When Stephanie Durrant turns up to her mother’s house nowadays, the welcome she gets is not entirely rapturous.
In fact, her mum barely looks her in the eye or bothers to ask how she is. As for a hug and a kiss on the cheek, forget it.
For seven months ago, Stephanie, a 30-year-old pre-school worker from Nethergate, Norwich, gave birth to twin girls Mollie and Rosie. It made Carolyn, 64, a grandmother — and from that moment on, she’s had eyes for no one else.
Stephanie, who is married to Richard, 35, a digital sales and marketing director, knows only too well that she is no longer mummy’s princess. ‘Mum has admitted she’s besotted with the girls,’ she says. ‘I think it’s because they are twins that I’ve been totally forgotten.
‘She’s explained to me the overwhelming feeling she had when she gave birth to me and my sisters, but that with my twins, the feeling was multiplied by ten.
Stephanie Durrant (pictured left with her mum Carolyn with Mollie and Rosie) says her mother has confessed to loving her daughters more than her
‘So when she confessed that she feels she loves Mollie and Rosie more than me, I understood.’
In fact, it’s fair to say that Carolyn’s behaviour is fairly typical of a first-time grandmother, offering holidays in the sun and babysitting on tap.
Today’s grandmothers are more than happy to lavish love, time and carefully managed pension pots on their adored grandchildren.
With all this and patience in abundance, it’s no wonder they are enjoying the experience so much more than when they were young mothers themselves.
A recent online discussion about this intense feeling sparked debate among grandmothers, with one even claiming to know of a friend who’d admitted, shockingly, that she had daydreams about her granddaughter being orphaned so she could bring her up!
While the comments of that smitten grandma should be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt, it’s true that today’s grandparents enjoy relationships with their children’s children that previous generations just didn’t have.
‘For many grannies, this is an opportunity to do things over again and tackle any guilt they had in trying to juggle things when their own children were small,’ says psychotherapist Rebecca McCann.
‘This love can often feel stronger than the love they feel for their own children because it’s a combination of that first wave of maternal love plus this new one.’
Carolyn, who lives with husband Neville, 72, a retired insurance consultant, admits the intensity of her feelings has shocked her. ‘The twins light up my life — they are always laughing,’ she says. ‘Their favourite thing is when I blow raspberries on their tummies. I never expected to feel this way about them.
‘That’s why my daughter, Steph, doesn’t get a look in.’
Carolyn (pictured with Mollie and Rosie) admits she sometimes clashes with her daughter over the twins
Although they used to spend six months of the year at their second home on the Costa Blanca in Spain, since their daughter gave birth, Carolyn and Neville have stayed in Norwich for much of the time to be close to the grandchildren. ‘When I first held the girls, this magical feeling came over me,’ says Carolyn. ‘I call it double love.’
Both mum and daughter admit, however, that they sometimes ‘clash’ over the twins. ‘It’s lucky we’ve not killed one another yet,’ says Stephanie. When she and Richard took their daughters to a friend’s wedding recently, Carolyn, who arrived as an evening guest, was horrified to find the twins in a room with music blaring.
‘I was shocked at how loud it was. While Stephanie assured me that they would be fine, I insisted that they wouldn’t be.
‘So I took Mollie and Rosie home, popped them into bed and stayed there for the night. I can’t help myself.
‘I will even say something to Richard, my son-in-law if he is drinking a cup of tea while holding them.’
This ‘Grandma knows best attitude’ might explain why Stephanie is resigned to her daughters taking the central role in her mum’s life for the foreseeable future.
However, for Madhu Meswania, her obsession with grandson Milan, who’s 11 months, is hitting her hard in the wallet.
‘In the evenings, when I’m online, I adore browsing websites for him,’ says Madhu, who’s 65 and lives in Luton with her husband Mansukh, 68.
‘I buy him new outfits each week. I also bought him an F1 Ferrari baby walker in bright red, a music tower and a ride-on rocker. Of course I love him more than my daughter. At this age, they are so precious.
‘I tell my daughter that Milan has to come first. No matter how tired Benita gets, I remind her that I turned my world upside down for her when she was little and I expect the same of her.’
She adds: ‘When I got the call telling me Milan was born, I burst into tears. The first cuddle was indescribable.
Carolyn (pictured far right) and her husband Neville began spending less time at their second home after the birth of Rosie and Mollie
‘When he smiled in my direction, the love I had for him was instantaneous and overwhelming. That probably explains why, for the past 11 months, I have been so involved in Milan’s life.’
According to her daughter Benita, who works for a management consultancy and lives in West London with her husband Hitesh Patel, 35, who runs a catering business, half her mother’s income now goes on her grandson’s clothes and toys.
And Benita, 34, who is still on maternity leave, is in no doubt about the new pecking order.
‘The first thing she’ll say when she calls is: ‘How’s Milan?’ She calls him via FaceTime [the video calling app] every day. We recently went on holiday to Cyprus and Mum did not stop calling to see if Milan was OK.
‘When I told her I was pregnant, she was initially shocked. Then she wanted to take over, referring to Isaiah as ‘my baby’. – Sabrina, 28
‘It pulls me up when Milan sees her and reaches out for her. They have a real bond. But she does spoil him.
‘I am lucky, though, as she minds Milan a few times a week and he sometimes stays over at her house for the weekend. My best friend lost her mum at an early age, so I realise how precious it is that I have my mum around.
‘But the love she has for my child does make me question whether she has any left for me.’
New grandma Heather Smith admits that she sometimes can’t wait to see the back of her daughter, Sabrina, as it infringes on her precious time with grandson Isaiah, two.
‘I took my daughter and grandson for a week’s holiday to the Canaries this summer,’ says Heather, 55. ‘I had to urge Sabrina to take excursions around the island, so that I could spend quality time with my grandson.’
Heather, who lives alone in South East London and works as a customer advisor at a psychiatric hospital, says the strength of her feelings has startled her.
Stephanie (pictured left) has resigned to her daughters taking the central role in her mum’s life for the foreseeable future
She says: ‘I had to work full-time after Sabrina was born. While she was safely cared for by family, I still missed out on her first steps. Perhaps my biggest regret is not hearing her first words.
‘Whereas I saw every milestone with my grandson. With the first cuddle when he was just minutes old, I felt an immediate bond. I love Isaiah more than Sabrina because he is an extension of her and yet my only grandson, too. I get to correct lots of mistakes I made with Sabrina.’
Sabrina, 28, a payroll officer who lives with her partner Carnell Banton, 35, a mechanic, says her mother’s behaviour can feel a little uncomfortable at times.
I’m floored by the fact she loves him more than me. If she calls, she’ll ask about Isaiah’s day before mine
‘When I told her I was pregnant, she was initially shocked. Then she wanted to take over, referring to Isaiah as ‘my baby’.
‘She realises now that it’s about my partner and I being parents first and foremost.’
Heather has put a four-figure sum into a savings account for Isaiah, and she couldn’t resist paying for that all-inclusive holiday. Sabrina says her mum has also bought a baby walker, plus clothes and shoes.
‘Mum spoils Isaiah — he’s her only grandchild and she feels that she is making up for lost time. When I was young, her finances were limited, but now she has a disposable income.’
Even though Heather works full-time, she sees him at least three times a week. Sabrina is grateful that her mother has the time to devote to Isaiah.
‘I’m always rushing about and don’t have the time to spend with him that she does. I can see that the bond between them will only get closer. But I’m floored by the fact she loves him more than me. If she calls, she’ll ask about Isaiah’s day before mine.’
Yet, for Heather, the reason is simple. ‘He has totally changed my life. I adore every precious minute I get to spend with him.’