Category Archives: Celebrating Grandmothers

Getting on with the in-laws

Do you get on with – or even like – your in-laws? All of them? Really? If so, you are a lucky person indeed!

The Diversity of In-Laws

We all have in-laws. They come into our lives completely unbidden. Sometimes they are there for a long time. It’s not that they are always awful people – it’s just that they don’t always fit easily into your life or the way you want to spend your time.

It started when your sister married that completely decent guy, with a burning obsession with old cars and nothing else. Or you married a lovely man whose mother incessantly recounts her life history, forgetting each time that she has done so before.

Or his brothers are interested only in drinking beer in front of the TV when you like walking in the country.

Or your son is living with a beautiful young woman who is, unfortunately, a desperate social climber. (Having in-laws does not require a marriage to take place – some people call these ‘out-laws.’)

Perhaps no one has examples of all these at once, but most of us have someone who causes us an internal scream from time to time.

Why In-Laws Can Be Such a Problem

In-laws are a problem primarily because you are supposed to like them – or at least get on with them. Indeed, worse, they are suddenly part of your family.

Also, you are likely to see them on ‘special’ days like Christmas, which may be just the time you could do without them because you want to relax.

Of course, if you are lucky, your in-laws have delightful personalities, compatible interests and a warm heart. You enjoy their company and see them frequently. You are pleased that someone’s marriage (or partnership) brought them into your life.

If you are unlucky, they have completely different values, politics, religion or personal habits. So many problems start here that the less said the better.

And in between these two extremes, there are the in-laws who Really Try. This is probably more common than you think.

When I married my English husband, my American mother tried to make him feel welcome by buying bottled Guinness (I think England and Ireland got mixed up here). She put it in the fridge for him, where Americans always put beer.

Being young and not wanting to displease his new mother-in-law, my dear husband drank the stuff, although he didn’t even like it and certainly not cold.

This proved, of course, that he liked it. She always had some available when we visited their house. It took some years to put this right.

Grandmothers and In-Laws

When I was first planning to interview women for my book about what it is like to be a grandmother, I thought I might get nothing from them but sentimental stories about how wonderful it was. As all good books need a little grit, this was the cause of some initial concern.

But in-laws came to my rescue. I hadn’t even realised the number of ways that sons- and daughters-in-law could cause problems for grandmothers.

Some were bringing up the grandchildren in ways that seriously disappointed – they overfed them or ignored them or let them have too much screen time. Some were felt to be altogether too controlling of their direct family.

Much more problematic were those who were so hostile to the grandmother interviewed that she couldn’t even visit. There are many painful stories out there.

Final Note

Whatever the problems we experience, we may need to remind ourselves that we are not always innocent. Probably, we are someone else’s irritating daughter, sister or mother-in law. It makes you think.

This post was originally published by SixtyandMe (http://sixtyandme.com/getting-on-with-the-in-laws/) and should not be re-blogged

 

For more information or to buy, go to my Amazon page

Handselling

My grandfather, who died before I was born, was a failed entrepreneur who ended up as a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman in the 1930s.  I think of him often these days as I have discovered that a good way to boost sales of my most recent book is by what seems to be called ‘handselling’.

How I handsell my books

cover of Celebrating GrandmothersCelebrating Grandmothers is a narrative book about what it is like being a grandmother.  Who buys it?  Grandmothers, of course, but also many others buy it as a gift.  The pre-Christmas period is great, as people are looking for an original present for a grandmother, and my book is a solution to their problem.  Grandfathers may be looking for a present for their wife, young people for their grandmother, and parents with young children for their mother or mother-in-law.

It takes a lot of courage, but yes, I go up to people in the street and show them my flyer, and while they are looking at it, I pull out the book and say ‘this is what it looks like’.  As the cover has an eye-catching picture, they often say ‘ooh’, take the book and leaf through it.  Many say they will look at my website later (and then don’t), but a fair number buy it then and there.  I always carry change for £10 in my pocket, so the transaction can be completed without a lot of fuss.

How I decide who to approach

The key question is who to approach.  First and foremost, youngish-looking older women, asking if they are a grandmother.  They are invariably so surprised by the question that they ask ‘why’ and then I tell them. Very old women are not so interested, because once grandchildren are grown up they no longer identify with the role. If they aren’t a grandmother, I ask if they have a sister who is.

Another obvious group are pregnant women.  Of course, I approach women pushing prams or pushchairs, although the hazard in London is that they are a nanny and/or foreign and their mother doesn’t speak English or, indeed, they don’t speak English themselves. Men with pushchairs are better as they are invariably polite, unlikely to be a nanny, and more often buy on the spur of the moment.  I avoid older men, because with so much divorce, many lose touch with grandchildren and you don’t want to touch a raw nerve.

I need to aim for relaxed individuals – and a relaxed author

And what have I learned? You need to get people on their own, rather than two or more together.  They shouldn’t be rushing about, on their phone, dealing with troublesome toddlers or looking like their minds are completely elsewhere. I must be in a good mood, as otherwise I can’t muster the necessary enthusiasm.  It helps if it is a nice day as people are more willing to stop and chat. But all in all, people are surprisingly nice, some even complimenting me for selling in this way.  And best of all, every sale feels wonderful.

It’s worth trying quiet shops

Book on shelf in Limone Delicatessen

Finally, shopkeepers are also worth approaching, if they have no customers.  They may well want a copy, but my greatest surprise was a lovely woman who runs the Limone delicatessen in Highgate.  She offered to put a flyer in her window and then added, why didn’t she keep a couple of copies in case people wanted one?  They are placed just behind the counter, so I couldn’t ask for greater visibility.  She has sold five copies in three weeks and refuses to take any payment on the grounds that she likes to help people and ‘what goes round comes round’. I wish her all good things.

This was originally published by the Alliance of Independent Authors:                                    http://selfpublishingadvice.org/book-promotion-a-handselling-case-study/

Grandparents Day

Ann Richardson pictured with her grandson

IF you haven’t heard that October 4 is Grandparents Day, you are not alone. Few people have heard of it and most don’t care. Talking to my friends and neighbours in north London, I note a common view that it is just another American import with no relevance here.

Yet having a special day offers a chance to stop and think about our grandparents and their role in our lives. Perhaps you were brought up by yours. Perhaps you learned a lot from them when your parents were too busy to sit down and talk to you. Perhaps they had little importance at all. Or maybe you are a grandparent yourself.

I never had much to do with my grandparents when I was young, so when I became one myself, I found it a big surprise. Just when small children were a thing of the past, suddenly there they were again – new bodies to cuddle and new minds to nurture.

Spending time with grandchildren changes the texture of your day-to-day life. Once again, you are reading bedtime stories, going on outings and noting the fresh way that young children look at life. You may have much more involvement with your son or daughter and develop a new role as helper and giver of advice. And you have moved up a generation, necessarily making you think.

I found this all so fascinating that I decided to write a book about it. While there are many advice books and the occasional book offering grandmothers’ wisdom or recipes, there are no books about how it feels to be a grandmother.

I interviewed 27 grandmothers about what they did, how they felt and how it changed their lives. Their responses varied – from those who were very happy and involved to those who found it hard to see their grandchildren due to distance or difficult family relationships.

The resulting book allows these very different women, ranging from their mid-40s to late 80s, and from all walks of life, to explore the many aspects of what it is like to be a grandmother.

They talk about their love, of course, and note the small pleasures, such as lying in bed with grandchildren, chatting with a teenager or talking to young adults about their lives. Being around children again made them think about their own success or failure as mothers and how they would do it differently if they had their time again.

These grandmothers also talk about how having grandchildren changes relationships within their families. Some loved having a greater closeness – others found they were very irritated by a daughter- or son-in-law or even by their own son or daughter.  There is the occasional surprise, such as the Hindu woman who viewed her granddaughter as a reincarnation of her late husband.

All grandparents – but perhaps especially grandmothers – know that when it comes to giving advice, you have to tread carefully. You may think you know best, but as one woman in the book put it: “Every grandmother should be issued with a zip”.

This article was first published by the Camden New Journal 24 September 2015

 

How Celebrating Grandmothers came to be written

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When I first became a grandmother ten years ago, I had absolutely no idea how much fun it would be, or how much it would change my life. I had had little involvement with my own grandmothers when I was a child and neither had my children when they were young (one grandmother lived too far away and one had died). There was therefore no model on which to base my expectations. I thought vaguely that most grandmothers were old, grey, dull and spent their time knitting and playing bridge. I didn’t identify with that.

It did not take me long to change my views. I was completely overtaken by the emotions engendered by that first grandchild and the second, a cousin, who followed three years later. During that period, being a writer, I decided it would be the perfect focus of a book and I set to work to write it. Celebrating Grandmothers is the result, a compendium of thoughts of a range of different women about the many aspects of being a grandmother.

In the course of researching my book, I learned that being a grandmother can be simply wonderful, but it is not always so. There are so many complexities and challenges, often arising from difficult family relationships. There are the women who simply live too far away to see their grandchildren, with all the heartache that can bring. Probably worse, there are those whose family choose to exclude them from any close involvement with their grandchildren, so they pine for the ability to participate in their lives. There are grandmothers who do not get on with their sons- or daughters-in-law and, sometimes, with their own grown-up children. There are women who are saddened by the way their grandchildren are bring brought up, and much more.

Yet despite all the problems, there are many wonderful stories out there. There is the woman who, from the beginning, called her daughter-in-law her ‘daughter-in-love’ with all the good relations that such a name implied. There are the two grandmothers (one from each ‘side’) who carefully planned to look after their joint grandchildren for a night or two, so that their own children could have time to sort out their marriage. There are the many grandmothers giving their time on a regular basis so that daughters or daughter-in-law can continue to work. There are stories, but there are also simple reflections, often the sort of thing they wouldn’t tell anyone they knew but could discuss in confidence with the certainty of anonymity.  All provide a small peek into others’ lives and relationships – and they are fascinating.

And, finally, I have learned that becoming a grandmother means looking inward at your new role and place in the world.  Sometimes, it means looking back at your own childrearing and how you would do it differently if you had your time all over again.  It means thinking about the future and worrying about how the new little lives will work out in increasingly difficult times. It is a time of new love, of new activity and a great deal of reflection.  Let me quote from one grandmother in the book:

“Being a grandmother is very maturing – and it’s also a tremendous challenge. There is this beautiful love relationship unencumbered by excessive responsibility. And you see all the family strands playing through. It’s like a form of weaving, the fabric of families coming together and you start to write another story together. Suddenly we’re making this new fabric. It is quite amazing – it’s wonderful, very enriching – this other stage of life. ”

This was originally published on the website of Wisdom and Innocence:  http://www.wisdomandinnocence.com/celebrating-grandmothers/

Women’s books and grandmothers

For many people, when they think about women’s books, their minds immediately turn to books for and about younger women – a good romance, the joys and problems of young children, the difficulties of separation or divorce, even women and their developing careers. All definitely women’s reading. But a large percentage of women are well over 60 and it is high time for more attention to be given to the stories of older women. We all like to read about ourselves and why not more fiction and non-fiction about the later years – women in retirement, women as widows, even late romance. (Yes, I know these do exist, but not in great quantity.)

I find being an older woman to be fascinating in numerous ways. It is a time of taking stock, of stretching new parts of myself and developing new relationships with my own children. I found the role of grandmother to be captivating – so much so that I decided to write a book about it. I have written books all my life, mostly for social care and health service professionals. But my real love is writing narrative non-fiction for the general public – books derived from interviews that use people’s own voices to express their experiences. These are a form of non-fiction that feel like fiction because they explore people’s inner lives. The latest is about being a grandmother. Based on interviews with 27 women of very different ages, backgrounds and social circumstances, Celebrating Grandmothers tells what it is like to be a grandmother in the words of grandmothers themselves.

There are reams to be written about being a grandmother. There are the very happy grandmothers, full of joy at the new children in their lives and the new sense of love and excitement watching them progress. They may be eager to spend time playing on the floor with toddlers, going to the park with children or talking to teenagers about thoughts of concern to them. There are the less happy ones, separated from their grandchildren by sheer distance or difficult family relationships. Some love visiting their children and taking part in their lives – and those of their grandchildren, of course – for a week here or there. Some do not cherish the prospect because the marriage of their son or daughter is unsettled and they do not want to spend time in the middle of quarrels.

cover GrandmotherBeing a grandmother means entering into uncharted territory on a number of fronts. There are new relationships to be negotiated, not simply with the grandchildren (generally easy) but also with their parents who have their own long-standing issues. A new daughter- or son-in-law can be an enormous pleasure or the source of great difficulty. When children arrive, all these relationships become much more entangled in both joys and misunderstandings. It can be difficult to tiptoe through the minefield of offering what feels like much needed advice without causing inevitable problems.

Being a grandmother can often mean a major change in how a woman spends her time. She may be delighted to babysit as often as possible, but she may also be thrust into a heavy involvement due to the cost of alternative childcare and find it difficult to say no. Separated parents, an ill parent or even a deceased parent can bring even greater responsibilities. There can be a fine line between what a grandmother feels she has to do and what she wants to do.

And, finally, being a grandmother means coming to terms with a new status and a new sense of one’s role in life as one of the elder statesmen of the family. It brings an inevitable look into the future and all that that entails.

All of which is to say that there is no shortage of things to write about when addressing how it feels to be a grandmother. New people to love and worry about, new relationships to be coped with and a new sense of self add up to major changes in a woman’s life. Yet most of us simply love it. Ask a new grandmother about how her grandchildren are and watch her face light up. It happens over and over again.

This was originally published on the website of Women Writers/Women’s Books:       http://booksbywomen.org/celebrating-grandmothers/

Anniversary

It is now somewhat over one year since Celebrating Grandmothers was published, so it feels a good time to reflect on it.  This blog is intended for me to write about the book and my efforts to publicise it.  I have written a number of guest blogs and I might put them here, too.

In Celebrating Grandmothers, I provide space for 27 women of very different backgrounds and circumstances to talk about how they feel about being grandmother.  They discuss their love for their grandchildren, how they worry about them, how relationships change when you are a grandmother and how being a grandmother affects the way they see themselves.  And much more.

Being a grandmother is incredibly fulfilling.  I love being a grandmother and I love writing books – the two seemed made for each other.  But I don’t like writing about myself, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to let other grandmothers do the talking.  I am delighted with what they had to say.

Grandmothers are too little celebrated.  They are ‘hidden in plain sight’ as part of the background of the main show.  Many think of them as just dull older women, although we know better.  This lack of attention will probably change as women of the ‘baby boomer’ generation find themselves grandmothers.  There are already a lot of books and movies centring on older people and some advice books for grandmothers. I am sure that these will grow considerably in the coming  years.  There is a lot to talk about and, well, celebrate.

For more information, go to www.celebratinggrandmothers.info

cover Grandmothers