Reflections on being a fulltime live-in grandma during a global pandemic lockdown
Written by Safaa J. El-Makkaoui
The benefits of the tips mentioned in this article will be exponential if the child involved is a cute, adorable bundle of absolute joy.
Fate had it that I became a full-time live-in grandma during this Covid-19 global pandemic. What may have seemed a glum situation turned out to be a true blessing in disguise despite the global circumstances. Being stuck indoors for seven weeks, and counting, has proved a little challenging, but upon reflecting on the situation, I learnt a few things about being a grandma and I discovered a few helpful tips that make the “job” easier. These tips are the result of a short experience and are in no way to be considered a professional opinion. The internet is full of very useful material on all sorts of topics and related matters to which I often refer.
So, here are my two cents.
For one thing, love for a grandchild is unconditional and certain. But that is not enough to look after him full-time.
I learnt that the more time you are involved with your grandchild’s daily routine, the easier it gets to know how to handle him and therefore more fun and rewarding and fulfilling. You become a little more intuitive regarding Baby’s needs and soon you will be equipped with more go-to actions and the day becomes less overwhelming and easier to manage. You learn about his moods and how to read the signals he sends. Because you know what time he slept and woke up and for how long; what time he last ate and how much; when his last poop was; what his favorite songs, games, and toys are; etc., looking after and caring for him starts to become effortless. You unconsciously learn about his mood, and 90% of the time, you correctly guess that he wants to be carried, or to be taken out to the balcony, or to play quietly alone, or that he is ready for some rough play, or he is hungry, sleepy, bored, etc.
I am not saying that it will be 100% easy nor that you won’t make wrong “guesses”. What I am saying is that with time you “collect” helpful intel and a handful of “tricks” or go-to “actions” in your grandma repertoire which you can pull out as needed. The one thing that I guarantee is that your right guesses will eventually outnumber your wrong guesses and life with your toddler will become easier and more enjoyable and definitely more rewarding and fulfilling.
You will get tired. You will get bored.
After a certain number of hours, you get beat, and you want a break. As the end of your “shift” approaches, you won’t feel like such a super grandma as much. And every time you hear a footstep or a door open, you pray that it’s one of his parents come to pick him up. And if it is so, you gladly hand Baby over, and you go throw yourself on your bed; or rush to the kitchen for a beverage; or walk onto the balcony for a breather; or you check for messages you’ve missed; or you pick up your book; or do just about anything you’ve been longing to do or see or interact with all day.
But beware. This feeling of “freedom” doesn’t last long. Because soon (as in within the hour), this feeling of “release” wears off, and you find yourself leaving your book, or your phone or the balcony or whatever it is you are “connecting” with and going to look for him. And you want to know how he is doing, if he has eaten, if he’s pooped, if he’s sleepy, what’s his mood like, … and you want a small hug, and you pray that when he sees you, he gives you a big smile and throws himself right back at you.
Having said all the above, I would like to share with you a few tips that may help you during your stint as a live-in grandma during Coronavirus Pandemic. The first longer list is of general tips on how to approach your role, while the second shorter list is of tips on how to have a relatively smooth day with Baby.
1- Know/BE 100% SURE that what you are doing is the most important job in the world.
2- Embrace your role as a full-time live-in grandma and see yourself as a glorified Nanny putting all your high qualifications and extensive years of experience in the domain to most worthy use. Think of this as a calling.
3- Accept the idea /fact that you WILL BE WITH BABY all day, and that you will get tired/anxious/ bored. Be ready and the day will become easier to manage. This is why I am writing this piece. So, adopt as many of the tips below for a relatively smooth flow.
4- Mindfully move other ambitions aside especially during “working hours”, which are more or less 8:30-5:30 for me. It could get frustrating if you plan on accomplishing any personal “projects” during this supposedly “productive” quarantine times beyond doing a great job as a grandma.
5- Make sure you have access to music. All kinds of music. Sound Touch is amazing technology. But a simple Bluetooth speaker will do wonders. Make YouTube your new best friend. I have finally discovered what the fuss is about YouTube and Spotify and other similar platforms. From morning energizing videos in the morning, to popular nursery rhymes like the wheels on the bus or itsy bitsy, etc. Always loads of results and interesting finds. Videos such as Happy Mozart, classical music for toddlers, morning energizing videos are examples of win-wins if you don’t want to listen to nursery rhymes all the time. Of course, I don’t have to mention all the exercise, yoga and meditation videos there are for those mini projects and after-hours activities, etc. Everything is right there at your fingertips.
6- Get on Pinterest and/or Instagram and look up baby toddler activities. There are loads of ideas for homemade toys, simple toddler activities and games for you to pick and choose from. In fact, preparing activities not only helps with Baby’s development, but also keeps you focused and makes the day more entertaining.
7- Look forward to and plan for “after-hours” and weekends. Make sure you disconnect and make your own personal activities. During the Corona pandemic, this proved a little challenging as leaving the house was not an option anymore. But you could still lock yourself up and do your thing. Things!
8- Keep a journal! For some reason writing your reflections and thoughts about being with Baby reveals the meaningfulness of the whole experience, both for you and for others.
9- Exercise. You’ll need strong arms, strong legs and a strong back. Some days, I do short 5-10 exercises during Baby’s nap and one-hour long sessions during some evenings and weekends.
10- Meditate. Or pray. Whichever works for you. But you will need to remain Zen and some form of a spiritual activity at some point in the day will prove quite vital and effective in sustaining your energy.
11- Have a good night sleep! Nothing like a good night sleep to maintain your energy all day. It is a little challenging to have good uninterrupted sleep during these unusual times, but hopefully the above two tips will help.
12- Do not make up rules. Mama makes the rules. You are here only to help and support her. Despite all your wisdom and years of experience as a mother, these new mamas have access to so much more information, and they know what they are talking about. By all means give your two cents when you have some wisdom to share but remember that one day you were a new mama too and you wanted things done your way. And you did have them your way and therefore you’ve had your chance. If you had done a good job, then your grand child is in good hands. If you have not, then shut up and watch.
13- Although I am no pro here, I cannot overstate the importance of discipline. I have noticed that when I do stick to my mini projects during Baby’s naps, or “after hours”, I am more energetic and happier and less frustrated and less anxious about accomplishments. Even completing a five-minute arm workout or writing a couple of lines in my journal make all the difference to my sense of achievement. Don’t over plan but realize that a small activity or action can give a great boost to your mood and reinject you with much needed energy to continue your day.
Things that you could do a little bit of during Baby’s naptimes or a lot of “after hours”:
Writing/ jotting down notes to elaborate on later in your journal
Have a snack
Tips on how to have a relatively smooth day:
1- Do not get distracted from your role and remind yourself of the tips above.
2- Look forward to the little activities you get to do during Baby’s nap: freshen up, have breakfast/lunch, read a couple of pages from your book, jot some ideas down in your journal, take a nap, do a 5-minute arm toning exercise, etc.
3- Be prepared to be a clown. Baby loves it. Whether miming songs, or dancing exaggeratedly, or doing simple exercises, he will surely be entertained.
4- Dance! With Baby or for Baby. Both work. He is entertained and you benefit from moving.
5- Get down on the floor. A bean bag or a pouf or just a good sturdy pillow can also help make this easier for you. Exercising regularly has helped a lot in getting down and up.
6- Include some quiet alone time for Baby during the day. Supervised of course. Not only is this extremely important for his development, but it also gives you a breather.
Happy grandmothering!! 🙂
About the author
Safaa J. El-Makkaoui is a mother of three and an “8-month old” grandmother of delightful Baby Talal.
By chance, she found herself in the role of a fulltime live-in grandmother during these global lockdown days. During this short but precious time, she discovered the joys of grandmother hood as well as some helpful tips to make her role both easier and more rewarding. Safaa wanted to share these with those who may be in similar circumstances as hers.
However, in her parallel life as a non-grandmother, Safaa is an active community member and a fulltime volunteer at an association for underprivileged children in the city of Saida in South Lebanon.
(post written for sohawellness.com.)