Secondary to the thrill of becoming grandmothers, important to them is what they want the baby to call her. The word, grandmother, and the image of the millennium grandmother isn’t exactly what springs to the mind of the traditional grandmothers. The new grandmas get reboot and are redefining their looks and roles. They are up to date when it comes to looks – dressing up in fashion, going to the beauty shop on a regular basis for hair care like hair trim, coloring, and hi-lights, manicure and pedicure. She goes to the spa for body massage and facials, and to the gym for yoga, Zumba sessions or other body trimming exercises. She has a dieting consultant and follows body weight slimming regimen. It’s a whole new form of grandparenting, too, thanks to the boomers.
Boomer women in particular, who came of age during the feminist movement, have tended to shrug off traditional roles, opting instead to “have-it- full-time mothers. So, it’s no surprise that, as their children have kids, these new grandmas are remaking the role in ways that differ dramatically from the nanas, nonnas, bubbas, amas, and abuelas of yesteryear.
Not for them the wrinkles and rocking chairs of past grandmothers. Today’s grandma is more likely to practice yoga than play cards, and to disguise her gray hair with artful highlights. Many boomers have made a concerted effort to narrow the generation gap between themselves and their children, and that the same impulse is very much in evidence when they talk about the experience of having grandchildren. “Boomers” engagement with grandchildren is much more intense than in the past generations. They want to share things with their grandkids and have discussions. Our parents didn’t crave the same kind of too personal topics for discussion.
Even if the grandmas of yesteryears had wanted to go walking or exercising, chances are she wouldn’t have lived long enough or had the requisite stamina. Thanks to the advances in health and safety. I’ve read in a magazine that women have added about 25 years to their life expectancy over the last century – from 56.8 in 1914 to around 81 today- resulting in an ever-expanding middle age. Because today’s boomer grandmothers feel younger, healthier and more active in the past, their engagement with their grandchildren is akin to the way kids used to describe the fun they have with some cool younger aunts. Today’s women, with their confidence and independence, have made the once unimaginable, the norm.
Some high-powered career women, though, see having grandkids as a kind of do-over, a chance to make-up for the quality time they missed out on with their own kids, like a hands-on, daily grandma. My sister in San Francisco told me that her grand kids were the payoff for decades of child-rearing stress. There’s just no anxiety. There’s no constant worrying about accomplishing the to-do list. It distills all the positive parts of being a mom with none of the negative. Well, in my case, having four children but no “apos,”and being all adults now, I find myself just happily continuing with my natural nurturing ways whenever they’re visiting. I cook their favorite foods, fuss around them and let them know that I’m ready to jump in whenever they needed my help. A couple of times when my youngest daughter was sick, I flew to Florida without any hesitation to nurse her.
A Grandma by Any Other Name
As a trend, important to the boomer grandma is what the baby will call her. Not Grandma. That moniker is definitely oldfangled. No, in the true boomer fashion, the grandmother has to be fun, cool, inventive-or the very least, not frumpy or dowdy name. Oh, I’ve heard a lot of attention-getting coined names from my close friends and others, like Glam-ma, G-Ma, Sexy Grand Ma, G-Momsie, Omie (from the German Oma), and, Honey, etc. Of course, there’s still the old-fashioned granny, but others want to be called Granna, Nana, Nani, GeeBee, Mimi, and Meema. Going with the flow of the whimsical thoughts of the boomer grandmas, if I become one, am thinking of “Lolita” as the name I want to be called. Why this name? Because it sounds close to Lola, but a modernized version. My children teased me- “Yes. Mother, “Lolita yayaya!” I retorted, “Don’t egg me on, or you’ll take your Coco, Rocco or Buddy to the Pet Hotel when you need a pet sitter.” That was effective, they stopped (but their eyes were rolling).
On a Serious Note
In this new generation, lots of boomer women, are staying involved in their grandchildren’s lives as a priority as never before. As an analogy, boomer grandmothers often seem to be taking part in an intrinsic dance where the music keeps changing, and it’s up to them to invent the next step. But in some ways, it’s actually pretty simple. The new grandma may wear dizzying number of hats and forge a host of new intertwined connections, but ultimately her chief responsibility remains the same to give her grandchildren her stories and her unconditional love, and to pay careful attention as the grandkids give theirs. Well, I don’t have grandchildren, but I personally believe that the compensation for growing older is watching the grandchildren grow older after they’ve seen their own children grew old. That changes our priorities. At this stage, most grandparents care more about a lot of mundane legacy that they’re going to leave for their grandchildren through their own children. To them, being a grandparent is like shooting an arrow into the future.