if you too are a grandmother, I would invite you to look at how you would respond. Maybe jot down some notes and share your stories too.

I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom and advice:

We grandmothers make history, repeat history, carry history and pass on history. We pass on stories, nursery rhymes, family sayings and the unspoken, unacknowledged ripples of longforgotten events, traumas, twists and turns in our complex lives. Our face, our touch, the sound of our voice, the smell of our skin may be forgotten, but we are there, inside our grandchildren. Pass it on.

Jane Caro

Stay tuned for Part 2 – More about Grandmothering as life moves on in families due out on on 8 June 2020.

Thanks for joining in and I’d love to hear your thoughts – are they different to mine?

Granny Debs xx

Linking up to Denyse’s #lifethisweek with the prompt Life Stories #1

What is the Globetrotting Granny up to now?

Why involving the grandma in your pregnancy is a good idea

Life is rough so you’ve got to be tough

You can also find Deb’s World in lots of other places – stay in touch by clicking any of the buttons below.

66 Replies to “Grandmothers these days…”

    1. Thanks very much Cindy, I’m so glad you can relate to it. I envy you babysitting the twin, in some ways and agree it will be very interesting but oh so much fun too I’m sure.


  1. Great post Deb. I laughed and nodded at the memory of Nan drying our hair. Interestingly, I’ve managed to carry on the tradition. Grandkids have to have all sorts of memories of their grandmothers don’t they?! It was lovely to read that S & B told Dad about their news. He would have been thrilled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes those memories live on don’t they? I’ll have to see if I can also carry that tradition of hair drying hair on, mine are too young at the moment. I love that you do it! Did you know S & B had told dad their news? I was so moved by that. How good did I do at keeping their secret for so long???? Glad you enjoyed the memories, you probably have many more. We are very lucky to have had so long with them to carry with us into the future.


  2. Hi Deb, Your love for your daughters and grandchildren shine brightly in this post. One cannot take a healthy childbirth for granted even with modern medicine. I understand your worries for each of your daughters’ delivery. Thanks for sharing your story and lovely photos. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post so much Deb. Reading about your grandparents brought back so many memories for me of my grandparents. It also made me think of the early days of being a grandmother. My grandmother experience over the past year has been very negative for reasons I’m not ready to share yet due to the heartache I have over it. Thanks for this post that took me back to good times. Looking forward to part 2. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jennifer. I’m sorry to hear you allude to recent issues and wish you well. I’m glad you could relate to my stories and got some happiness from them. Take care x


  4. How beautiful. I was the first grandchild for my maternal grandmother – and about the 7 millionth for my paternal grandmother. Sarah is the first for my parents. We weren’t really close to our grandparents – Grandma and Poppa were in Tumba, and Nan& Pop (Mum’s mother and stepfather) and Ma and Pa (Mum’s stepmother and father) were in Sydney while we were in Merriwa, then Bombala, and then the Blue Mountains. We lost grandma at 98 and Nan at 94. Grandma always seemed old and Nan was the one who danced in stilettos until a few months before she died. My mother is the sort of grandmother who does stuff & takes the kids for bush walks and picnics. Grant’s mother was different. I have no idea what sort I’ll be, but I suspect it’s a long way away yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting to see yourself become a grandmother in many ways – it means I am getting older but it doesn’t worry me for some reason. I want to be the active granny and look forward to that in years to come. I love the fact that your Nan was dancing in stilettos! Thanks Jo.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved reading about your grandmothering experience and seeing the wonderful photos. I agree about the tyranny of distance, especially now that travel is banned. One of my grandsons lives 2000 miles away. We already had one trip to visit him canceled. I am hoping that by the time his birthday rolls around (late July) we are able to visit him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s so hard isn’t it Laurie? I was hoping to get to UK for Dottie’s first birthday in August but that’s not going to happen now. We also had plans for a big family Christmas and my 60th in England with all the girls and grandkids together but that will go on the backburner for a while too. We are all doing well with our social distancing but reliance on social media and apps to stay in touch is increasing rapidly! Thanks for your comment Laurie, always good to hear from you. Here’s hoping you can get your visit to him in July!


  6. Such a sweet post and admittedly it made me reflect on my own role of Grandma. I agree that now, we’ll at least for me, the role is a very active one. I was close to my maternal grandmother who thankfully even my children go to know. Our relationship was more about stories, baking and household tasks. I do some of that as well but then there is the skiing and hiking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Being a Nana is just the BEST thing ever – and I love that we’re so much fitter and healthier and more involved than our grandmothers were. I love having fun with the grandgirls, seeing their faces light up when we visit, spoiling them a little bit – but I’m also very aware that their parents make the rules and set the boundaries and I’m the cheerleader in the background who won’t be undermining the wonderful job they’re doing. Great post Deb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I agree it’s just the best thing! We are definitely fitter and healthier and more involved these days. It’s important we know the boundaries and stuck to them wherever possible. I love the term cheerleader! Thanks for your lovely comment.


  8. My paternal grandmother died before I was born and my maternal grandma lived 1000+km away. We saw them once every year or two when we made the 12-15hr drive to far west Queensland.

    Grandparents seemed old to me and because of distance and the fact my dad’s dad (Poppy) wasn’t an intimate sort of person I didn’t feel close at all.

    I envied my best friend who rarely saw her Grandma yet they had a really close relationship until her Grandma died in her 1990s.

    Given I’m basically grandparent age now I can’t imagine what sort of grandparent I’d be (also not having kids of my own, so…). But I think ‘our’ lives are very different to those of our parents. My mother – for eg – would NEVER have worn jeans when I was growing up. Never ever.

    But, in her 60s and 70s she wears jeans all of the time (though not tight with tucked-in shirt etc). I’m not sure if society changed or she did. My life is far-less-together than my parents had to be at my age but again that’s probably a symptom of only ever having to worry about myself and not having any other ties.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved reading this post and what beautiful family pictures!
    I was close to both my Grannies, one sadly and suddenly passing away just before my 11th birthday and the other just last November, after years of illness. I have so many happy memories of both my grandmothers and reading your post reminded me of how lucky I was to have them in my life. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I only had one grandmother who was quite cold, and yet she’d had 5 childen of her own. My own mother was a completely different hands on cuddly grandma so I had a good role model. I adore my grandchildren, they can do little wrong in my eyes and yet I always support my daughter and daughter in law with the rules they set. I have three, 10 to 15, and I think the best gift I can give them as they grow is to stress that they can always come to me with any problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember reading each of your blog posts for your grandchildren being born. Being a late in life baby for my parents, I never really knew my grandparents. I was two when my grandmother died and I don’t really have any memories. I’m told I called her the lady with the stick because she walked with a cane. I’m afraid I will not have any grandchildren as my only child, a boy has no interest. So I dote on my friend’s children.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Debbie, Such a lovely and thoughtful article. From what I can see, you are a fantastic grandmother in every way imaginable – and such a great example to your grandchildren with your super-active and interesting lifestyle. Toni x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love being Nan to my grandsons, Deb as you know. I never had grandparents growing up and my children had lost all of their grandparents by the time Rachel was 4. It is probably because of these two experiences that I want to be a major part of my grandsons lives and enjoy special times with them. This sounds like a lovely series and look forward to reading more. x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh, I love this article and I must look out for that book. It is the absolute best indeed. My 3 year old grandson calls me his ‘other mum’ and we’re just like one big extended family. And I’m definitely up for tennis and skiing with the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I read this twice it was so lovely. Great post and the details make it so special. Something I know happened very much like your kids telling your Dad they were having a baby ….my mum was literally dying and our son and his partner had discovered the ‘big surprise’ that they were pregnant. My Dad was told and I think my SIL was with Dad when he shared the news to Mum. Mum’s almost last words…”getting married?”…oh yes, they said. .That happened 4 years later!!

    Thank you for linking up for Life This Week. Next week the optional prompt is 18/51 Taking Stock #2 4.5.2020. Hope to see you there too. Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for your lovely comment Denyse! I thoroughly enjoyed writing my thoughts down and appreciated the opportunity to join you. Your story about your mum being told about the baby and her reaction is sweet. Looking forward to Part 2 of this series with you. I really enjoyed your post and memories too! See you next week.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Your post gave me much to think about. I am not a grandmother yet, but have two married daughters and hopefully it is in my future soon. I haven’t thought a lot about my role yet. I know I am much older than my grandparents were. I am also likely as active or more so than they were. I, too, hope to be supportive mother and grandmother when the time comes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michele, I’ve found that everyone does it differently, and some don’t need a plan at all, just letting it happen. I’m sure you’ll be a support when it all happens.


  17. My nana was always baking or eating cakes and biscuits. I don’t ever remember her being slim. 🙂 She was only about 45 (?) when I was born, so she was quite young. She was made for warm cuddles and good advice. I always felt her love and that she cared so much for all her grandchildren. My own experience as a grandma is completely different, mainly because I live on the other side of the world from my daughter and my 2 grandsons. I haven’t met the youngest one yet, and he’s just turned one. The other one is 3, and I’ve met him one time when we were with them for a week or so, just after he turned one. I think I’ll never be that ’round, happy, baking’ grandma of the past. I’m still young, still travelling (well, not right now, but I’m still on the other side of the world), and not ready to have sticky fingers in my hair! I can honestly say that I’m not grandma material! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is such a poignant heartwarming post. I do not have any grandchildren yet even though we have 4 boys all over the age of 25. But I too do not like to put any pressure on anyone to do anything as major as having a child. However, that said one of the reasons i wanted to move closer to my kids… (from SEAsia to Mexico, now we are at least on the same continent as them in the U.S.) was so that I would be closer for when the time comes.

    I love the new version of being a grandmother… yes, the old version is WAY outdated.

    Bravo. Gorgeous pics. Congrats.


    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a happy and heartwarming post – grandmothers are such a joy. I only had one grandparent, my nana but I like to think it’s quality not quantity. It must be so hard being so far from your grandbabies but isn’t technology a wonderful thing! I bet when they are older they’ll be able to come and stay at yours for the holidays and then you know how it goes, what happens at grandma’s stays at grandma’s!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks, Deb, for sharing your memories of your grandmothers and your thoughts on becoming a grandmother. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about both. I remember the food my grandmothers all shared. They each had their specialties. I remember my Grandma Nokes had antiques in her basement that we loved to explore and she sewed clothes for us and our dolls. My Grandma Rodgers kept coloring books and playing cards for us to entertain ourselves with, but mostly we loved placing “ship” on her front porch and going with her to pick up grandpa from work. My first grandchild came from my stepdaughter. He is now close to becoming an airline pilot. It’s so hard to believe he will be 20 years old next month! My first biological grandchild was from my youngest daughter. She was not married at the time, and she kept telling me how tired she was. My instincts kicked in and I asked her if she could be pregnant. Sure enough, she was! While those aren’t the ideal circumstances, I have never regretted for one minute becoming a grandmother that way. He is now 16 and learning to drive a car. He’s also over 6 feet tall! In our blended family we have 10 grandchildren (6 girls and 4 boys) ranging from 10 years old to 20. I love them all beyond words! #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is lovely to read Christie, your memories are fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing, you might like to put these into a post 🙂 It’s so hard when they grow up and although it feels hard at the time, it goes so quickly doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  21. Great blog post, and such lovely memories of your grandmothers. Thanks for the insights! My daughter’s now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Not seeing her much during pandemic, and I’ll definitely be ramping up the worry once the newborn arrives!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Hi Deb, This thought-provoking post made me wonder how would I answer these questions? I had one grandmother in my life and I recall many fond moments. Most of all I always felt loved. I especially like the photo of you with your daughters and you with the babies. The joy on your face, Deb, is palpable. A great post! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Making history, carrying history, passing on history … THAT IS GREAT!! Such a great capture! Thanks so much for posting and letting me in on the grandma perspective. Great pics 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Let's keep the conversation going...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: