It’s grand, a Sheffield great-grandma tells the Queen

Great-grandmother Jean Clayton with great-grandson, Oscar, two
Great-grandmother Jean Clayton with great-grandson, Oscar, two
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She’s the ultimate matriarch and reportedly delighted with her latest role - as a great-grandma.

The arrival of the new royal prince, the Duke and duchess of Cambridge’s first child, makes the Queen is the first reigning monarch since Queen Victoria to be a great-grandparent.

It’s a great experience, says Jean Clayton, 80 years young from Stannington and head of four generations. Her Majesty is in for a whole new bundle of joy...

Q. When did you become a great-grandmother?

A. Oscar arrived two years ago this month. He is my first grand-daughter Emma’s child. When we knew he was on the way it was wonderful news. The thought of having another new baby in the family was just lovely. I only wish his great-grandfather had lived to see him. My husband John died eight years ago and they would have loved each other.

Q. How long had you been married?

A. We got to 55 years, though we had known each other a lot longer. I met him when I was 15. I went straight from school to work in secretarial at file-makers John Bedford’s on Mowbray Street. John was the sales manager. We liked each other, but he had to go off to do his National Service. When he finished he came back to Bedford’s and we started courting. We were each other’s first love.

Q. When did you become a mother?

A. I was 29 when I had our first child, David. We waited because we wanted to have our own home first. The first years of married life we lived in rented. We saved up and got a mortgage on the house in Stannington where I still live. It has seen a lot of happiness.

Q. Can you remember the birth?

David is 52 but I can remember every detail of the night I had him. I think every mother can. And that includes the Queen. My waters broke at home, we had no car so we got a taxi to the Jessops. John wasn’t at the birth. That was the norm. Men were a bit squeamish in those days.

My labour went from midnight through to 7.10am with no pain relief.

I had our second child Linda at home two years later. It was a very different experience. John wasn’t in the bedroom with me, but he was in the house and that was very comforting. It’s much better for women now that fathers are with them at the birth. All my grandchildren had their fathers present when they arrived into the world. It must have been comforting for Kate to have William there.

Q. Dads are much more hands-on with their children these days. Do you think that’s a good thing?

A. Definitely. I couldn’t imagine my husband ever changing a nappy. He rarely did the kids’ bathtimes. That’s just how it was in those days; the men went out to work and the women did everything at home. Women work now. My grand-daughter Emma is 26 and works hard. Her partner Tom shares all the parenting responsibilities.

Q. The Duchess of Cambridge left hospital a day after the birth. Was it like that in your day?

A. We were in hospital for up to a week, but it was no bad thing; nurses helped you get used to breastfeeding. It’s not easy for some women.

Q. What else was different?

A. So many things. We were taught to lay our babies on their sides. Now the advice is to let them sleep on their backs. We weaned them at 12 weeks onto Fairex and potty-training started as early as possible. We used to plonk young babies on the potty just after a feed when they were all sleepy, so they could get a feel for it. Oscar is two and Emma still doesn’t want to push the potty-training issues. She doesn’t want him to feel he’s under stress.

I had terry towelling nappies of course. Two dozen. There was always washing on the line! Disposables are one of the things that have made life easier for modern parents. Though babies have become an industry. All the things that expectant mothers feel they need to buy these days - and the price of them; it’s shocking. Emma had these catalogues full of things you don’t really need. In our day all you needed at first was a carrycot and a baby bath and a pram. I got a huge Silver Cross from Cole Brothers. It was very expensive but I loved it. It did both of my babies then it went to a pregnant friend.

Q. How did grandchildren change your life?

A. We had five, Emma, Jenny, Daniel, Richard and Andrew, in that order. I was 54 when our daughter Linda had Emma. John and I had so looked forward to being grandparents. The others came along very quickly. We’d have all five of them in the school holidays. The paddling pool would be out in the garden and the children all played happily together. Happy memories. And now there’s another little boy to love and play with.

At 80 looking after him for full days would probably be quite tiring, but I’m a very happy babysitter. Children bring such joy to your life. It’s lovely to look at my four generations family. I’m so proud of them. And to think, if it wasn’t for me and John, they wouldn’t be here.

Q. How do you feel about the Royal Family having a new prince?

I’m very happy for them. The Queen must feel like I do when I look at Oscar. I expect she’s looking forward to a cuddle. I like the Royals. Some people think they don’t do very much but I think they are great for the country’s tourism. You’ve only to look at the press people who came from all over the world to camp outside the hospital where Kate gave birth. I think she and William will make lovely parents; they will both be very hands-on, thanks to the Diana influence, I think. She made sure her boys grew up being down to earth and I think the new baby will be brought up the same way. I wonder what they’re going to call him? I have a feeling it might be James...

Q. What advice would you give to a new mother?

A. The most important advice I gave to my children when they had their babies was give them all your love, teach them respect and good manners and spend as much time as you can reading to them and playing with them.

Enjoy having your babies because they grow up so quickly. That’s the same advice I gave to my grand-daughter too. There are some things that never change.