New mom possessiveness: Seeking help from the grandmahood

I recently received an email from a pregnant mother who will soon have her first child. As the baby's birth nears, the new mom wrote, she's having difficulty coming to terms with the intense, scary and perfectly normal feelings of possessiveness over her baby — especially in relation to the soon-to-be-born child's grandmothers.

"Can you help?" she asked me.

baby handSeems my post titled Grandma's No. 1 came up when this new mother Googled search queries such as "grandma obsessed with my baby." Admittedly, I just may sound a tad obsessed in that post, but I wrote those words from the heart and believe it's the truth on how many a grandma feels about her grandchildren. We are obsessed.

Which is exactly what concerns this new mother. It's why she asked if I could help her understand us crazy-in-love grandmas — an understanding that may help if her baby's grandmas turn out like the rest of us.

Before I respond to her, though, I'm seeking input from you, the Grandma's Briefs "grandmahood." Together we may properly shed light on why grandmothers feel the way we do. My hope is that as a whole, we can offer some guidance regarding what she calls the "stickiness in my heart" and her overwhelming feelings of possessiveness for her newborn when it comes to the "pretty reasonable" grandmothers in her life, who admittedly "haven't pulled any super crazy overbearing grandparent moves." 

First, of course, I must share with you the new mom's concerns about grandmothers in general and my Grandma's No. 1 post in particular. So here is the bulk of her letter to me:

There was a specific part in your post that bothered me. You said, "The thing is, when it comes to grandkids — and any grandma knows this, so I'm pretty much talking to the non-grandmas here — it's such a fresh, new, overwhelming love that it's hard to not gush and glow over it. New mothers feel the very same world-shaking love for their newborn, for their little ones as they grow..."

I have to very much disagree that grandmothers feel the SAME love for a newborn as their mothers do. Strong and also world-shaking, yes — but not the same. And even the way you worded this — that in fact mothers share the same love as grandmothers, instead of the other way around, also rubbed me the wrong way.

I also truly don't understand this section: "Much to their delight, they're getting a second opportunity to relish the fully-enveloping motherly love for a child. And relish it we do. Just like we did when our first child was born. And the second. And the third. And more."

I see what you're saying here, but this is NOT your child — so it is not the same love, and it may feel fully enveloping but it should still not compete with the mother's own love.

I'm sorry if I sound confrontational. That isn't my intention. I hope you'll forgive my very strong new mama feelings.

So please, please tell me: Do grandparents actually think that their love for the grandkids is the same as the parents' love?

I genuinely do not understand the grandparent obsession, to the point that it seems unhealthy to me. And I know all the boundary-less women my mom and MIL know that have grandkids are not helping them to be sane about my baby. I and am of course on the other side of life right now and just really struggling to relate to their feelings. I want to respect them, but also set reasonable boundaries.

Any tips on how to handle these feelings without hurting the grandparents' feelings or causing strife? Is this just something that needs to change in my heart?

Thanks for listening.

I want to tell this new mother that yes, we grandmothers do feel an all-consuming love for our grandchildren that is just like that of a mother, at least in terms of the degree of consumption.

I want to tell her that reasonable, well-intentioned grandmothers certainly don't want to possess or parent our grandchildren, that we delight in seeing our children parent our grandchildren, sometimes with such delight we fear our hearts will burst with pride.

And I want to tell her the importance of remembering that at least one of the grandmothers she worries about once held her in their arms, that they loved, adored, cuddled and worried about her in exactly the same way she is and will with her baby. That that grandmother fully understands and could shed light on the situation better than any stranger could. So talk to her about boundaries, expectations, her love and respect for the grandmothers in relation to what works for her as a new mother.

Mostly, I just want to tell her to not fret about competition or who loves the baby more, to accept that her role as the one and only mother of that child is a given — and that rational, loving grandmothers will give her the space to be that, do that, own that.

That's what I want to tell that new mother. But I want to know what you — the grandmothers and others who may see yourself in my words or hers — would tell this heart-heavy mother who wants to do and be and feel what's right for her baby, for the grandmothers and for herself.

So please share your thoughts. Ultimately, perhaps the best thing for me to do is direct the new mom to this post and your comments, so she'll glean guidance from the grandmahood collective, not just from me. I thank you. I venture to say she will, too.

Today's question:

What would you say to the new mother regarding the "stickiness" in her heart?