For those of you who have been reading my previous posts you would already know that I live in Australia and that I am divorced. You know my only daughter lives in Israel and that my only grandson lives there too. (Of course!) For the last 3 1/2 weeks I have been in Israel doing heavy duty Grandma time.
Having only parented once myself it’s easy to forget how small the life of a two year old is. My usual travelling day involves walking at least 25km and taking 750 photos. I stop and eat when I want and generally just live the life of a travelling photographer.
Not on the Grandma trips! My day consists of getting up early. Early enough to be the first up and then a 5km run, back in time for the waking family. We make porridge. We watch some youTube cartoons. We take 45 minutes to walk to the corner shop and stop and look at every single stick along the way. From the 4th floor window we watch with great interest and a running commentary, the truck empty the big garbage bins. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go “riding in the car” to take mum to Uni. We spend the whole day exploring Bar Ilan University and have worked out where all the easily accessible powerpoints are, where the best wifi is and which of the cafes sells the best coffee at the best price.
We play in fountains and chase the birds. We just do what Ahu wants to do. It’s in sharp contrast to what fills my day back home. Where my time is scheduled down to the half-hour. The life where I run two calendars. The work one and the “me” one. Where I have to be sensible and in charge, the 2IC of a workplace with nearly 1000 inhabitants. Where I spend time writing and processing the photos I have taken. Here in Israel I am just “gram-ma” and my job is much simpler. We literally stop to sniff the roses.
I remember as a 30 year old mother, I would also schedule my day to the nth degree. I would wait for nap times to get the million things I “needed” to do, done. I was desperate to get back the “real” world of work and thought my life was not complete without a paid job. I was not keeping up my end of the “sisterhood” bargain being a stay at home mum. I returned to work when my daughter was 18 months old. My (then) husband stepped up and became a stay at home dad. This was a groundbreaking move at the time. It allowed him to study and complete a Bachelor’s degree, then Honours and finally a PhD. We were trailblazers and our friends and family thought we were crazy.
I look back now and regret my impatience. I missed a lot. Now even though there IS still a million things I could be doing – Grandmas don’t, at least not when they’ve clocked on for Grandma. Duty. I marvel at how Ahu learns new words everyday. He is eager to chatter and share his ideas. He explores his world with precise and deliberate actions.
In the 25 years that have passed since my baby was a baby, the women’s movement has moved on – a little. Now the sisterhood lets you have a bit more flexibility. You don’t have to be a super-mum if you choose not to be. You can stay at home, work part time if you want. (If you can) Stay at home dads are more common and parental leave can support that. We still have a long way to go. On top of that, the reality is that our consumerist lifestyle means that both parents have to work to be able to pay the bills and children, although loved and desired, need to fit into the hectic schedule of the grown ups.
If I had my time again I don’t know I would do parenting any differently. I think I did the best I could at the time. My goal now is to the do the grandparenting right. Not Grand-parent over my daughter’s parenting. Not quibble about how I would have done things. Not to give advice where it’s not wanted.
I can take this time to recharge my own batteries. And look inside and think. For this short period of time, the the most important decisions are what picture book to read, and making sure little Ahu knows the Australian word for everything in his world!
(Once again this post prepared on my iPad so the photos are a bit wonky. Back to normal programming next week! No photos of Ahu as he doesn’t do facebook/blogs)