Hi, Carolyn: Maybe you can suggest some ways I could shake myself out of ambivalence regarding the birth of my first grandchild. I have observed friends ecstatic over such news, and I wish I felt the same way.
My daughter and son-in-law are just starting out, with much financial juggling and career exploration. They live in a third-floor walk-up rental 300 miles away that they contentedly share with my son-in-law's brother. All three are very pleased with the pregnancy, which was planned. I know people joyfully raise children in such circumstances, but I cannot help seeing many hardships ahead.
Even worse: I am pretty sure I am projecting my own difficult time as a young mother with very little support.
Add to that my joy since gaining my empty nest, finally finishing a long-anticipated degree and starting my own cherished career trajectory very late in life: Health of one of my children prompted my decision to be an at-home parent and put my goals on hold. I feel a sort of grief over the very real possibility I might have to give up (or gear down) my newfound agency to help care for this child.
I longed for my children to have engaged, helpful grandparents, but I lost my parents fairly young and my in-laws still had children at home when ours came along.
My tickled-pink husband is already buying baby equipment for our house. I am at a loss for where to start dealing with the ambivalence and angst I feel, while also wanting to support my daughter through this special time.
— Luffing Sails
Luffing Sails: You have excellent reasons to be ambivalent, so, be ambivalent.
To force yourself to feel otherwise — assuming that’s even possible — would be to deny the, what, 20 years? 25? you set aside your Plan A while you worked off life’s blueprint for you instead.
To be clear: That happens to all of us, to some degree. Life gets the last word. But it’s still okay to have feelings about that, to be disappointed over a sacrifice, ecstatic about a wanted change, fearful about an unwanted one.
That’s where you start: by not beating yourself up for having mixed feelings.
Then, summon as much reality as you can to offset your fears.
Your “many hardships” are imagined, not certain — that’s your biggest emotional asset here.
And if hardship does visit this new family, then it won’t be the same as yours. You and your husband were the first line of care when your child’s health issue emerged. This time, you’d be one of four grandparents (yes? give or take?) on the second line of care. Plus the brother-in-law. Huge difference.
Even if you become first-line, then you still needn’t remake your old choices. A “tickled-pink” Grandpa can take charge this time. Why not.
Talk to your husband about your fears — and/or a skilled therapist, if appropriate. Follow the outlines of my thought process here toward a more comprehensive look at what’s real, what’s imagined, what you and your husband might be called upon to do and what preparations you can do now to make sure your Plan A has sound levees around it.
It’s not perfect, but it might uncomplicate your feelings enough for you to fall for your grandbaby in the simplest possible way.