Being a grandma in your 30s comes with 'guilt' — but I won't give up my career

Being a grandma in your 30s comes with 'guilt' — but I won't give up my career Dionne became a grandmother in her 30s (Picture: Caters News Agency)

We’ve all heard about mum guilt, but did you know that grandma guilt is a thing as well? At least it is according to one younggrandma.

Dionne Smith became a grandmother in her 30s and has shared just how challenging it can be, as she doesn’t feel old enough yet to be a ‘granny’ and still wants to build a career for herself.

The mum-of-three welcomed her first grandchild, Zariah, at the age of 38, having had her eldest child (Zariah’s father) when she was 16.

Dionne, who is now 45, is constantly mistaken for her granddaughter’s mother, thanks to her youthful looks and glamorous style.

And it’s not just strangers who struggle to wrap their heads around the family dynamics, as Dionne, a celebrity hairstylist from South East London, also finds it difficult to believe sometimes.

Dionne says she thought she was too young to be a grandparent and has since refused to let six-year-old Zariah call her ‘gran’ or ‘granny’.

She said: ‘I definitely thought I was too young to be a grandma when I found out my son, Jordan, was having a baby, but then again, I thought I was too young to become a mum.

‘Jordan was much older than I was when I had him, so I couldn’t really say anything.

‘I didn’t feel old enough to be called gran or grandma so I decided I was going to be called “glam-ma” because lots of people were saying that I was going to be a very glamorous and young grandmother, so I came up with my own term.

‘I knew from the start that I didn’t want to be called gran because it just didn’t feel right as I was in my thirties, so I either go by glam-ma, or my granddaughter calls me nanny.

‘People tell me all the time that I look so young for my age, and no one ever believes me when I tell them I’m 45. They say they’d guess that I’m in my late twenties or early thirties.

‘So, it is even more of a shock when I tell them my eldest son is 29, and that I have two more sons in their twenties, as well as a six-year-old granddaughter. Their faces are a picture.

‘They say that I hardly look like a mum, never mind a gran.’

Dionne says there are many perks to being a young grandmother and it’s meant she forged a ‘special bond’ with Zariah, but she does find certain aspects of it especially challenging.

The struggle of figuring out how to juggle her job, her personal life, her role as a mother and now as a grandmother as well has understandably caused a lot of guilt.

Sacrificing time with her family is the main thing that comes with a lot of ‘guilt’ but the grandmother refuses to give up her career — and rightly so, as she’s worked incredibly hard to get to where she is.

Instead of letting the guilt control her life, Dionne has simply done the best she can. Which is all any of us can do.

‘Becoming a gran before 40 means that I am young enough to keep up with my granddaughter. I have that young energy and mentality and the way that I think is different to most older grandparents. I’m not traditional and set in certain ways,’ she explains.

‘I’m more open-minded with ways of life, and I think I am more understanding too. There’s definitely positives to being a younger gran, and they contribute to the special bond that I have with Zariah.

However, I am still building a career and trying to do things for myself, so it can be challenging finding a balance between myself, being a mum and a grandmother.

‘Sometimes I feel guilty for working hard and building a career, as it feels like I have to sacrifice quality time with my family.’

And Dionne certainly isn’t the only one who has experienced this ‘grandma guilt’, in fact it seems to becoming much more common.

Marjorie Hershberg Perry, a 66-year-old grandmother from the US, recently launched an online coaching service for fellow grandparents struggling with guilt.

Guilty Grandma’s Coaching is intended to ‘provide guidance to parents relationships with their adult children as they strive to maintain a balanced relationship while honouring the needs of the grandchildren’.

The idea came to life after Marjorie realised she didn’t want to be a full-time babysitter for her grandchild, as she found it ‘exhausting’.

She toldBusiness Insider: ‘I truly love my grandkids, but my husband and I have a life, too.’

And just as Marjorie won’t let the guilt stop her from having a life of her own, Dionne, won’t let the guilt stop her from achieving her dreams.

The glam-ma is well-versed in overcoming adversity as falling pregnant at 16 was a major adjustment.

She claims she didn’t have any support from her family at the time and had to leave school without getting any qualifications, but all of this just made her more determined to make something of herself.

Can you relate to ‘grandma guilt’? Share your experiences in the comments!Comment Now

‘It was really hard. My family were disappointed in me, and so were my teachers as they had high hopes for me.

‘My dad said I had disgraced the family, and that I was just going to be another wasted teenage parent. This just fuelled me to do better for myself and keep going.’

Dionne added: ‘I always wanted to work for myself so I could make money but also have the flexibility and freedom to be there for my kids if something happened.

‘I had to push myself and work really hard to achieve my dreams.

‘I think becoming a mum at 16 made me the way I am today and gave me that drive.

‘I wouldn’t change my life for the world.’

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