Being a mom is hands-down the most rewarding–and difficult–things I’ve done in my life. It’s such a huge part of who I am, even now that they’re all grown up. I really didn’t think anything could match it. But, I was so wrong.

When you’re raising kids, there’s no time to stop and reflect. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you’re lucky, you find a nice bench somewhere and you sit for a minute. Your main focus: do what you need to do to keep them safe, and (fingers crossed) try not to mess them up too much.

And then this happens: You’re teaching one kid to ride a bike and another to tie his shoes, and you lean over to wipe the drool off a third kid and, when you turn back, they’re all grown up. And that full-time job you’ve held for, oh 30 years or so — the one where the pay sucked and the hours were long  — yea, that job has been phased out. Your services no longer required. Sure, they tell you, they’ll call you if they need you, but don’t call us (too much) — we’ll call you.

C’est la vie, right?

So here’s what I know about life: When you get to the point where you think you’ve figured out what your life is — what it looks like — something comes along to shake it all up. And for me, that rattling came in the shape of a newborn baby girl. And then another. And then, you guessed it, another.

I am the proud grandmother of three beautiful little girls. My new part-time “job” as Gigi (Grandma Gwen) is so amazing. And, I have to admit, I think it’s even better than the 30-some-years I spent at that “other” full-time job. Here’s why this new role rocks:

  • I have flex hours (yea, I pretty much make my own schedule)
  • I get paid with baby kisses, toothless smiles, and big bear hugs
  • I don’t have any real responsibilities
  • It’s so much less stressful!

I really should have put that last bullet point at the top of the list. When you’re a Gigi, you get to feed the kids cake and ice cream for breakfast, and let them play in the sprinkler in their best dress — because, at the end of the visit, they go home. And you aren’t really, not in any big way, responsible for the kind of people they turn out to be. Well, not entirely anyway. Okay, yes, I care about how they turn out, but let me tell you, it is SO different. It’s not ON me. I have some influence, I suppose, but the bulk of the responsibility for these tiny girls belongs to someone else.

Being Gigi, I have the time now, to sit and watch in amazement as tiny hands try to fit the wooden puzzle piece into place. I have time to notice… every single thing they are doing. And it’s all amazing and wonderful — and I am in awe of every moment. Entertained by their discoveries. Mystified by their abilities.

Being Gigi, I am now able to be present. Without distraction, I can watch these girls change and grow. How can a 2-year-old know the entire alphabet? She must be a genius. Did my kids do that at that age? A tooth already? Oh, she has to be advanced, for sure. When did my kids get their first tooth? See… I can’t recall. I don’t remember. Those events took place during the hazy days of motherhood when there wasn’t enough room in my brain at the time to finish a thought — let alone catalog it in my memory for future reflection.

What a gift this is, to not only experience the magical moments of childhood through a different lens but also to watch my children in their new roles as parents. Being around them gives me this visceral opportunity to reconnect with lost remembrances of mothering.

Someone once asked me if becoming a grandmother made me feel old. And I wasn’t really sure what to say. I don’t know if it makes me feel young, but it definitely doesn’t make me feel old. Being Gigi wakes me up; it takes me back to a time in my life when I was younger and I think that makes me feel closer to my youth.