PAREN(T)HESIS — Greeting grandma

December 1, 2016

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

NEW Jill Maher Headshot Dec 2013Many of us are heading, in the words of a song, “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” for the holidays. All the family gatherings make me wonder, who is this modern grandma? Does she fulfill the stereotype by meeting us at the threshold, sporting an apron dusted with a bit of flour?

The grandmother of 2016 may be an older member of Generation X or a Baby Boomer. She may be spending holiday time with her children, grandchildren, and even her own parents. Geographic separation may require that some of her interactions take place by phone or video chat with Facetime or Skype. Instead of greeting us at the doorway in her apron, she may greeting us on the holiday via her phone when she gets home from work.

She may love her family but might not love to bake cookies for them, that tradition that we still associate with the older generation. In fact, grandma (if she even permits herself to be addressed as such) may be too busy working to bake or partake in other traditional ‘grandmotherly hobbies’ like quilting and preserving applesauce. A majority of grandparents are still working.

People don’t always conform to stereotypes. I remember when I became aware of my stereotype when I interviewed an elderly woman for this newspaper and assumed she would enjoy cooking and baking. She surprised me when she informed me that wasn’t true for her.

Grandma of 2016 has far fewer grandchildren than a grandma who was alive when most of Bay View’s homes were built in the early 1900s. The number has decreased from a dozen to about six grandchildren, and the trend line keeps heading down. In my own family, my maternal gram had four kids and my paternal gram had five, while my parents and my in-laws each had two children. My husband and I have one, making our extended families an example of the shift toward smaller families.

Here’s hoping that I get to be a grandma and that I am done working at the office by then!

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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