Why are so many women ashamed of being granny?

Why are so many women ashamed of being granny

1:30 AM on 12th May 2011

Well, silly me. For a moment back there, I thought I might be in with a chance of some fun, some support — at the very least, some camaraderie. When I read of the launch of a website called Gransnet, the very name suggested it should have been right up my street.

True, I’m no fan of its effortlessly smug sister site, Mumsnet. But I am an out-and-proud grandmother to 18-month-old Milly. She is — by far — my number one interest in life, and I am distantly aware that not all my friends, for some strange reason, are equally fascinated.

So Gransnet, I imagined, might be just the ticket. Somewhere to go, just to share the excitement. Other grandmothers to meet, just as doolally as me. Most of all, like-minded people, consumed with curiosity about the burning issues of these, our later years.

Young at heart: More grandparents want to prove they have much more glamorous things to do than babysitting (posed by model)

Young at heart: More grandparents want to prove they have much more glamorous things to do than babysitting (posed by model)

Such as: why can’t we give grandchildren sweeties as bribes, as our own grandparents once did If we do, is it OK to lie to their parents about it Is it really wrong to smack a small paw when it’s reaching for a hot stove And why does little Milly laugh herself to hiccups at my efforts to get her to walk, clearly reasoning that as long as her crawl outpaces my run, what’s the point

Aren’t questions like these the passions of all older women who are lucky enough to have grandchildren Apparently not.

Read Gransnet for a week and you’ll be forced to conclude that there are swathes of women out there for whom grandchildren have become less a source of pride than of shame.

You know the kind of woman who lets slip she has a grandbaby, then simpers with delight at the corny old compliment, ‘Wow! You don’t look old enough…’ This website is so full of them that it’s astonishing they opted to join a group called Gransnet in the first place.

It’s hard to credit, but not even half of the ‘cyber conversations’ engaged in so far even mention grandchildren. At all.

Admittedly, it’s not hard to see why: in this youth-obsessed culture of ours, the more you make of your grandchildren’s place in your life, the more you are making of the age you must be to have them.

So throngs of women, most of whom we might safely assume to be north of 60, adopt relentlessly hip online names (or somebody’s idea of hip: ‘Slinky’, ‘Bikergran’, ‘Divawithattitude’).

All right, they seem to be saying, maybe we do have grandchildren … but let’s not bother with that. Let’s, uh, I know! Swop (sic) recipes for strawberry dacquiris! Find frocks to make our arms look young! (Boden is best, apparently.) Ways to make our hair look young! (Guess what Dye.)

Everything is about being ‘cool’ and ‘young at heart’, with lots of icons for happy or sad faces; cute when you’re texting at 16 but, frankly, puerile at 61. Whatever next ‘Innit’ at the end of every sentence

None of this would matter, I suppose, if it were just about one small website which, in spite of its self-aggrandising promotion, will probably not be widely seen or used.

The worrying thing is that Gransnet is probably a pretty accurate representation of what’s going on out here in this, our wider world. And, as an insight into the mindset of modern grandmotherhood, all one can say is, God help the grandkids.

Crucial role: New mums need grandmothers to provide love and support (posed by model)

Crucial role: New mums need grandmothers to provide love and support (posed by model)

In mitigation for some of my contemporaries, we are under huge pressure. You cannot open a newspaper these days without seeing some siren of stage and screen, knocking 70 but ‘looking half her age’.

We are instructed to worship at the altar of Dame Helen Mirren and her fellow goddesses of perpetual, if implausible, youth. We are persistently hard-sold every weapon in the arsenal that ‘holds back the years’.

There are more of us than ever, our disposable income is far greater than it used to be — so c’mon! Spend the kids’ inheritance: get thee off to thy Saga holiday! Or better still, take up skydiving in your 70s.

We are so thoroughly badgered into a terror of old age, that we kick against its trappings. We don’t want to knit, we cry. We don’t want to wear a grey bun. We don’t even like Werther’s Originals!

Fine. Don’t eat them then. Buy a motorbike, cut your hair in a mohican and colour it purple if you must.

But to turn our backs on every single aspect of old-fashioned, traditional grandparenting strikes me as throwing out the baby with the lavender water. It’s a loss for the baby and, goodness knows, a loss for the woman too busy with youthful little me-me-me to find time for it.

Babies might not need a rocking chair granny, but they still need an experienced hand and a gentle cuddle on a soft, squidgy knee, even if it creaks just a little more than it once did. Babies don’t need home knitting, but, when Mum is frazzled senseless with exhaustion, they do need a dependable, loving second shift.

Most of all, babies, especially as they grow older, need to know there is somebody who is not a parent but is still, unconditionally, in their corner.

One friend admits that until her children were ten she allowed nobody other than her mother to babysit because, ‘When the lions come roaring through the window, she is the only person in the world, apart from me, who I know will stand unflinchingly between them and the babies.’

To be fair, for many — indeed, I hope, most — grandmothers, that remains true.

More and more, however, we read not of the joys but of the tribulations involved in hands-on grandparenting when there is soooooo much else one could be doing. (What Pilates Leg-waxing Shopping at Boden)

One Gransnet member was typical of the ‘cool’ generation of oldies when she bleated that, in spite of the fact she doesn’t work, why should she be expected to fetch her grandson from school

Should Should Never mind the child, or even its mother; does this woman have no sense of what she is missing I tell you, here on Planet Sarler, there’s no such thing as ‘should’; here, it’s more of a ‘May I Please’

I collect my granddaughter from nursery every day. Like thousands of grandmothers, I’m lucky to be a near neighbour of my daughter and her family; I’m also lucky in that I work from home and can juggle accordingly.

But it’s not because I should; it’s because I can. Either of her parents would happily pick her up after work, if I would let them. Hah! That’ll be the day.

An hour before they are due home, I sneak along there. The look on Milly’s face when she sees me is beyond dreams: she knocks over her little pals in her scramble for the up-up-up swing into a hug.

Home we come, for our daily hour together; curled up on the sofa, completely forbidden foods in each perfect, tiny hand and ZingZillas on the television, which the nursery bans. And I love every precious moment of it.

Look, I’m as sensitive as the next woman about being taken for granted. But this is me doing the taking; me having the time of my life; me reaping the final and finest reward that being a woman has to offer.

And from where I sit, this new and achingly trendy grandmother, the one who feels she still has more to prove and better things to do (like logging on to Gransnet) is cutting off her nose to spite a very silly face indeed.