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The Grandmother Effect

Written by sarah pollak


Posted on March 05 2020

Mothers, stepmothers and mother-in-laws! Oh my! 
But seriously, we love our mothers, stepmothers, mother-in-laws and step-mother-in-laws! We hold a special place in our hearts for you!

What is "The Grandmother Effect"?

Carla, or beloved In-House Certified Lactation Consultant in LA, sent me this the other day after we had had a series of grandmothers in the store. She and I were discussing how the mother/daughter, mother-in-law/daughter-in-law, step mother/step daughter relationship varies so much between humans, and how much it can shift, change and grow when we become parents ourselves.
After our conversation Carla wrote me:

 "Part of my course requirement at UCLA was to design a class for the pregnant women. I chose to include grandmothers, our elders,and the information and knowledge that they have passed down. "Why?" You ask.  "So much has changed since they had kids!"  Indeed.  And so much hasn't. Because grandmothers do have wisdom. Humans are one of five species (Beluga, Narwhals, Killer whales and Short finned pilot whales) who are menopausal. Older women have historically helped raise their children’s children so they thrive. Grandmothers matter, and as our children grow, they will develop their own relationships with their grandparents. Crazy, I know!"

This evolution in increased longevity in our linage is due to “The Grandmother Effect.”  


Some of us are fortunate enough to have an amazing relationship with our moms, and can't wait to have them help us raise our children and help them thrive.  Some have more "interesting" relationships with their mom. If you have a more complicated relationship with your mom, see the next paragraph. 
Even if you are close to your mother, there may be times when, well, we've heard this line too many times to count "I love my mother/stepmother/mother-in-law.  Really. I do. And, she's starting to drive me a little nuts." (Often we know the moms and love them too, but we also sympathize with this.)

Mother-in-Laws and Stepmothers

Some mother-in-laws and stepmothers (and mothers too)can be tricky.  This is not knocking either of these in the least, many many mother-in-laws and stepmothers are just like the above, we love them like our mother. 
And. That being said. No small number of women have said something along the lines of "I love my mother-in-law, she's great in many ways, but she's also soooo in my/business/opinionated/insert-a-less-than-ideal-personality-trait-here, I just have to keep reminding myself that I am grateful to her because she made my husband/wife so I must be nice to her!  But, it's seriously hard some of these sleep deprived days!"

How You Can Impact The Mother/Stepmother/Mother-in-Law Relationship

Carla suggests:
"Being pregnant can be an emotional roller coaster. In an effort to make this temporary situation more fluid and more comfortable it is best focus on your communication skills.
Communication is any information that lessens uncertainty. My suggestion is that you write down your intentions and goals in a letter to clarify your needs and expectations from your mother. You may never send this letter but it is an opportunity for you clarify your situation as you move through this new experience. This letter can be a dress rehearsal for a future conversation. If you are really connected to your mom it maybe unsaid communication."


Carla wrote an example of a note you might send to your mother/stepmother/mother-in-law  Obviously, make this your own.
Dear Mom/Mother-in-Law/Stepmother,
We are so excited to become parents!  We so happy that you are going to be this baby's grandmother! We know that there will be many changes in the months to come, and that relationships may change as well. Before this baby joins our wonderful family I want to take this time to say thank you for all that you have done for me to date. 
As we move into this new chapter I may ask you for your help, your advice, and your support. This is all new to me, and to us as a family. I value you, and also want to say that there may be times that I do not heed to all your advice. There is so much information out there, and there may be times when what I will need is to be heard, not advised. I trust that you, being a woman and my/a mother, understand me and understand this request. 
Hugs are always welcomed and much appreciated:)
Much Love, Your Daughter/Stepdaughter/Daughter-in-Law
Someone in the shop once shared this lovely letter from her mother on this topic.  Wow! We hope that you are fortunate enough to have a mother, mother-in-law or step-mother who understands as this one did!!
My Darlingest Daughter,
I am so completely thrilled with your wonderful news! I just wanted to take this time, before your entire life changes in the most marvelous way, to say this: I am here for you now as I have been your whole life-fully and completely and, imperfectly. Just tell me how I can help and what you need. I cannot wait to make new memories together that we can share with my grandchild when they are older!
Love you,
(We're not sure how you can slip this post under your favorite parent's nose, just as a, you know,subtle hint;)
Communication is hard!  And it's even harder when you have a baby.  Truth. 
There may be days you can't put two words together coherently, and some days when all you can do is cry happy/sad/hormonal tears.  
Being a mom is the best job on earth, and, it is a job.  Communicating your needs and wants is important.  You can't advocate for baby if you can't take care of mom.  Well, you can actually, but at the end of the day, you're the mom, and our kids do better when we moms are sane and know how to take care of ourselves.



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